Higher education is at the heart of the knowledge society. It contributes to the development of high-level skills, carries out research that advances an understanding of the world, creates new knowledge, drives innovation and serves the broader community.
But higher education has continued to change since the OECD Thematic Review of Tertiary Education in 2008. In most OECD countries, higher education systems are rapidly expanding. The number of higher education institutions is increasing and the sector is becoming more diverse. Yet even with this expanded access, many individuals and social groups remain under-served. And while higher education was often a state-controlled public service in the past, higher education institutions in many OECD countries now enjoy a large degree of autonomy. They have embraced this newfound freedom by pursuing sophisticated strategies and competitive approaches to attract students, academic staff and research funding.
The global landscape has also changed dramatically. In the past, higher education was primarily nation-based. But there has been a major increase in the internationalisation of higher education and research and it is now commonplace for institutions to connect across borders. More and more, we live in a dynamic global higher education marketplace.
But many countries are finding it difficult to keep up with the rapidly changing global higher education landscape while dealing with the expansion of the higher education sector. They are becoming increasingly concerned about how to facilitate and maintain high quality education and research; ensure that higher education is relevant to social and economic needs; and make certain that investments – whether by taxpayers or by students and their families – provide value for money. Countries are seeking policy advice from the OECD on how to enhance the performance of their higher education systems.
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