Education and training statistics at regional level

Data extracted in March and April 2016. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: September 2017.

Maps can be explored interactively using Eurostat’s Statistical Atlas (see user manual).

Map 1: Participation rates of four year-olds in early childhood and primary education (ISCED levels 0–1), by NUTS 2 regions, 2014 (1)
(% share of all four year-olds)
Source: Eurostat (educ_uoe_enra14)
Map 2: Share of students in upper secondary education
(ISCED level 3) who were following vocational programmes, by NUTS 2 regions, 2014 (1)
(% of all students in ISCED level 3)
Source: Eurostat (educ_uoe_enra13)
Map 3: Share of young people aged 18–24 who were early leavers from education and training, by NUTS 2 regions, 2015 (1)
(%)
Source: Eurostat (edat_lfse_16)
Figure 1: Gender gap for the share of young people aged 18–24 who were early leavers from education and training, selected NUTS 2 regions in the EU, 2015 (1)
(percentage points difference, share for men - share for women)
Source: Eurostat (edat_lfse_16)
Map 4: Share of young people aged 18–24 neither in employment nor in education or training (NEETs), by NUTS 2 regions, 2015 (1)
(%)
Source: Eurostat (edat_lfse_22)
Figure 2: Gender gap for the share of young people aged 18–24 neither in employment nor in education or training
(NEETs), selected NUTS 2 regions in the EU, 2015 (1)
(percentage points difference, share for men - share for women)
Source: Eurostat (edat_lfse_22)
Map 5: Share of persons aged 30–34 with tertiary education (ISCED levels 5–8) attainment, by NUTS 2 regions, 2015 (1)
(%)
Source: Eurostat (edat_lfse_12)
Figure 3: Gender gap for the share of persons aged 30–34 with tertiary education (ISCED levels 5–8) attainment, selected NUTS 2 regions in the EU, 2015 (1)
(percentage points difference, share for men - share for women)
Source: Eurostat (edat_lfse_12)

This article is part of a set of statistical articles based on the Eurostat regional yearbook publication. Education, vocational training and more generally lifelong learning play a vital role in the economic and social strategies of the European Union (EU).

Eurostat compiles and publishes education and training statistics for EU Member States and their regions; in addition, information is available for EFTA and candidate countries. This article presents data for: participation rates among four year-olds, students in vocational training, the proportion of early leavers from education and training, the share of young people neither in employment nor in education or training (NEET), and the share of persons aged 30–34 with a tertiary level of educational attainment. These statistics are generally presented for NUTS level 2 regions, although data on participation are only available for NUTS level 1 regions for Germany and the United Kingdom while for Croatia only national data are available.

Main statistical findings

In 2014, figures for the EU-28 indicate that there were approximately 107 million children, pupils and students enrolled across the whole education system, from pre-primary education through to postgraduate studies (ISCED levels 02–8).

Participation of four year-olds in education

Early childhood and primary education play an essential role in tackling inequalities and raising proficiency in basic competences. Policymakers argue that a higher proportion of young children should be encouraged to attend pre-school education rather than informal, non-professional care. The education and training 2020 (ET 2020) strategic framework has set a headline target, whereby at least 95 % of children between the age of four and the age for starting compulsory primary education should participate in early childhood education. Note the legal age for starting within the education systems of the EU Member States varies somewhat: compulsory education begins at age four in Luxembourg and Northern Ireland (the United Kingdom), while in other EU regions/Member States it starts between five and seven years of age. Enrolment in pre-primary education is generally voluntary across most of the Member States.

In 2014, there were just over five million children aged four who were enrolled in some form of early childhood or primary education (as defined by ISCED levels 0–1); only a very small share of these (52 thousand) attended primary education.

Defining early childhood and primary education

Early childhood education (ISCED level 0) is typically designed with a holistic approach to support children’s early cognitive, physical, social and emotional development and introduce young children to organised instruction outside of the family context. There are two categories of ISCED level 0 programmes: early childhood educational development and pre-primary education. The former has educational content designed for younger children (in the age range of 0–2 years), while the latter is designed for children between the age of three and the start of primary education. Both categories are characterised by learning environments that are visually stimulating and language-rich, with at least two hours of teaching provision per day; in other words, crèches, day-care centres or nurseries are excluded unless they have a specific educational component.

Primary education (ISCED level 1) programmes are typically designed to provide students with fundamental skills in reading, writing and mathematics (literacy and numeracy) and establish a solid foundation for learning and understanding core areas of knowledge, personal and social development. Age is typically the only entry requirement at this educational level.

