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Massive drop in university applications in Croatia

The academic year 2019/20 saw a big decrease in university applications in Croatia. After the September deadline, 11 251 places out of 42 301 remained vacant, 20 percentage points higher compared to the previous year. While this is the case at all universities, the private ones were especially affected with some of them enrolling only a handful of students. The reasons for this could be foreseen in the catastrophic results of the state graduation exam, high rates of emigration in the past years and a very limited number of degree-seeking international students.

In total 2 852 high school graduates failed the state graduation exam, which already has low pass rates – 25% in Maths and 37% in Croatian and English. As Croatian public high schools are the largest feeders of Croatian universities, the inability of students to graduate has had an impact on the university admissions.

Another factor is a major decrease in population. Since the accession to the EU in 2013, emigration from Croatia skyrocketed with an estimated more than 200 000 people who left the country, mostly to Germany (71%), followed by Austria (7%) and Ireland (6%). Even if the first ones to leave were mostly individuals, in the following years whole families left, which has significantly contributed to the depopulation of the country and, consequently, emptied classrooms. They could be filled with international students if they were coming in significant numbers to Croatia for a full degree programme.

With 53 international programmes at all levels, most international students go to Croatia for short-term credit-seeking mobility. In 2014/15 Croatia had the lowest shares of international  graduates among the EHEA countries  (0.4% of students coming from EHEA and 0.2% outside EHEA). In line with the overall migration statistics, Croatia is among the countries with highly imbalanced outgoing mobility flows of students with large differences in the outward mobility rates.

However, efforts into turning things around are made by the national Agency for Science and Higher Education with the SKAZVO project and with two Croatian universities (Split and Zadar) joining the European Universities consortia.