Ageing Calls for Shorter Full-Time Tertiary Education and Increased Continuing Education

17 Pages Posted: 10 Feb 2020

Date Written: January 1, 2020


Population ageing requires a better-educated workforce capable of producing more of the goods and services consumed by a fast-rising number of old dependent individuals. At the same time, an ageing society badly needs its educated youth to rapidly become economically productive. In other words, the opportunity cost of educating young adults, particularly on a full-time basis, is on the rise. This paper argues that, in an ageing society, the challenge of policy making is to find ways to foster education while limiting the time young adults spend in full-time tertiary education. In many countries, this probably implies compressing the theoretical duration of degrees (BA in 2 years instead of 3, MA in 4 years instead of 5) and introducing age-based financial incentives to reduce the time to graduation. For instance, the State subsidy (a grant) could be turned into an interest-charging loan beyond the age of 22. In all countries, the challenge is also to rediscover the virtues of massive continuing/part-time/evening education: a formula that enables people who work to acquire/update skills at a very low opportunity cost. The financing of the direct costs of massive continuing education could take the form of State/employer-subsidised educational stipends granted to adults every 5 years beyond the age of 22.

Keywords: Ageing, Time to Degree, Tertiary Education, Incentives

JEL Classification: I22, J1, H52

Suggested Citation

Vandenberghe, Vincent, Ageing Calls for Shorter Full-Time Tertiary Education and Increased Continuing Education (January 1, 2020). Available at SSRN: or

Vincent Vandenberghe (Contact Author)

Economics School of Louvain ( email )

Place Montesquieu 3
Louvain-la-Neuve, 1348
+3210474141 (Phone)


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