about us


The Centre for International Student Loans Research (CISLR) is a non-profit network of international researchers who specialise in higher education financing, student loan design, the economics of education and applied econometrics. Our mission is:

to conduct high-quality and independent research with respect to the design and evaluation of student loan systems; and to provide policy consultation to governments around the world in the area of higher education financing.

CISLR aims to serve as a platform for policy makers to learn about the latest research in higher education financing and connect with experts in the field, and for researchers to connect, collaborate, and share their works on higher education financing.

Initiated by Professor Bruce Chapman (ANU) and Professor Lorraine Dearden (UCL) in 2017, our network now includes researchers from ten universities and four research institutes across ten countries. Members of CISLR have engaged directly with governments to help inform the design and reform of student loan systems in various countries, including Australia, Brazil, Colombia, Ireland, Japan, Thailand, and the UK. We have also actively engaged in the policy dialogues on higher education financing and student loan reform in China, Malaysia, South Korea, the US, and Vietnam.

To see a brief summary of the economics and public policy of student loans, and some recent works in higher education financing by CISLR members, click here.

student loans: history and current development

 In 1951, the government of Colombia initiated the world’s first national student loan scheme, known as ICETEX, which is still in (faltering) operation. Over the 1960s and beyond, government-backed or subsidised loan schemes for tertiary students became commonplace, and today they underpin the higher education financing systems of most countries in the world. However, over the last 30 years there has been a quiet international transformation going on in higher education financing; not on the basis of the provision of loans, but instead with respect to the nature of the collection of student debts.
In terms of the repayment arrangements there are essentially two types of higher education student debt: time-based repayment loans (TBRLs) and income-contingent loans (ICLs). The critical difference is that the former has a constant repayment obligation over a set time period, while the latter is required to be repaid depending on income, and generally, if and only when a debtor’s income exceeds a given annual level. Until 1988, all the national student loan systems in operation were TBRLs.
The essence of higher education financing reform began in Australia in 1989, where, architected by Bruce Chapman, an ICL was first adopted in national terms. Now known as the HECS-HELP and FEE-HELP schemes, the Australian ICL system has contributed to a significant expansion of the higher education system and extended enrolment to millions of students; and Bruce continues to play a prominent role in the system’s adjustments since its introduction.

ICLs have now spread to ten other countries—three with universal coverage of higher education students, namely New Zealand, Hungary,  and the UK, and seven others (Ethiopia, Japan, South Korea, Namibia, the Netherlands, Thailand, and the US) with non-universal coverage, and often with design characteristics at variances with a properly operating ICL. With the involvement of CISLR members, propitiously designed ICLs are predicted to be put in place soon in many other countries. In most cases ICLs have been implemented to facilitate the introduction of tuition, but recent policy debates concerning student loan reform have been in countries in which governments are contemplating using ICLs to replace poorly operating TBRLs, such as in Brazil, Colombia, Japan, Malaysia, and Thailand. 

our current work

CISLR members are spear-heading both theoretical and empirical research in various aspects of higher education financing, as well as actively engaging with governments and local research institutes to inform policy debates on student loans.

Some recent publications by CISLR members are featured in the upcoming Special Issue on Higher Education Financing: Student Loans in the Economics of Education Review. These works contribute to the existing literature of higher education financing in three specific areas: the conceptual framework underpinning the theoretical bases of loans; extensions of empirical, specifically econometric, analytical methods; and the findings with respect to repayment burdens, government subsidies, collection parameters and their meaning for potential policy reforms in five countries. Selected research papers and presentations by CISLR members can be accessed on this website.

On-going works by CISLR members centre around key issues in the areas of improving the simulation of graduate lifetime income, the measurement of debtor financial stress, and a better understanding of the impacts of loan types on decision making. We are also planning an international conference on student loan research and policy experience in mid-2019.

the centre for international student loans research

Contact us for any questions or enquiries​