A large majority of the regions in France and the United Kingdom reported that practically all four year-olds participated in early childhood education or primary education

The darkest shade of orange in Map 1 shows those NUTS level 2 regions where participation rates of four year-olds were particularly high; note that data for Germany and the United Kingdom are presented for NUTS level 1 regions and that only national data are available for Croatia. Participation rates of four year-olds were at least 98 % in 63 out of the 224 EU regions shown (no data available for Mayotte, France). The highest rates were concentrated across France and the United Kingdom, while there were also high rates in a number of regions in southern Italy, parts of Germany, Spain and Belgium (principally in Flanders), as well as a few regions in mainland Denmark, Ireland (Border, Midland and Western), northern Italy (Provincia Autonoma di Trento and Provincia Autonoma di Bolzano/Bozen), Austria (Burgenland) and Portugal (Alentejo); the two most northerly regions in Norway (Trøndelag and Nord-Norge) also recorded rates of at least 98 %.

Athens had the lowest participation rate for four year-olds in early childhood education and primary education

By contrast, Map 1 shows a very clear east–west split as participation rates were generally much lower in most eastern regions of the EU, as well as in the Baltic Member States (each of which is a single region at this level of analysis). Those regions characterised by the lowest participation rates (below 70 %, as shown by the lightest shade of orange in Map 1) included Croatia (national data) and most parts of Poland and Greece, while there were also regions in eastern Slovakia (Východné Slovensko) and northern Finland (Pohjois- ja Itä-Suomi); this was also the case in every region of Turkey (2013 data), and all but one region (Ticino being the exception) in Switzerland, as well as Liechtenstein and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (both single regions at this level of analysis).

Looking in more detail at specific regions, the Greek capital city region (Attiki) had by far the lowest participation rate for four year-olds in early childhood education and primary education, at 28.3 % in 2014. This was considerably lower than in any other region, as all the other regions in the EU reported a majority of their four year-olds participating in early childhood and primary education. The second lowest rate was also recorded in Greece, in the north-eastern region of Anatoliki Makedonia, Thraki (50.9 %); it was one of six Greek regions where the participation rate for four year-olds was in the range of 50–60 %.

Students in vocational upper secondary education

An estimated 10.6 million (or 48.0 %) of upper secondary (ISCED level 3) students across the EU followed a vocational education programme in 2014, with the remainder following general programmes. Vocational education and training (VET) is considered key to lowering youth unemployment rates and facilitating the transition of young people from education into the labour market. Policymakers across the EU have been looking for ways to increase the attractiveness of vocational programmes and apprenticeships, so these may offer an alternative route to upper secondary and higher education qualifications and better match the skills required by employers.

Map 2 shows that the share of students following vocational education programmes varied considerably across the EU Member States, with a particularly high specialisation in vocational education in a cluster of regions covering the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia and northern Italy, as well as Switzerland; there were also high shares in Finland, the Netherlands and northern regions of Belgium. Some of these differences may be attributed to perceptions concerning vocational education and training: for example, in countries such as the Czech Republic and Austria, vocational education and training is generally considered as an attractive proposition that facilitates an individual’s transition into the labour market, whereas in some other EU Member States its role is often less developed, in part due to less positive societal perceptions.

Vocational education accounted for more than three quarters of upper secondary students in three Czech regions and one Austrian region

Looking in more detail by NUTS level 2 region, there were 40 regions in the EU where the share of upper secondary students who followed a vocational education programme in 2014 was at least 65 % (as shown by the darkest shade of orange in Map 2). There were three regions where in excess of three quarters of all upper secondary students were following a vocational education: two of these were in the Czech Republic (Severozápad and Jihozápad), while the third was in Austria (Oberösterreich).

By contrast, the lowest shares of vocational education among those attending upper secondary schooling were recorded in both of the Irish NUTS level 2 regions and in Scotland (data are only available for NUTS level 1 regions in the United Kingdom), where vocational programmes covered less than 1 in 10 students. There were three regions where the share of students following vocational programmes was situated within the range of 10–20 %: the island regions of Malta and Cyprus (both single regions at this level of detail) and the capital city region of Hungary (Közép-Magyarország). The proportion of upper secondary students following vocational education programmes was lower than 35 % (as shown by the lightest shade of orange in Map 2) in 9 out of 13 regions in Greece, the six remaining Hungarian regions (in stark contrast to the regions surrounding Hungary), six regions in southern Spain, as well as Brandenburg (a NUTS level 1 region that surrounds the German capital city region of Berlin), the French capital city region of Île de France, Northern Ireland and Wales (both NUTS level 1 regions in the United Kingdom), Estonia and Lithuania (both single regions at this level of analysis).

Europe 2020: early leavers from education and training

Young people between the ages of 15 and 17 are often faced with a choice: remain in education or training, or looking for a job. Full-time compulsory education lasts, on average, 9 or 10 years in most of the EU Member States and is generally completed at the end of lower secondary education (ISCED level 2).

