The grants or loans are crucial for offsetting negative consequences of fees or fee rises on university enrollments, particularly from vulnerable groups, according to an international study released by the European Commission on Monday.
The Commission-funded study, namely "Do changes in cost-sharing have an impact on the behavior of students and higher education institutions", carried out by independent researchers, analysed the impact of changes in student fees in nine countries and regions with different models of funding over the past 15 years, including Austria, Canada, England, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Portugal and South Korea.
The study found, when balanced with student support, increased tuition fees do not have an overall negative impact on enrollments in higher education, even among students from lower socio-economic groups, unless the magnitude of change is exceptional.
But rises in tuition fees can have negative effects on enrollments of older students. This was the experience following the most recent fees increase in England, although it is still too early to judge the longer term effects.
According to the report, study aid, grants or loans, is crucial for offsetting negative consequences of fees or fee rises on participation, particularly from vulnerable groups.
In England, Canada and South Korea, where fees play a significant role in higher education, student support systems reduce the impact on students through grants, tax advantages or loans with favorable repayment conditions.
The report shows that getting the right balance between fees and student support is important for governments adapting their fees policies.
Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, said "Student fees are a reality for a large proportion of students in Europe - and a controversial issue."
"This study questions some common assumptions and provides valuable evidence for the on-going debate in the EU on how best to fund higher education to ensure institutions provide the highest quality of education to increasing numbers of students, while guaranteeing fair access," said Vassiliou.