According to UNESCO, the region provides higher education to just 3.5 of the college age population, compared with 60 per cent in industrialised countries. In Kenya, 66 per cent of high school graduates that qualified for university admission in national examinations were unable to secure a place at one of the country's six public universities. That left some 22,000 students without access to public HE. Similar figures exist for countries in West and Central Africa and Southern Asia.
Influence of international agencies
The development of private HE in the developing world began in the early 1990s. Rapid expansion took place between the late 1990s and the early 2000s. In the early and mid 1990's, the World Bank (WB) put verbal pressure on third world governments to favour privatization of tertiary education. In the late 1990s and early 2000s the WB formally played a rigorous role. For example, it called for a 'lighter touch' in regulating HE, advocating that developing countries remove restrictions from the private provision of education services. Through the operation of the International Financial Corporation (IFC), the World Bank supported private investment in education, particularly at secondary and tertiary level in the developing world, with the aim of enabling public resources to be targeted towards increased access to better quality basic education. In consideration of the above, it may be claimed that international agencies, in particular the World Bank (WB) and World Trade Organisation (WTO), are influential in emphasising the role of the market in educational provision.
Global education industry
The growth of this sector is also a response by overseas institutions to capture the higher education market and to benefit financially. This is informed by financial austerity and stringency issues in the North. There has been considerable convergence of higher education institutions globally in recent years in terms of institutional models and the structure of studies, with common curricular elements in English the primary language of science and scholarship. The World Trade Organisation (through the General Agreement on Trade in Services - GATS) and World Bank are influential in promoting private sector involvement in education. The WTO's memorandum on Education Services emphasises the need to create the conditions within different countries for greater liberalisation of education services and to privilege a market system of educational provision. It is notable, however, that member countries have so far made very few commitments for education services and have any privileged services like energy instead. While Bangladesh has singed the GATS agreement, it is notable that very little funding has been set aside for education. In the developing world, is associated with the obtaining of qualifications from international providers, who themselves find the export of education to make good business sense. Specifically, overseas private HE is perceived to provide educational advantages for learners with regard to having, for example, an 'international qualification' that local institutions are unable to provide.
The advanced growth of private education is the differentiated demand for educational services. This proposition suggests that, even if the state were to provide sufficient places in public schools and universities, the need remains to meet the particular demands of specific groups, for example, religious groups. State education is based on uniform and consistent provision, and as such does not necessarily provide an education for those with different needs or specific interests. Where there are such differentiated demands, private schools and universities can fulfil the requirements
Private HE emerges in response to demands for a better quality of education for the children of wealthy and prosperous sections of society, providing them with a competitive advantage in the labour market. Elite guardians want to create an 'elite and prestigious schooling environment' where their children will not have the opportunity to form relationships with students from poorer economical backgrounds. In this argument, "private education is seen as a bearer of qualities which public education is perceived to lack". This suggests that within societies there is a need for a better quality education than that provided by the public HE sector.
In conclusion, an increasing enrolment rate influences the expansion of private education in the developing world. This especially applies to HE provision, as the government is more concerned with investing its education budget at primary level in order to achieve the 'Education for All' agenda. A decreasing student enrolment rate forced private schools to close. However, this will have a negative impact, in terms of quality and on the long term vision, as demonstrated in Portugal where an artificial demand to establish a private sector was created.