Headline target is for the proportion of early leavers to fall to less than 10 % by 2020

Education is one of five pillars which are central to the Europe 2020 strategy. Two of the targets used to monitor the EU’s progress towards becoming a ‘smart, sustainable and inclusive economy’ concern education. These benchmarks have been set for the EU as a whole and foresee that:

  • the share of early leavers from education and training should be under 10 % by 2020; and
  • at least 40 % of 30–34 year-olds should have completed a tertiary or equivalent education by 2020.

Note that while both of these objectives have been set across the whole of the EU, they do not specifically apply at a national or a regional level. Indeed, each Europe 2020 benchmark has been translated into national (and sometimes regional) targets, which reflect the different situations and circumstances of each EU Member State.

The indicator for early leavers from education and training tracks the proportion of individuals aged 18–24 who had finished no more than a lower secondary level of education, and who were not involved in further education or training (during four weeks prior to the survey from which the data are compiled).

The share of young people who were early leavers from education and training stood at 11.0 %

In 2015, an 11.0 % share of 18–24 year-olds in the EU-28 left education and training early, which was 0.1 percentage points lower than the share recorded in 2014. Indeed, there have been consistent reductions in the share of 18–24 year-olds who were early leavers from education and training over the last decade or more. If these patterns continue then the Europe 2020 headline target of moving below 10 % appears to be within reach.

That said, considerable disparities continue to exist both between and within the EU Member States and these are reflected, to some degree, in the national targets — agreed as part of the Europe 2020 strategy — which range from a low of just 4 % in Croatia to a high of 16 % in Italy; there is no target for the United Kingdom.

Highest proportions of early leavers from education and training frequently recorded in southern Europe, particularly for island regions

In 2015, the proportion of young people who were early leavers from education and training was less than the Europe 2020 target of 10 % in 130 of the 266 regions for which data are available. Map 3 shows that there was a mixed pattern to the distribution of early leavers across NUTS level 2 regions, with the lowest shares concentrated in a band stretching from Poland down through the Czech Republic and Slovakia, into south-eastern Austria, Slovenia and Croatia. By contrast, the highest proportions of early leavers from education and training were concentrated in southern Spain and the Illes Balears, three Romanian regions, the Portuguese Regiões Autónomas dos Açores e da Madeira, and the Italian islands of Sardegna and Sicilia; very high shares of early leavers were also recorded across the whole of Turkey. Many of the EU regions with the highest shares of early leavers from education and training were characterised as being relatively remote/sparsely populated and it may be the case that students living in these regions have to leave home if they wish to follow a particular specialisation, while those who remain are presented with relatively few opportunities for higher/further education.

Eastern regions recorded some of the lowest proportions of early leavers from education and training

In 2015, the lowest proportion of young people who were early leavers from education and training was recorded in the Croatian region of Jadranska Hrvatska (0.9 %). There were 14 additional regions where the share of early leavers was less than 5 % (as shown by the lightest shade of orange in Map 3) and these were principally located in eastern Europe: five Polish regions, three regions from the Czech Republic, both regions of Croatia, two regions from Slovakia, and a single region from each of Belgium, Slovenia and Sweden.

SPOTLIGHT ON THE REGIONS

Jadranska Hrvatska, Croatia

Old town of Rovinj Croatia 2005-09-15.jpg

In 2015, the proportion of young people (aged 18–24) in the EU-28 who were early leavers from education and training stood at 11.0 %. In Croatia, a much lower proportion of young people left education and training early, and this was particularly the case along the Adriatic coast and in the Croatian islands, as the share of early leavers from education and training was 0.9 % in Jadranska Hrvatska.

©: Nicolas Brignol

The capital city regions of the Czech Republic, Croatia, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia were all present among these 15 regions with the lowest shares of early leavers. Relatively low proportions of early leavers from education and training were also recorded in several other regions characterised as being predominantly urban, for example: the capital city regions of Área Metropolitana de Lisboa (10.7 %) and Inner London - East (5.5 %) recorded the lowest shares of early leavers in Portugal and the United Kingdom; this is perhaps unsurprising considering that higher education and training facilities are more likely to be established in capital cities and other relatively large cities. By contrast, the proportion of young people who were early leavers from education and training was relatively high (compared with national averages) in the Belgian, German and Austrian capital city regions (Bruxelles-Capitale/Brussels Hoofdstedelijk, Berlin and Wien).

