Study Supports Higher Education Expenditures

News Brief: Oct. 2010

Although Austria is among the top three in education spending, it significantly lags behind the OECD average in successful graduates, according to the OECD study “Education at a Glance 2010” published Sept. 7.  In Austria, only 18% of matriculated students complete their degrees, as compared with an OECD member average of 28%. These and other findings have fueled the ongoing domestic debate about the funding of tertiary education in Austria.

Annual public spending per student (including elementary school, high school as well as university students) is highest in the U.S. at €10,585  ($14,269), followed by Switzerland €9,670 ($13,031) and Austria €8.120 ($10,947) according to the study. Despite these expenditures, less than one fifth of the Austrian population obtain a university degree. This figure is 7% more than in 1997 but still 10% less than the OECD average. Between 1998 and 2008, there has been a 3.3% increase in the number of university graduates in Austria – again less than the OECD average of 4.6%.

Austria’s results are better in secondary education, where Austria ranks far above the OECD average with 63% of all 25-64 year olds having either a university-qualified school diploma (Matura) or a completed vocational degree, as opposed to the member country average of 44%.

The renewed emphasis on education reflects heightened awareness of the relationship between completed degrees and job chances. The higher the education, the better the chances of employment, the study concluded – at least among OECD countries – leading to “significant financial advantages.” The organization is therefore urging its members to invest more in higher education.

“Expanding the tertiary sector of the education system makes sense economically even if it leads to a budget deficit,” the authors concluded.

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