Governmental student funding systems for higher education: an international perspective

Main Article Content

Sumei Van Antwerpen
Riaan Dirkse Van Schalkwyk


The worldwide surge in demand for higher education (HE) aligns with an increasing need for effective student funding systems, particularly in countries where poverty poses a significant barrier to accessing HE. An international perspective on governmental student funding systems allows us to examine how other governments have implemented these systems to benefit their citizens. The aim of this article is thus to provide a global view of the functioning and challenges pertaining to student funding systems and to shed light on the policies in place in the international landscape. The realist systematic literature review methodology was deemed the most suitable for this study as various scholars have previously studied different facets of the topic. This study aligns with the interpretive research paradigm and qualitative methods. The desired information therefore already exists within the body of knowledge, although it has not yet been analyzed through this particular method. It is evident that both developing and developed countries experience challenges regarding student funding, both in the purpose thereof as well as in the implementation. This is a universal issue, and an in-depth literature review confirmed this phenomenon.

Article Details

How to Cite
Van Antwerpen, S., & Dirkse Van Schalkwyk, R. (2024). Governmental student funding systems for higher education: an international perspective. The Journal of Quality in Education, 14(23), 1–15.


Acquah, A. (2021). Higher Education Finance Between Ghana and the United States. Current Issues in Comparative Education, 23(1), 90–108. DOI:

Ali, M.S. & Jalal, H. (2018). HE as a Predictor of Employment: The World Perspective. Bulletin of Education and Research, 40(2), 79–90.

Amin, A.A. & Ntembe, A. (2020). Sub-Sahara Africa’s HE: Financing, Growth, and Employment. International Journal for HE, 10(1), 14–23. DOI:

Barshay, J. (2017). While the rest of the world invests more in education, the U.S. spends less. The Hechinger Report: Covering Innovation and Equality in Education.

Baum, S., Harris, D.N., Kelly, A. & Mitchell, T. (2017). A Principled Federal Role in HE. Education Policy Program, Urban Institute. Washington.

Belfield, C., Britton, J., Dearden, L. & Van der Erve, L. (2017). HE funding in England: past, present and options for the future. Institute for Fiscal Studies, United Kingdom.

Bitzer, E. & De Jager, E. (2018). The Views of Commerce Students Regarding Free HE in South Africa. South African Journal of Higher Education, 32(4),12–36. DOI:

Blackburn, L.H. (2017). Using Student Loans for Living Costs: Current issues in Scotland. University of Edinburgh Press, Edinburgh.

Boatman, A., Evans, A.J. & Soliz, A. (2019). Understanding Loan Aversion in Education: Evidence from High School Seniors, Community College Students, and Adults. AERA Open, 3(1), 1–16. DOI:

Bolton, P. (2021). Student Loan Statistics. House of Commons, London.

Bronkhorst, S. & Michael, M. M. (2017). Student Funding Model used by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) at Universities. Journal of Internet Banking and Commerce, 22(2), 1–20.

Callender, C. & Mason, G. (2017). Does student loan debt deter HE participation? New evidence from England. Annals of American Political and Social Science, 671(1), 20–48. DOI:

Cassano, R., Franzoni, S. & Salvioni, D.M. (2017). Sustainability in the HE System: An Opportunity to Improve Quality and Image. Journal from Molecular Diversity Preservation International (MDPI), 9(914), 1–27. DOI:

Cullinane, C. & Montacute, R. (2017). Fairer Fees: Reforming student finance to increase fairness and widen access. The Sutton Trust, London.

Currie, L. (2021). Further and HE in Scotland: Subject Profile. The Information Centre, Scottish Parliament.

Dalal, N. & Thompson, J. (2018). The Self-Defeating Consequences of Student Loan Default. Institute for College Access and Success.

Darvas, P., Gao, S., Shen, Y. & Bawany, B. (2017). Sharing HE’s Promise beyond the Few in Sub-Saharan Africa. World Bank Publications, Washington, D.C. DOI:

Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET). (2021). Guidelines for the Department of HE and Training Bursary Scheme for Students at Public Universities 2021. Pretoria.

Evans, C. & Donnelly, M. (2018). Deterred by debt? Young people, schools and the escalating cost of UK HE. Journal of Youth Studies, Vol. 21, No. 9, pp.1267–1282. DOI:

Friedman, Z. (2019). Student Loan Debt Statistics in 2018: A $1.5 Trillion Crisis. Forbes Media LLC.

Gayardon, A. & Brajkovic, L. (2019). Student finance policies worldwide: Leveraging funding for attainment and equity in higher education. American Council on Education. World Bank.

Geiger, R.L. (2019). Higher Education and the Public Good. Reviews in American History. Johns Hopkins University Press. DOI:

Goldrick-Rab, S. (2016). Paying the Price: College Cost, Financial Aid, and the Betrayal of the American Dream. University of Chicago Press, Chicago. DOI:

Goldstein, A. (2018). Student debt hurts the whole economy: So why is Trump making the problem worse? NBC.

Goyayi, M. (2021). Police Brutality and Student Protest in South Africa. Democracy Development Program.

Higher Education South Africa (HESA). (2014). South African HE in the 20th Year of Democracy: Context, Achievements and Key Challenges. Cape Town, 5 March 2014.