Young men were, on average, more likely than young women to leave education and training early

Information relating to the proportion of early leavers from education and training may be analysed by sex (see Figure 1 for a regional analysis of the gender gap for this indicator). In 2015, the proportion of early leavers from education and training among young men aged 18–24 was, at 12.4 %, some 2.9 percentage points higher than the corresponding share recorded among young women (9.5 %). Note however, that the female rate for early leavers from education and training in the EU-28 remained almost unchanged between 2014 and 2015 (falling 0.1 percentage points), while the male rate fell at a faster pace (by 0.4 percentage points). By doing so, the gender gap closed somewhat — continuing a pattern that has been apparent since the onset of the global financial and economic crisis in 2008 — when in the EU-28 the share of early leavers among young men had been 4.0 percentage points higher than that for young women.

Among young men, relatively high early leaver rates were often recorded in those regions characterised as agricultural/rural …

The rate of early leavers from education and training was lower for young women than it was for young men in 164 out of the 212 regions for which data were available for 2015. There were eight regions — all in the south of Europe — where a double-digit gender gap was recorded; in each case, the share of young men who were early leavers was higher than the corresponding share for young women. The biggest gap was recorded in the Spanish region of La Rioja, where almost one third (32.4 %) of young men were early leavers from education and training, compared with 10.8 % of young women. There were four other Spanish regions among the eight with double-digit gender gaps, namely, the Comunidad Valenciana, Extremadura, Galicia and the Illes Balears. They were joined by two Italian regions (Sardegna and Abruzzo) and the Greek island region of Notio Aigaio (the southern Aegean).

… by contrast, relatively high early leaver rates among young women were often recorded in metropolitan regions or regions characterised by heavy industry

In the 43 regions where early leaver rates for young men were lower than those recorded for young women, the gender gap was generally quite narrow (often less than 2.0 percentage points). However, the largest difference was recorded in the Dutch region of Zeeland, where the early leavers’ rate for young women was 18.4 %, some 6.3 percentage points higher than that for young men (12.1 %). Among the 10 regions with the largest gender gaps with lower rates for men there were three regions from the United Kingdom (Merseyside; Inner London - East; Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire), two regions from the Czech Republic (Strední Cechy and Moravskoslezsko), as well as single regions from each of Bulgaria (Severen tsentralen), Spain (the Ciudad Autónoma de Melilla), Germany (Koblenz) and Romania (Sud-Vest Oltenia).

Young people neither in employment nor in education or training (NEETs)

In 2015, there were 6.2 million people aged 18–24 in the EU-28 who were neither in employment nor in education or training (NEET); when expressed in relation to the population of the same age, the NEET rate for young people was 15.8 %. One of the key determinants that explains differences in NEET rates is low educational attainment; as such, those regions characterised by relatively high rates of early leavers from education and training may also be expected to display relatively high NEET rates.

Comparing youth unemployment and NEETs

Youth unemployment (for more information see an article on regional labour market statistics) and the proportion of young people who were neither in employment nor in education or training (NEET) are complementary concepts. The unemployment rate is a measure of those who are out of work (but have actively searched for work and are able to start work); it is based on the economically active population — those who are either in work or unemployed — as its denominator.

By contrast, the definition of those who were neither in employment nor in education or training (NEET) excludes those in employment, education or training, but may include some of the economically inactive; it is based on a denominator that covers the whole cohort of 18–24 year-olds.

From a high of 16.9 % in 2003, the EU-28 NEET rate fell in consecutive years to 14.0 % in 2008 (at the onset of the global financial and economic crisis). Thereafter, there were four consecutive increases as the rate rose to 17.2 % by 2012, before falling back again to 15.8 % by 2015. During the last decade, the EU-28 NEET rate has been largely determined/influenced by changes in youth unemployment, as the share of those aged 18–24 who were inactive remained relatively stable (at just less than 8 %).

An analysis across the EU Member States shows that the highest proportion of young people who were neither in employment nor in education or training in 2015 was recorded in Italy (27.9 %), while the NEET rate was within the range of 20–25 % in Spain, Cyprus, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece and Croatia. By contrast, the proportion of young people who were neither in employment nor in education or training was as low as 6.2 % in the Netherlands, and was below 10 % in Luxembourg, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Austria and the Czech Republic.

There were four regions in the EU where the proportion of young people neither in employment nor in education or training rose above 40 %

A more detailed analysis by NUTS level 2 region confirms that in 2015 the highest proportion of young people who were neither in employment nor in education or training was recorded in the Bulgarian region of Severozapaden, where the NEET rate stood at 45.7 %. There were four other regions where this rate was above 40 %: the French overseas region of Guyane, the Greek region of Sterea Ellada, as well as the two southern Italian regions of Calabria and Sicilia.

