, Volume 41, Issue 1, pp 157-175

First online:

International trends in the public and private financing of higher education

  • Bikas C. SanyalAffiliated withUNESCO International Institute for Capacity Building in Africa (IICBA) Email author 
  • , D. Bruce JohnstoneAffiliated withState University of New York at Buffalo

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Beginning by analyzing the major qualitative and quantitative changes in higher education around the world, this article examines international trends in their financial implications. It then demonstrates the state’s inability to bear the entire rising financial burden, and explores the role of self-financing, and of the non-profit and for-profit private sectors, in sharing the enrolment and the cost burden. Examples of cost-sharing from around the world are given, with an analysis of the complexities and ambiguities of the meanings of public and private in reference to financing higher educational institutions. A discussion of private–public partnerships follows, and of the role that non-profit and for-profit cross-border higher education plays in financing. The conclusion offers eight policy themes for coping with the underlying situation of financial strategy and the simultaneous need to supplement scarce public revenues with private revenues, meanwhile increasing access to and participation in higher education for those not yet benefiting from it.


Higher education finance Resource allocation Cost sharing Private higher education Privatization of public higher education Cross-border higher education Student financial assistance