Education systems and institutions worldwide vary considerably in their structure and organisation, presenting potential students with a range of institutions that have more or less prestige. Decision-making is likely to be a much more complex and nuanced process than making a survey of comparative data, since a decision of this kind is as much a social decision as an educational one. There is a variation from one country to another in the range and kinds of institution that are available for students, and the nature and extent of the social and cultural capital that can be gained by attendance at a particular institution. The increase in neo-liberal approaches to university organisation, governance and funding in many national systems has been accompanied by a dominant metaphor of the student as consumer. This can be placed within a long tradition of mistrust in those who provide public services and a wish to empower those who use them.