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ETER: One-stop-shop for data on higher education

There is never enough, and never good enough data on European higher education. But attempts are always there. And one of them is ETER - the new European Tertiary Education Register, which is part of the European Commission's agenda for the modernisation of Europe's higher education systems and more evidence-based policy making. It is an EU-funded project developed with an aim to collect and provide comparable data on European universities in order to provide better evidence for policy reforms, more analysis and transparency for both universities and policy makers. 

The data sources used on the project are national statistical authorities and the sample covers only universities with more than 200 students. There are currently 36 countries and 2 673 higher education institutions in the register, with a full set of data for 2 250 of them in 29 countries. Apart from the 28 member states, EEA and EU candidate countries are included in the database as well. The largest number of institutions providing data is in Germany (374), then Poland (286), France (283), Italy (176) and the UK (152). Besides the description and geographical details of an institution, the data in the register cover numbers on students and graduates at different levels, gender and nationality, an institution’s expenditure and revenue, number of staff, and research activities (PhD students, R&D expenditure).

What can be learned about European universities from the ETER database? For example, the size of the institutions and the distribution of students: most higher education institutions in Europe are small (below 3 000 students) but 60% of students are in those with more than 15 000 students. Then, the share of public and private institutions: private institutions (including government-dependent ones) account for a third of higher education institutions, but only for 13% of the total number of students. The data also reveals that more than half (60%) of students in Europe are enrolled in general higher education institutions, which represent one quarter of European HEIs; around half of universities are specialised but enrol only 15% of students. 

For the first time at European level, ETER will provide a one-stop-shop for detailed and comparable data on 2 250 institutions hosting more than 16 million students. The Commission will fund ETER until 2015 and then take decision on future funding. The data for 2012, as announced, will be integrated in the database by summer 2015.