The five regions with the highest NEET rates were broadly representative of more general patterns observed across the EU, insofar as some of the highest NEET rates were recorded across southern Italy, mainland Greece, parts of Bulgaria and Romania, as well as the French départements et territoires d’outre-mer (as shown by the darkest shade of orange in Map 4). Indeed, out of the 30 NUTS level 2 regions where the NEET rate was above 25 %, there were only five regions outside of the areas mentioned above: three of these were located in Spain (Andalucía and the Ciudades Autónomas de Ceuta y Melilla), while the other two regions were the Região Autónoma dos Açores (Portugal) and the Tees Valley and Durham (the United Kingdom).

The lowest NEET rate in the EU was recorded in the south-western Bavarian region of Schwaben (4.3 %), while Oberbayern (another Bavarian region) and Overijssel (the Netherlands) were the only other regions to record NEET rates below 5 %. Across the 271 NUTS level 2 regions for which data are available in 2015, there were 61 regions where the NEET rate was less than 10 % (as shown by the lightest shade of orange in Map 4). These regions were principally concentrated in the Netherlands, Luxembourg (a single region at this level of analysis), Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark and Sweden, although there were two additional regions with rates below 10 %, namely, Közép-Dunántúl (Hungary) and Inner London - West (the United Kingdom).

There was a relatively narrow gender gap in relation to NEET rates among those aged 18–24: in 2015, the share of young men who were neither in employment nor in education and training stood at 15.4 %, while the corresponding rate for young women was 0.9 percentage points higher. A decade before, the gender gap had been considerably wider, with the rate for young women in 2005 some 3.3 percentage points higher than that for young men.

Figure 2 shows the 10 regions with the largest gender gaps with higher rates for young men or for young women. An analysis for 238 NUTS level 2 regions shows there were 146 regions where the NEET rate for young men in 2015 was lower than the corresponding rate for young women, while the opposite was true in 90 regions, and there were two regions — Thüringen (Germany) and Inner London - West (the United Kingdom) — with no difference between the sexes. The biggest gender gap was recorded in the Greek region of Voreio Aigaio, where the NEET rate for young men (21.5 %) was 18.4 percentage points lower than corresponding rate for young women. By contrast, the biggest gender gap in favour of young women was also recorded in a Greek region, as the NEET rate for young women in Dytiki Makedonia was 16.7 %, some 13.5 percentage points lower than the rate for young men. This divergent pattern between regions seen in Greece was reproduced among the regions of Spain and the United Kingdom, insofar as regions from both of these EU Member States appeared in both rankings of the largest gender gaps.

Europe 2020: tertiary educational attainment

Tertiary education is the level of education offered by universities, vocational universities, institutes of technology and other institutions that award academic degrees or higher professional certificates. EU Member States face four main challenges: broadening access to higher education by increasing participation (especially among disadvantaged groups); reducing the number of students who leave tertiary education without a qualification; reducing the time it takes some individuals to complete their education; improving the quality of higher education by making degree courses more relevant for the world of work.

The headline target is at least 40 % tertiary education attainment among people aged 30–34 years

As already noted, the Europe 2020 strategy has a key target on tertiary educational attainment that at least 40 % of 30–34 year-olds should have completed a tertiary or equivalent education by 2020.

Tertiary educational attainment in the EU-28 rose rapidly from 23.6 % in 2002 (the start of the time series for the EU-28), with gains being made each and every year. By 2015, some 38.7 % of the population aged 30–34 years had attained a tertiary level of education, which was 0.8 percentage points higher than in 2014.

A high proportion of highly-qualified young people move to capital city regions

Capital cities are often chosen by large organisations (in both the public and private sectors) as the location for their headquarters, either as a matter of prestige or to benefit from economies of scale which may be present in some of the EU’s largest cities. This relatively high concentration of business activity — with its associated job opportunities — may, at least in part, explain the considerable number of graduates who move to live in capital city regions.

SPOTLIGHT ON THE REGIONS

Inner London - West, United Kingdom

Tanaka Business School - Imperial College 24-06-2004.jpeg

The high concentration of business activity and associated job opportunities may, at least in part, explain the considerable number of graduates who move to live in capital city regions. This was particularly true in Inner London - West, as more than four fifths of its population aged 30–34 possessed a tertiary level (ISCED levels 5–8) of educational attainment in 2015.

©: Kevin Judson

Given that most persons aged 30–34 will have completed their tertiary education prior to the age of 30, this indicator may be used to assess the attractiveness (or ‘pull effects’) of regions with respect to the employment opportunities they offer graduates. Map 5 shows tertiary educational attainment by NUTS level 2 region for 2015: the darkest shade of orange highlights those regions where at least half of the population aged 30–34 had attained a tertiary level of education. By far the highest share was recorded in one of the two capital city regions of the United Kingdom — Inner London - West — where more than four fifths (80.8 %) of the population aged 30–34 possessed a tertiary level of educational attainment. The second, third and fourth highest shares were also recorded in the United Kingdom, namely in: Outer London - South (69.3 %), the other capital city region of Inner London - East (68.2 %), and North Eastern Scotland (66.1 %); note that all four regions in Scotland recorded shares above 50 %.

