This month saw the publication of a classic on developments and trends in European education. Eurydice, the EU’s education information network and Eurostat, the Union’s statistical agency, came out with the latest edition of their Key data on education in Europe. The report, organised in thematic chapters, presents quantitative and qualitative data on all levels of education in the Union’s member states and, in some cases, further European countries. By including data for a ten-year period (2000 – 2009), it reveals also interesting trends over time.
With regard to higher education, the study provides useful insight on a wide range of issues.
In the ten-year period from 2000 to 2009, the student population in the EU grew by 22%, reaching a total of 19.5 million. In only two countries, Portugal and Spain have student numbers gone down. In Cyprus and Turkey on the other hand, they trebled, and in Romania, they doubled.
On an EU-average, roughly one third (33.6%) of the 30-34 year olds hold a tertiary qualification. Far above the average rank Ireland (49.9%), Denmark (47.1%) and Luxembourg (46.1%).
The number of female students exceeds that of males. On average, for 100 male students, there are 124 women. Countries with a relatively balanced gender composition include Germany, Greece, the Netherlands and Switzerland. In Estonia, Latvia, Slovakia, Sweden, Iceland and Norway, on the other hand, more than 150 female students are enrolled for every 100 men. Only few subject areas, such as engineering and natural sciences, are male-dominated.
This gender balance is reversed when it comes to higher education teachers. Across the EU, the share of female tertiary teachers is 30.7% and only in Finland form women a majority (50.5%).
Tuition fees are now a system feature in a clear majority of European countries but all countries provide some sort of financial support to their students, usually in the form of loans and grants.
Finally, and rather unsurprisingly, tertiary graduates have better employment prospects as they find a “relevant” job two times faster than those with only lower secondary education. However, the proportion of tertiary graduates in leading (”management”) positions has declined over time. Is higher education today less of a safe investment than it was 10 years ago?