Fact Sheet

Access to Tertiary Education – Country Comparison Using Gross Enrolment Ratio

The aim of this Fact Sheet is to assess how South Africa’s participation rate at universities fares when compared to other countries. A commonly used proxy measure of the degree of participation in tertiary education is the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER), often used internationally to compare participation in education across various countries.


The extent of participation in tertiary education, has critical implications for a country’s relative international position on the production of human capital stock. The National Planning Commission1 notes that although the South African higher education2 system functions relatively well, the system still suffers from low participation rates, making it a mid-level performer in terms of knowledge production by international standards.

Despite having higher participation rates than other African countries and the average of Sub-Saharan Africa, South Africa’s low performance by international standards suggests the need to implement policy measures that accelerate expansion of access to higher education by the country’s population.

This publication covers

  • Definition and Interpretation of GER
  • Limitation of GER
  • Definition of Tertiary Education