A large proportion of the remaining regions in the EU with relatively high levels of tertiary educational attainment were capital city regions, including: Hovedstaden (Denmark), Southern and Eastern (Ireland), Île de France (France), Noord-Holland (the Netherlands), Mazowieckie (Poland), Helsinki-Uusimaa (Finland) and Stockholm (Sweden), as well as Cyprus, Lithuania and Luxembourg (all single regions at this level of analysis). Elsewhere, the regions with the highest shares of 30–34 year-olds with a tertiary level of educational attainment were often characterised as regions associated with research and/or technology, for example: the Province Brabant Wallon and the Provincie Vlaams-Brabant in Belgium, the País Vasco region of Spain, the Rhône-Alpes region of France, Utrecht in the Netherlands, Västsverige in Sweden, or Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire in the United Kingdom.

Lower levels of tertiary educational attainment may be linked to an emphasis being placed on vocational education

The share of tertiary educational attainment was below 20 % (as shown by the lightest shade of orange in Map 5) in eight regions that were located in southern or eastern regions of the EU. They were characterised by their traditional reliance on primary activities — heavy industries (for example, mining or iron and steel) or agriculture — within their economic fabric. Four of the eight regions were spread across the south of Italy (Puglia, Sardegna, Campania and Sicilia), three were from the east of Romania (Sud-Est, Sud - Muntenia and Nord-Est), and the final region was Severozápad in the north-west of the Czech Republic, where the lowest share of tertiary educational attainment was recorded, at 15.4 %; furthermore, there were 11 level 2 regions in Turkey where fewer than one in five persons aged 30–34 had a tertiary level of educational attainment.

Aside from these regions, the level of tertiary educational attainment was also relatively low in many regions across Austria and the Czech Republic. This may, at least in part, be attributed to a particular emphasis placed on vocational education in these EU Member States (see Map 2 for more information), where emphasis is placed on professional qualifications rather than academic ones.

The proportion of young women aged 30–34 with a tertiary level of educational attainment was 9.4 percentage points higher than that for young men

In 2015, the share of young women aged 30–34 living in the EU-28 who had attained a tertiary level of education was 43.4 %; this was considerably higher than the corresponding share recorded among young men of the same age, which stood at just over one third (34.0 %). During the last decade, the proportion of women aged 30–34 with a tertiary level of educational attainment rose at a faster pace than the corresponding rate for young men, with the gender gap for this indicator widening.

A large majority (230 out of 261) of the NUTS level 2 regions for which data are available reported a higher proportion of women aged 30–34 having attained a tertiary level of education in 2015. There were 29 regions where the share of young men with a tertiary level of educational attainment was higher, and two regions — Münster in Germany and the Austrian capital city region of Wien — where there was no difference between the sexes.

Women had higher tertiary education attainment where the gender gaps were largest

The largest gender gap in educational attainment was in Latvia (a single region at this level of analysis), where the share for women was 29.7 percentage points higher than for men. More generally, some of the biggest gender gaps were recorded in the Baltic Member States, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, Italy, Sweden and the United Kingdom, where among the multi-regional EU Member States there were at least two regions which reported a gender gap of at least 20.0 percentage points with higher shares reported for women. Some of these regions were characterised as relatively rural or sparsely-populated, where the gap between the sexes was often a reflection of lower levels of tertiary educational attainment among young men, rather than higher levels of attainment among young women. Examples of such relatively rural or sparsely-populated regions include the Provincie Limburg in Belgium, Sjælland in Denmark, Molise in Italy, Övre Norrland and Mellersta Norrland in Sweden, and North Yorkshire or the Highlands and Islands in the United Kingdom. This pattern could be due to a number of reasons, including: a higher tendency for young men with a tertiary level of education to leave rural regions in search of work elsewhere, or a higher proportion of men choosing to leave the education system relatively early (perhaps to work in agriculture).

Among the 29 regions where the share of young men with a tertiary level of educational attainment was higher than the share recorded among young women, 19 were located in Germany. Among these was the eastern Bavarian region of Oberpfalz which had the largest gender gap where the share for men was higher than for women. Half of the remaining 10 regions with higher shares of tertiary educational attainment among young men were located in the United Kingdom, with two regions from the Netherlands, and one each from Spain, France and Romania.