Holt, J.K. & Duffy, D.Q. (2017). Cornerstones of student success: Institutions yielding high return on investment for underserved students. Illinois Education Research Council, Edwardsville.

Jackson, T. (2017). Exam scores are being used to build student loan credit reports in Kenya. Quartz Africa.

Kilbride, K., Phillips, J. & Miller, N. (2019). Peer review of proposals for evaluation of the Diamond Student Support Reforms. Social Research and Information Division, Welsh Government, Cardiff.

Kopf, D. & Wang, A.X. (2018). America’s daunting student debt crisis is about to get even worse. Quartz.

Kossey, M.M. & Ishengoma, J. M. (2017). Issues and Challenges of Student Financing Systems in Africa: The Case of Tanzania. International Journal of African Higher Education, 4(1), 67–90. DOI:

Lockhart, P.R. (2019). What the college admissions scandal says about racial inequality: America’s broken education system fails poor black and Hispanic students well before college application season. Vox.

Loonin, D. & Morgan, J. M. (2018). Federal Student Aid: Can We Solve a Problem We Do Not Understand? Utah Law Review, 4(5), 897–917.

Meredith, R. (2017). Northern Ireland students owe £3bn to loans company. British Broadcasting Corporation, News NI.

Ministry of Education Ghana. (2017). Medium term expenditure framework (mtef)

FOR 2017-2019.

Moronge, M. & Nyasani, A. (2017). Determinants of Financing HE in Kenya: A Case of HE Loans Board. The Strategic Journal of Business and Change Management, 4(4), 1079–1100. DOI:

Mngomezulu, S., Dhunpath, R. and Munro, N., 2017. Does financial assistance undermine academic success? Experiences of'at risk students in a South African university. Journal of Education (University of KwaZulu-Natal), 68, 131-148.

Muller, J., Cloete, N, & Van Schalkwyk, F. (2017). Castells in Africa: Universities & Development. African Minds, Somerset-West. DOI:

Murphy, R., Scott-Clayto, J. & Wyness, G. (2018). The end of free college in England: Implications for enrolments, equity, and quality. Economics of Education Review, 71, 7–22. DOI 10.3386/w23888. DOI:

Murphy, R., Scott-Clayton, J. & Wyness, G. (2017). Lessons from the end of free college in England. Economic Studies, Brookings. Evidence Speak Reports 2(13), 1–10.

Musundire, A. & Mumanyi, D. (2020). Exploring challenges, opportunities and prospects associated with higher education student funding in the context of South Africa. Journal of Management and Administration, 1(5), 1728–9157.

Naidoo, A. (2018). Student funding at a South African institution of HE. Gordon Institute of Business Science, University of Pretoria, Pretoria.

Neutuch, E. (2018). The Ups and Downs of Excelsior Scholarship’s Freshman Year and What Comes Next. Gotham Gazette.

NIdirect, 2021. Indicative fees for students starting Higher Education in 2021-2022. NIdirect.

NSFAS. (2018a). The NSFAS Annual Report, 2017/18. Cape Town.

NSFAS. (2018b). The NSFAS Strategic Plan 2018-2020. Cape Town.

NSFAS. (2021). Programme funding status report 2021. Cape Town.

Panigrahi, J. (2015). Growing Private Providers and Constraints in the Choice of HE Institutions: Impact on Access to Higher Education. Journal of Economics, 60(1), 41–47. DOI:10.5958/0976-4666.2015.00004.2 DOI:

Parliamentary Monitoring Group. (2019). TVET colleges governance & management; the NSFAS audit; MTBPS implications. PMG.

Peake, K. (2018). Community services quality governance framework: Safe, effective, connected and person-centred community services for everybody, every time. Victoria Government, Melbourne.

Siddaway, A.P., Wood, A.M. & Hedges, L.V. (2019). How to do a systematic review: a best practice guide for conducting and reporting narrative reviews, meta-analyses, and meta-syntheses. Annual Review of Psychology, 70, 747–770. DOI: 10.1146/annurev-psych-010418-102803 DOI:

Sohn, H., Park, H. & Jung, H. (2023). The effect of extra school funding on students’ academic achievements under a centralized school financing system. Education Finance and Policy, 18(1), 1–24. DOI:

Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS). (2020). Operational Statistics. 2019. Scotland Government.

Student Finance Northern Ireland. (2021). How you are paid Full Time HE Student Finance - A guide to Entitlement to Support and Payment.

Student Loan Trust Fund (SLTF). (2015). Annual report. Accra.

Student Loans Company (SLC). (2021). Student Loans in Wales Financial Year 2020-21: Income Contingent Student Loan Balance Income. Statistical Publication, SLC.

Swanger, D. (2017). The Future of HE in the U.S.: Issues Facing Colleges and Their Impacts on Campus. SUNY Fulton-Montgomery.

Tiefenthaler, J. (2018). More than one funder has to step up. The Conversation.

U.S. Department of Education. (2018). Federal Student Aid (FSA) Annual Report. Washington, D.C.

Urahn, S. K. & Convoy, T. (2020). Federal and State Funding of Higher Education: A changing landscape. The PEW Charitable Trust.

White, T. (2020). For many borrowers, student loans are a mental health crisis. Mental health news.

World Bank Group. (2021). Global Education Monitoring Report. United Nations Education, Science and Culture Organisation. Washington D.C.