Educational expenditure statistics
- Data extracted in February 2016. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: May 2017.
This article presents statistics on education finance in the European Union (EU) and forms part of an online publication on education and training in the EU. Expenditure on education may help foster economic growth, enhance productivity, contribute to people’s personal and social development, and help reduce social inequalities.
Within the EU, the proportion of financial resources devoted to education is one of the key choices made by national governments. In a similar vein, enterprises, students and their families also make decisions on the financial resources that they are able or willing to set aside for education.
This article covers various aspects of education finance, namely different sources of funding (such as funding by the government or by households), as well as education expenditure by educational institutions or households. The article covers pre-primary to tertiary levels of education, in other words all levels of education except for early childhood educational development.
- 1 Main statistical findings
- 2 Data sources and availability
- 3 Context
- 4 See also
- 5 Further Eurostat information
- 6 External links
- 7 Notes
Main statistical findings
Overall educational expenditure
Among EU Member States, funding of education mainly comes from government, with a smaller role for non-educational private sources (including for example households, enterprises, non-profit organisations and religious institutions) and generally an even smaller role for international organisations. It should be noted that part of government expenditure is the transfer and payments for education to the non-educational private sector. This includes subsidies to households and students as well as payments to other non-educational private entities. This part is counted twice, once in government expenditure and a second time in expenditure of households and other non-educational private entities. Whenever government expenditure includes payments and transfers for education to the non-educational private sector, this is denoted as "public expenditure" in this article.
Figure 1 shows the relative expenditure of these three sources (excluding transfers and payments), as a share of their combined spending, in other words as a share of the sum of expenditure by government, non-educational private sources and international organisations.
The government’s share of total spending on education in 2012 ranged from 69 % in Portugal up to close to 100 % in Sweden, Finland and Luxembourg. Non-educational private sources contributed more than 10 % of this total in 16 of the EU Member States for which data are available, this share rising to 20 % or higher in nine Member States, and peaking at 25 % in the United Kingdom and Cyprus. The contribution of international organisations was less than 5 % in most Member States, exceeding this share in six Member States, the highest shares being in the three Baltic Member States, most notably in Estonia (14.3 %).
With the exception of Bulgaria, in the EU Member States in 2012 most education funding went to primary and lower secondary education — see Figure 2. These education levels accounted for shares between 34.3 % in Hungary and 46.0 % in Portugal, with Bulgaria below this range and Cyprus, Ireland and Luxembourg (no data available for tertiary education) above it.
Generally, the smallest share of educational expenditure was on pre-primary education, with shares ranging from 5.9 % in Cyprus to 16.4 % in Luxembourg, with Ireland well below this range and Sweden and Bulgaria above it. The two latter EU Member States were the only ones where pre-primary education did not account for the smallest share of expenditure, with spending on pre-primary education exceeding that on upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education.
Expenditure on tertiary education was generally higher than that on upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education, although there were several exceptions, most notably Italy (although the Italian tertiary education data are incomplete), Malta, Cyprus, Belgium and Portugal. Tertiary education accounted for one fifth to one third of total educational expenditure in all of the EU Member States for which data are available, except for Malta and Cyprus which were below this range and Austria which was slightly above this range.
Upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education typically accounted for one sixth to one quarter of total educational expenditure, with a lower share recorded in Lithuania and higher shares in Malta, Belgium and Italy.
Public expenditure on education, i.e. expenditure by the government including payments and transfers for education to the non-educational private sector, within the EU-28 in 2012 was in excess of EUR 672 billion (no recent data available for Greece or Croatia). In 2011, expenditure on education in the EU-28 was equivalent to an estimated 5.3 % of gross domestic product (GDP), 5.3 % of gross national income (GNI) and 10.8 % of all public expenditure (see Table 1).
The highest public spending on education relative to GDP was observed in Denmark (8.8 % of GDP, 2011 data), while in 2012 public expenditure on education equivalent to 6.5 % or more of GDP was also reported in Sweden, Finland (including also expenditure from international organisations), Malta, Cyprus and Belgium. Most EU Member States reported public expenditure on education within a range between 3.1 % and 6.2 % of their GDP, with only Latvia and Romania below this range — note that the data for Latvia exclude tertiary education.
Expenditure of educational institutions
Table 2 presents an analysis of expenditure of educational institutions (either made directly by the institutions or made by the government on behalf of the institution). In 5 of the 24 Member States for which data are available, capital expenditure exceeded 10.0 % of the total of capital and current expenditure, peaking at 13.9 % in Latvia. By contrast, capital expenditure accounted for 1.8 % of the current and capital expenditure in Croatia, some way below the 3.4 % recorded in Belgium which had the next lowest share. In most EU Member States the majority of current expenditure was on teachers’ pay, although such pay accounted for less than half of current expenditure in Slovakia, Finland, the Czech Republic and only around one quarter of all current expenditure in Slovenia.