Data sources and availability

Education statistics provide, among others, data on participation in education and training, learning mobility, education personnel, education finance and knowledge of (foreign) languages. This domain also provides information on education and training outcomes, such as the number of graduates, levels of educational attainment and the transition from education to work.

Main sources

UNESCO/OECD/Eurostat (UOE) statistics

Most European education statistics are collected as part of a jointly administered exercise that involves the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UNESCO-UIS), the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and Eurostat; this is often referred to as the UOE data collection exercise. Data on regional enrolments and foreign language learning are collected separately by Eurostat.

The UOE data collection is principally based on administrative sources provided by education ministries or national statistical authorities on the basis of commonly agreed definitions. The statistical unit for regional education statistics is the student. Reference periods are the calendar year for data on graduates and the school/academic year for all other non-monetary data (for example, data published for 2014 cover the academic year of 2013/14).

As the structure of education systems varies from one country to another, a framework for assembling, compiling and presenting regional, national and international education statistics and indicators is a prerequisite for the comparability of data. This is provided by the international standard classification of education (ISCED).

The international standard classification of education (ISCED)

The ISCED framework is occasionally updated in order to capture new developments in education systems worldwide. ISCED 2011 was adopted by the UNESCO General Conference in November 2011 and is the basis for the statistics presented in this article, although the data for reference years prior to 2014 were collected using the previous version, ISCED-97.

In the 2011 version of this classification new categories have been added in recognition of the expansion of early childhood education and the restructuring of tertiary education. ISCED classifies all educational programmes and qualifications by level:

  • Early childhood education/less than primary education (level 0);
  • Primary education (level 1);
  • Lower secondary education (level 2);
  • Upper secondary education (level 3);
  • Post-secondary non-tertiary education (level 4);
  • Short-cycle tertiary education (level 5);
  • Bachelor’s or equivalent level (level 6);
  • Master’s or equivalent level (level 7);
  • Doctoral or equivalent level (level 8).

A full description is available on the UNESCO-UIS website.

Labour force survey

Data on early leavers from education and training, on NEETs, and on tertiary educational attainment presented in this article are derived from the EU’s labour force survey (LFS). The LFS is based on a survey of individuals living in private households. It covers the total population usually residing in the EU Member States, except for persons living in collective or institutional households. Educational data from the LFS are updated twice a year in the spring (including data for a new reference year) and in the autumn.

Note that up to and including reference year 2013 these data are classified according to ISCED-97, while data from 2014 onwards are classified according to ISCED 2011. Eurostat’s online tables and databases present data on educational attainment for three aggregates (low, medium and high levels of education), and at this level of aggregation the statistics are comparable over time for each of the EU Member States (with the exception of data for Austria). There is a level shift break in Austria due to the reclassification of a programme spanning different levels of educational attainment: the qualification acquired upon successful completion of higher technical and vocational colleges is allocated in ISCED 2011 to ISCED level 5, whereas under ISCED-97 the same qualification was allocated to ISCED level 4, but footnoted as equivalent to tertiary education. In the online tables and databases, time series for ISCED-97 and ISCED 2011 are presented in a single table with labels based on the ISCED 2011 classification; the classification change between 2013 and 2014 is indicated through the use of a ‘b’ flag (to denote a break in time series).

NUTS

The data presented in this article are based exclusively on the 2013 version of NUTS.

Indicator definitions

Statistics on the proportion of four year-olds who are enrolled in early childhood and primary education (ISCED 2011 levels 0–1) cover those institutions which provide education-oriented care to young children; these must have staff with specialised qualifications in education. Note that this ratio is calculated on the basis of data from two distinct sources (education and demography statistics) and that some pupils enrolled in educational institutions might not be registered as residents in the demographic data (thereby ratios may potentially be in excess of 100 %).

Vocational education is designed for learners to acquire the knowledge, skills and competencies specific to a particular occupation or trade. Vocational education may have work-based components (for example, apprenticeships or dual-system education programmes). The vocational education indicator presented in this article shows the proportion of students following vocational programmes among the total number of students enrolled in upper secondary level of education (as defined by ISCED 2011 level 3).

The early leavers from education and training indicator is defined as the proportion of individuals aged 18–24 who have at most a lower secondary education (ISCED-97 levels 0, 1, 2 or 3c short for the period up to and including 2013 and ISCED 2011 levels 0–2 for 2014 and 2015), and who were not engaged in further education and training (during the four weeks preceding the labour force survey). This indicator is the basis for a Europe 2020 target, namely, to reduce the proportion of early leavers in the EU to below 10 %.

The indicator of young people neither in employment nor in education and training (NEET) corresponds to the percentage of the population aged 18–24 who are not employed and not involved in further education or training.

