, Volume 41, Issue 1, pp 23-45

Political economy of cost-sharing in higher education: The case of Jordan

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Abstract

This article analyzes patterns of expenditure on higher education in Jordan, explores the current system’s adequacy, efficiency, and equity, and identifies its strengths and weaknesses in light of current constraints and future challenges. Among the constraints are the relatively low public expenditure on higher education, leaving households to compensate through private expenditure. Moreover, despite more spending on university education, the quickly rising volume of students has required compromises in quality. Meanwhile, gradually falling subsidies have pressured public universities to reconsider their financing mechanisms and become more efficient. Cost-sharing mechanisms have been introduced through commercial private universities and “parallel programmes” at public universities. This generates much-needed income, but raises two critical issues. Students from poorer backgrounds find it even more difficult to enter university, and quality is constrained because universities must compromise on tasks that are essential but not profitable such as research and development. Among the suggested solutions are promoting the culture of charitable endowments, perhaps through a revision of the Islamic awqaf system, and developing innovative financial mechanisms to tap private savings without incurring the hazards of profit maximization.