Higher Education Policy

, Volume 31, Issue 3, pp 333–357 | Cite as

Beautiful Lies, Damned Statistics: Reframing How Australian University Finances are Compared with the OECD

  • Geoff SharrockEmail author
Original Article


In higher education funding debates, Australia has been ranked ‘second last in the OECD’ for its public investment in universities. Yet such comparisons overlook particular features of the Australian situation. Five general problems with the ‘second-last’ narrative are examined. Many interpretations of OECD statistics overstate the Australian under-funding case and raise questions of relevance in domestic funding debates. Flawed comparisons drawn from OECD data do not appear to be confined to Australian commentary.


OECD statistics university funding international comparisons misinterpretations 


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Copyright information

© International Association of Universities 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Vocational and Educational PolicyUniversity of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia

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