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Comprehensive overview of global HE

World Higher Education: Institutions, Students and Funding is an attempt to produce the most comprehensive overview of global higher education (HE) by combining the in-depth approach of OECD and wide scope of UNESCO in international HE research. The study provides detailed aggregate data on enrollments, institutions and finances  across 56 national  HE systems; together, they represent over 90% of the world’s  HE output,  therefore providing  an overview of the shift of world academia from the Global North to the Global South.

The report is based on three key insights and original research approach, as mentioned in the introduction:

“The first is that in order to understand what is happening in HE globally, it is not necessary to examine statistics from all 200 or so territories across the globe. Roughly half the world’s students are in just five jurisdictions (China, India, the US, Russia and Brazil), while the top 40 or so jurisdictions make up over 85% of global enrollments. Thus, one can obtain a reasonably good picture of global HE by focusing on a subset of the world’s systems. (…)

The second key insight is that most countries actually produce and publish a great deal more data on their own HE systems than they report to international institutions like UNESCO, the OECD, etc. Obtaining this data is not necessarily easy — quite apart from the challenges of finding information across the 56 countries included in this report, the data are published in over a dozen languages. With persistence, however, it is possible to present largely complete global summaries on a much wider variety of issues, as well as to provide much more nuanced comparisons of countries when it comes to public spending by the different types of institutions supported.

The third insight is that while International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) is an invaluable tool for analysing issues in international education, it is also insufficient at least for benchmarking and policy purposes. ISCED levels do not teach students or collect data: institutions do. So there is a need to focus specifically on the number and types of higher education institutions (HEIs) in each country and group them into comparable types, rather than trying to make the data “speak” ISCED. This approach, tied to the increasing tendency of both institutions and national governments to put data on the Internet, permits the collection and publication of data on a scale never before attempted.”

For conclusions and detailed information about trends in enrolments and institutions, finances of HE delivery and demand, make sure to read the report, which is available here.