Foreign students’ tuition fees are a double-edged sword

The existence and level of tuition fees are among the most hotly debated issues in current higher education policy discussions. At least 10 OECD countries have implemented reforms in this area since 2010. 

However, striking the right balance is not easy. On the one hand, higher tuition fees contribute to better funded tertiary education systems, especially in times of tight public budgets. On the other hand, higher fees can put a burden on families whose children enrol in tertiary education, especially those with limited financial means. 


In many countries, however, international students are regarded as a group for which higher tuition fees are less politically controversial. Indeed, in about half of the OECD countries, public education institutions charge different tuition fees for national and foreign students enrolled in the same programmes.

In Australia, Austria, Canada, New Zealand and the United States, foreign students pay on average twice or more the tuition fees paid by national students, while in Denmark and Sweden tuition fees are charged exclusively to foreign students who come from outside the European Economic Area.


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