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Understanding and Measuring Inequality in Higher Education
This paper highlights that the choice of the indicator is not without important consequences vis-à-vis the monitoring of equity in higher education for the post-2015 UNESCO agenda. Both cross-country and over time comparisons will be impacted. We defend the idea that current proposals at political (the targets) and technical (the indicator proposed to monitor the targets) levels would deserve to be improved. The current set of indicators should be more aligned with the concept highlighted in the targets (access) and odds ratios and the concentration index have our preference for monitoring equity (IEO) in higher education. Gross enrolment ratios are not a good measure of access to tertiary education and should probably be switched with the gross intake ratio into tertiary education or the maximum age specific enrolment rate for the tertiary school age population. In addition, the transition rate between upper-secondary education and tertiary education should be added to enable conditional analysis. Odds ratios are more consistent than simple ratios which have been disqualified in current sociological research and the concentration index has been highlighted, in particular in the field of health but also in education, as being particularly fit to provide an estimation of wealth-related inequalities. In addition to being more coherent both indicators are simple conceptually and easy to calculate with existing data. Finally, a number of data challenges remain for the monitoring to be comprehensive and effective. In particular, it is not possible yet to tackle the issue of differentiation hence preventing to draw a full picture of inequality of opportunities in access to higher education, especially in developed countries.