Money and Morality in Higher Education. Seven Countries Case Studies.

How does the attribution of funds and their origin impact ethics in higher education? 52 This main question of this research paper leads us to ask three secondary questions: What is the evolution of the higher education domain? Who funds higher education and through what means? Is ethical commitment part of the funding strategies?

This research paper proceeds in a succession of two moments: 1. Identifying global trends related to higher education. 2. Focusing on some case countries, trying to compare them with the global situation. 3. Conclusions. The paper works with data from the World Bank and UNESCO. However, an important challenge was missing data for some aspects and countries.

The World Bank provides on its website a table with all the data they have on each country, until 2015. This was very interesting as I wanted to do a time series analysis, to see the evolutions in higher education over time. This proved to be impossible as there were many countries that did not have any data available, or only had data for one year instead of twenty. Developed countries had a complete panel of data, while the data from the developing world was pretty scarce. The conclusions, therefore, would have only applied to developed countries and would have been pretty useless for our efforts to identify the places where gaps between the local and average international situation exist.

The gaps would have most likely been even bigger if developed countries were only taken into account. This was even more problematic as the data missing was from the specific countries we wanted to use as case studies. Therefore, the methodology had to be adapted. Since sufficient data was not available, we switched to a more qualitative study; doing a lot of readings on governmental and international reports on the global trends in higher education. Data was cross-referenced to see if information was confirmed by other reports. Main sources used were studies by UNESCO, the British Council and the UN to get a general overview, but many other sources have been integrated on specific topics. This study had to differentiate between general data on education that focused mainly on primary education and the data on higher education. The responses to SDG4 seem to concentrate on primary education and this can be understood, as it is the unavoidable basis for further education and essential to the improvement of alphabetization rates. However, the fact that investment in primary education creates not only the biggest social, but also economic returns might also have something to do with the choice in priorities.

Data were also directly drawn from governmental national reports, by accessing their online archives. This was somewhat complicated, as sufficient understanding of each education system was required in order to make data comparable. For instance, some countries consider high schools part of higher education, which increases the numbers of students enrolled in classical tertiary education. We then had to subtract high schoolers from the overall number. In addition, sometimes linguistic problems occurred as some reports are published in national languages, and not readily available in English or French. However, with translations and additional research, reports could be understood.

Reasons for missing data in databases of international organisations such as the World Bank and UNESCO can be manifold: some data are sensitive and countries are not keen to share in an open international database for political and social reasons. In some cases, data are really not available or not reliable.

Most of the data collected in this study are analysing the evolution of higher education between 2000 and 2015, although where data were available, we went further back in the past. According to each situation, historical moments that were significant, were identified. Country progress data are based on information from the World Education News + Reviews.

This text is an abridged version of the following article:

Money and Morality in Higher Education. Seven countries case studies
2021, Leadership with Integrity: Higher Education from Vocation to Funding, Leadership with Integrity No. 8, Geneva, 81-125.

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