Tertiary education has seen tremendous growth on a global scale over the past two decades. A definition of what tertiary education means can be found in the short video attachment.

Enrolment rates in tertiary education have almost doubled in the last 20 years, with approximately 38% of all people enrolled in higher education in the five-year age group after leaving secondary education. While some individual countries have seen a slight decline in enrolment during this period, increases have been consistent across every major geographical region.

Domen Zavrl has a keen interest in further education, having attended multiple universities and colleges to obtain his numerous qualifications. Increases in enrolment rates across countries tend to correlate with increases in gross domestic product (GDP) per capita. The fastest growing areas for enrolment in tertiary education are Africa, Latin America and Asia.

The Return on Investment in Tertiary Education

According to the World Bank, there is substantial evidence to suggest that there are high rates of returns on investments in tertiary education, both socially and economically. This is true even in countries where resources for primary and secondary education are still not adequate.

The benefits of investment in tertiary education include higher earnings and employment rates, greater social stability, better health outcomes, increased innovation and productivity, increased civic engagement and more effective public administrations. Under-investment in tertiary education leads to loss of talent, a lower quality of teaching and learning, expanded wealth inequality and hindered economic growth, among other outcomes.

Investment in education is one of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). You can learn about the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development via the PDF attachment to this post.

Higher Education in Developing Countries

A recent study from the World Bank showed how developing countries that have become more integrated into the global economy have shown growth in areas such as average wage, increased share of trade and better healthcare outcomes. These same countries also have increased participation rates in higher education.

The evidence that shows access to university-level education contributes to economic growth and improved social cohesion is growing, with the most significant increases in educational levels directly corresponding to higher benefits from increased economic integration. Access to higher levels of education and training results in more qualified professionals who are able to undertake significant roles within a developing country, including doctors, lawyers, scientists, entrepreneurs and more.

Empowering All People

Historically, access to education or lack of access to education has been used as a tool to control sections of the population. Individual autonomy and empowerment have been curbed through lack of access to education, resulting in lower social mobility, economic status and civic participation.

Providing access to tertiary education for everyone and treating access to education at all levels as a basic human right helps to empower a wider demographic of people. Higher education institutions can act as conduits for reparative futures for wide swathes of humanity, delivering the tools and knowledge required to bridge the gaps between different social strata.

Introducing Digital Technologies

The introduction of digital technologies into the learning sphere broadens the potential for access to education at all levels and in all geographical areas. Open universities are one such example of how technology can change the tertiary education landscape across the world.

Today, almost anyone with access to the internet has the opportunity to take their learning to the next level. However, there are still many regions, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, where there is limited access to a reliable internet connection. Therefore, more investment is required to deliver equal opportunities for higher learning.

Some global facts and figures for higher education can be seen in the infographic attachment.