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EUROSTAT – Newest figures show EU progress on 2020 education targets

The statistical office of the European Union (EUROSTAT) has released the newest figures showing how far member states (MS), and the European Union (EU) as a whole, are on track towards reaching the EU 2020 targets on higher education attainment as well as early school leaving.  Since the targets were set in 2010, and received an overhaul in the frame of a stocktaking exercise in 2014, progress has been steady on securing that at least 40% of people aged 30-34 to have completed some form of tertiary education and reducing the rate of early leavers from education and training aged 18-24 to below 10%. Across all member states the number of people (aged 30-34) who attain tertiary education has continuously increased, and the 2016 figure at 39.1% reflects incremental progress to the previous year’s 38.7%, and a large leap compared to a starting point of 23.6% in 2002. At the same time, the share of early leavers from education and training has steadily decreased, dropping to a currently 10.7%, reducing the number of those aged 18-24 doping out of education by about 6.3% since the data collection in 2002. Thirteen MS stated that they have already achieved the EU 2020 target that stipulates 40% of people should hold a tertiary education qualification and thirteen more are meeting their national 2020 target set to tackle early school leaving.

In more detail the data reveals:

  • As in previous years the share of women completing higher education is steeply increasing - 43.9% in 2016 by now tops the EU 2020 target. Men still lag behind the target with a share of 34.4% across the EU.
  • The member states with the highest share of people attaining tertiary education are Lithuania (58.7%), Luxembourg (54.6%), Cyprus (53.4%), Ireland (52.9%) as well as Sweden (51.0%). Romania (25.6%), Italy (26.2%), Croatia (29.5%) and Malta (29.8%) exhibited the lowest proportions of people completing higher education.
  • Women with a drop-out rate of 9.2% once again top the EU target to reduce the rates of early school leaving to below 10%. In 2016, men exhibited an early leaving rate of 12.2%.
  • Croatia, Lithuania, Slovenia and Poland perform best in terms of early school leaving, while the highest shares of people leaving education were recorded in Malta, Spain, and Romania.

The EU has made large progress in securing citizens in education and training since 2002, along the headline targets. Disparities remain when looking at the level of individual member states, and also this year’s data reveals important outliers, with Germany once again posing the exception where women fare worse than men in attaining a higher education degree. 

EUROSTAT – Press release

For Eurostat 2015 results on EU 2020 targets in education & training - see ACA Newsletter ‘Education Europe’ (May 2016 edition)