The tertiary educational attainment indicator is defined as the percentage of the population aged 30–34 who have successfully completed tertiary studies (for example, at a university or higher technical institution). The age range of 30–34 year-olds is used as this generally refers to the first five-year age span where the vast majority of students have already completed their studies. Tertiary education refers to ISCED 1997 levels 5–6 for data up to 2013 and to ISCED 2011 levels 5–8 for 2014 and 2015. This indicator is the basis for a Europe 2020 target, namely, to ensure that, by 2020, at least 40 % of 30–34 year-olds have completed a tertiary level of education.

Context

Education and training are crucial for both economic and social progress, and aligning skills with labour market needs plays a key role in this. This is increasingly important in a globalised and knowledge-driven economy, where a skilled workforce is necessary to compete in terms of productivity, quality, and innovation.

Each EU Member State is largely responsible for its own education and training systems and its content of teaching programmes (curricula). The EU supports national actions and helps Member States to address common challenges through what is known as the ‘open method of coordination’: it provides a policy forum for discussing topical issues (for example, ageing societies, skills deficits, or global competition) and allows Member States the opportunity to exchange best practices.

Education and training 2020 (ET 2020)

A strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training (ET 2020) formed a set of Council conclusions (2009/C 119/02) adopted in May 2009. It sets out four strategic objectives for education and training in the EU: making lifelong learning and mobility a reality; improving the quality and efficiency of education and training; promoting equality, social cohesion and active citizenship; and enhancing creativity and innovation (including entrepreneurship) at all levels of education and training. To reach these objectives, ET 2020 set a number of benchmarks which are subject to regular statistical monitoring and reporting, including the following targets to be achieved by 2020, namely that:

  • at least 95 % of children between the age of four and the age for starting compulsory primary education should participate in early childhood education;
  • the share of 15 year-olds with insufficient abilities in reading, mathematics and science should be less than 15 %;
  • the share of early leavers from education and training should be less than 10 %;
  • the share of 30–34 year-olds with tertiary educational attainment should be at least 40 %;
  • at least 15 % of adults aged 25–64 should participate in lifelong learning;
  • at least 20 % of higher education graduates should have had a period of higher education-related study or training (including work placements) abroad, representing a minimum of 15 European credit transfer and accumulation system (ECTS) credits or lasting a minimum of three months;
  • at least 6 % of 18–34 year-olds with an initial vocational education and training qualification should have had an initial vocational education and training (VET) related study or training period (including work placements) abroad lasting a minimum of two weeks;
  • the share of graduates (20–34 year-olds) having left education and training no more than three years before the reference year that are in employment should be at least 82 %.

In 2014, the European Commission and the EU Member States engaged in a stocktaking exercise to assess progress made and consider any new priorities for EU-wide cooperation in education. Drawing on this work, the European Commission made a proposal for six new priorities covering the period 2016–20, which was adopted in November 2015 under the title Joint report of the Council and the Commission on the implementation of the strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training (ET 2020) — New priorities for European cooperation in education and training. The six new priority areas concern:

  • relevant and high-quality knowledge, skills and competences developed through lifelong learning, focusing on learning outcomes for employability, innovation, active citizenship and well-being;
  • inclusive education, equality, equity, non-discrimination and the promotion of civic competences;
  • open and innovative education and training, including by fully embracing the digital era;
  • strong support for teachers, trainers, school leaders and other educational staff;
  • transparency and recognition of skills and qualifications to facilitate learning and labour mobility;
  • sustainable investment, quality and efficiency of education and training systems.

See also

Further Eurostat information

Data visualisation

Publications

Main tables

Regional education statistics (t_reg_educ)
Participation in education and training (t_educ_part)
Participation rates of 4-years-olds in education by NUTS 2 regions (tgs00092)
Education and training outcomes (t_educ_outc)
Tertiary educational attainment, age group 30-34 by sex and NUTS 1 regions (tgs00105)
Tertiary educational attainment, age group 25-64 by sex and NUTS 2 regions (tgs00109)
Early leavers from education and training (tsdsc410)
Early leavers from education and training by sex and NUTS 1 regions (tgs00106)

Database

Regional education statistics (reg_educ)
Participation in education and training (educ_part)
Pupils and students - enrolments (educ_uoe_enr)
All education levels (educ_uoe_enra)
Education and training outcomes (educ_outc)
Educational attainment level (edat)
Population by educational attainment level (edat1)
Transition from education to work (edatt)
Young people by educational and labour status (incl. neither in employment nor in education and training - NEET) (edatt0)
Early leavers from education and training (edatt1)

Dedicated section

Methodology / Metadata

Source data for tables, figures and maps (MS Excel)

External links