CGHE series on The Critical Economics of Higher Education – webinar 3: What is the appropriate higher education finance model for sub-Saharan Africa?

7th April 2022 : 14:00 - 15:00

Category: Webinar

Speaker: Moses Oketch, UCL’s Centre for Education and International Development

Location: Zoom webinar, registration required

Higher education finance is a thorny policy issue all over the world. More recently, interest in what is a just and equitable higher education finance model has grown. There is now a wealth of evidence on the merits and challenges of the different models of financing higher education, notably “free” taxpayer funded model, cost-sharing through different types of loan schemes, and direct upfront tuition payment by those students who are demanding and participating in higher education.

This webinar will focus on Kenya and use it as case to discuss the application, relevance, and challenges of these models of higher education finance in sub-Saharan Africa context, and whether any of them can meet the challenges of higher education expansion, quality and equity in the region. It draws on human capital theory life-cycle conceptual framework, which includes market earnings, private non-market benefits and social benefits to others, including future generations, and why these are highly important in sub-Saharan Africa. The life-cycle framework approach is important because it underscores the dynamics of the process and the flow of causation whereby investment time and resources come first, and the benefits come later. This is highly relevant and linked to the higher education finance policy that a government chooses to pursue. The conceptual framework draws on the earlier work of McMahon and Oketch and discusses its relevance to higher education finance in sub-Saharan Africa, with Kenya as specific case.


About the CGHE webinar series on the Alternative Economics of Higher Education

No social science has a greater influence in the funding, provision, and management of higher education than economics.

In the United Kingdom, where the Centre for Global Higher Education is based, higher education is modelled as a market of competing institutions; students are modelled as consumers, human capital, and potential skilled workers for economic growth rather than learners engaged in self-development; and the quality of courses and institutions is ranked on the basis of graduate salaries, generating the so-called ‘low value courses’ syndrome. Higher education is imagined simply as a branch of the economy and one-size fits all economic approaches are used, as if teaching, research and university social engagement in all domains are driven by the same laws of motion.

However, the promises of human capital theory appear increasingly flawed and associated economic frameworks struggle in the face of growth of tertiary systems, entrenched social inequalities, global inequalities, different paths to national development, and stretched labour markets. This raises a range of critical questions about the way in which the relationship between HE and the economy is conceptualised. Does this orthodox economic thinking get it right? Does it adequately capture the specific economic features let alone the social and cultural features of higher education? What are the costs of using economic frameworks rooted in human capital theory? Is the fundamental role of higher education to feed a growing capitalist economy, or does it have a larger and more transformative contribution to make? Are there other approaches to the economics of higher education that would serve us all better? What are countries and policy makers doing around the world in fashioning an economic framework appropriate to the way the higher education sector works and to meet the needs of all of its users and non-users?

This webinar series is designed to start, to support, to air and to discuss new thinking about the economics of higher education. It will hear from speakers who are unsatisfied with the economic policy frameworks currently in use and determined to find and apply better alternatives.