The Chronicle of Higher Education
Among 10 of the world's most industrialized countries, the relative rewards of higher education are greatest in Britain, which gives students a 17-percent rate of return on their investment, according to a new report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
The organization, which promotes world trade and economic expansion among its 30 member countries, released its report on Tuesday at a news conference in London. The report, titled "Education at a Glance 2002," is a statistical analysis of education data from OECD member countries, which the organization conducts annually.
For the first time, the report calculates a rate of return on investment in higher education in 10 member nations: Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the United States. The rate of return was calculated by weighing the benefits, such as earnings, against costs, such as tuition fees. After Britain, the United States was next highest, with a rate of roughly 15 percent. Denmark, France, the Netherlands, and Sweden followed, all with rates above 10 percent.
"We were certainly very surprised by the strength of these returns," said Andreas Schleicher, research director of the OECD's Directorate for Education.
In another measure, the report found that in 10 OECD countries, including Australia, Britain, and Canada, higher education enhanced women's earnings -- relative to what they would have earned with only a high-school education -- more than it did men's.
In addition, the report found that the number of foreign students enrolled in higher education in OECD member countries jumped 14 percent, to 1.52 million, from 1998 to 2000.
The report shows that worldwide, the United States remains the strongest magnet for foreign students, with a 28-percent share of all students studying abroad in 2000. Britain was next with 14 percent, followed by Germany, with 12 percent; France, with 8 percent; and Australia, with 7 percent.
"The market for foreign students is growing quite significantly," said Mr. Schleicher. But he also pointed out that because enrollment in higher education in the United States is much larger than in other countries, foreign students account for only 3.5 percent of all students enrolled in American colleges. By contrast, foreign students account for 12.5 percent of postsecondary students in Australia.
On average, foreign students account for 4.9 percent of enrollments among postsecondary students in OECD countries. Of those students, the biggest proportion, 41 percent, come from Asia, with 7.1 percent -- the most for a single country -- coming from China.
In analyzing participation rates in higher education from 1995 to 2000, the report found the fastest growth in Poland and Hungary, with enrollments in those countries soaring by 108 percent and 80 percent, respectively. The only OECD countries with declining enrollments were France, Germany, and Turkey.
More information about the report is available online at the OECD Web site.