OECD Education at a Glance 2010

07 September 2010

Dr Wendy Piatt, Director General of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities, said:

“Whilst we can be rightfully proud that the UK’s leading universities are considered to be among the very best anywhere, without more investment in higher education, as the OECD figures signal, the UK risks jeopardising the competitive advantage which has made its universities the envy of the world.

“UK research-intensive universities currently punch well above their weight in the international sphere but are under-resourced in comparison with their international competitors.  Looking just at public expenditure on higher education, the UK’s investment of 0.7% of GDP is one of the lowest in the OECD (the average is 1.0%).  The UK’s total expenditure on HE amounts to just 1.3% of its GDP--a figure which is outpaced not only by the US and Australia and Canada but also by Korea and Japan.

“While our universities are bracing themselves for a period of austerity and uncertainty, other nations are rightly pumping billions of dollars into their institutions at this key time before the world economy picks up. The UK spends approximately $15,463 (USD) per student, while the US spends $27,010, Switzerland $20,883, and Canada $20,278.  If our leading universities are hit again in the CSR by another wave of cuts, we could well be relegated to a lower division of higher education quality from which we would struggle ever to recover.

“In a tight fiscal climate, maintaining the quality of the student experience must be a greater priority than expanding the number of places. We must not try to spread limited funds too thinly otherwise we risk short-changing students, employers and, ultimately, the country as a whole which relies on universities to create the growing, knowledge-based economy we need to recover from the recession.

“As the UK’s economic competitiveness becomes increasingly dependent upon high-tech industries and skilled graduates, our leading research-intensive universities will be of increasing and crucial importance in driving future growth and prosperity. In an uncertain world they continue to be a reliable investment.”

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