Australian Journal of Education

Article Title

The wider social benefits of higher education: What do we know about them?


There has recently been a shift towards private expenditure in the tertiary education sector accompanied by a shift of public subsidies to students themselves. Implicit in this shift is the message that tertiary education is a private rather than public good, belonging to individual students rather than society. This paper explores the research on the wider social benefits of higher education and the data and methodologies that exist to underpin it. Its focus is on benefits to society but, since individual social benefits are entangled with wider benefits, both are discussed. The paper finds that little research has been undertaken in Australia even though understanding the wider social benefits of higher education is considered important to policy development. Longitudinal survey data do exist that could be extended and harnessed for such research.