Declining birth rates in many countries have or will probably result in reduced school age populations, which will in turn have an effect on ratios such as the average expenditure per pupil (given that expenditure is held constant). Annual expenditure (from public and private sources) on all educational institutions shows that an average of EUR 12 800 was spent per pupil/student in 2012 in Sweden, with this figure falling below EUR 1 000 in Romania (see Figure 4). In a small majority of the 21 EU Member States for which data are available, expenditure per pupil was higher in public institutions than in all institutions. Among the eight Member States where expenditure per pupil was lower in public institutions the difference was greatest — in both absolute and relative terms — in the United Kingdom.
With the exception of Cyprus, expenditure on public and private educational institutions per pupil was highest for tertiary education institutions. A majority of EU Member States reported that expenditure on educational institutions per pupil was lowest for pre-primary education, although there were several exceptions, most notably Sweden and Finland. A majority of Member States also reported higher spending on educational institutions per pupil for upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education than for primary and lower secondary education. As such, in general it can be concluded that expenditure per pupil/student generally increases from the lowest level of education up to tertiary education.
Financial aid to households and students
In 2011, around 7.5 % of public expenditure on education in the EU-28 was used for financial assistance to households or students (see Figure 6). Such assistance may take various forms, including scholarships, public loans and some family allowances. Among the EU Member States, the share of public expenditure on education used for financial aid to households and students ranged in 2012 from 3.3 % in Latvia (excluding tertiary education) to 8.8 % in Ireland; shares below this range were recorded in Luxembourg (excluding tertiary education) and Croatia (2011; excluding primary and secondary education); shares around 11–12 % were recorded in the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark (including early childhood development and excluding upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary), and between 17 % and 18 % in Sweden (excluding pre-primary and primary) and Bulgaria.
Figure 7 also shows information on the share of public expenditure on education used for financial aid for students, but for various levels of education. With the sole exception of the Czech Republic, in the EU Member States financial aid to students made up a larger share of public expenditure on tertiary education than it did for upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education. Equally, the share for upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education was higher than the share for primary and lower secondary education, except in Bulgaria and Luxembourg.
The share of public expenditure on tertiary education used for financial aid to students exceeded 25 % in Italy (2013 data), Sweden, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, and peaked among the EU Member States at 29.1 % in Cyprus. For upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education, shares of 15 % or higher were reported for Sweden, the Netherlands, Ireland and Germany, while for primary and lower secondary education the shares were generally below 4 % with the notable exception of Bulgaria where the share was 19.8 %.
Figure 8 provides a similar analysis to that in Figure 6, except focusing on expenditure by non-educational private entities (other than households) rather than public expenditure. As noted above, such entities include for example enterprises, non-profit organisations and religious institutions. The share of expenditure by these entities that was destined for financial aid for households and students was much more diverse than that noted for public expenditure. In 12 of the 23 Member States for which data are available the share was 0.5 % or less and in four more it also remained under one tenth of total expenditure by other non-educational private entities. At the other end of the scale, the relative importance of financial aid for households and students was particularly high in Cyprus and Latvia (where it exceeded four fifths of the total expenditure by other non-educational private entities) and reached 100 % in Hungary.
Data sources and availability
The standards for international statistics on education are set by three international organisations:
- the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) institute for statistics (UIS);
- the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD);
- Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union.
The source of data used in this article is a joint UNESCO/OECD/Eurostat (UOE) data collection on education statistics and this is the basis for the core components of Eurostat’s database on education statistics; in combination with the joint data collection Eurostat also collects data on regional enrolments and foreign language learning.
Regulation No 452/2008 of 23 April 2008 provides the legal basis for the production and development of the EU’s statistics on education and lifelong learning. Two European Commission Regulations have been adopted concerning the implementation of the education and training data. The first, Commission Regulation (EU) No 88/2011 of 2 February 2011, concerned data for the school years 2010/2011 and 2011/2012 while the second, Commission Regulation (EU) No 912/2013 of 23 September 2013, concerns data for school years from 2012/2013 onwards.
More information about the joint data collection is available in an article on the UOE methodology.
The International standard classification of education (ISCED) is the basis for international education statistics, describing different levels of education; it was first developed in 1976 by UNESCO and revised in 1997 and again in 2011. ISCED 2011 distinguishes nine levels of education: early childhood 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). The first results based on ISCED 2011 have been published in 2015 starting with data for the 2012 reference period for expenditure data.
Note that in the following key concepts the expression “expenditure by or on (…) institutions” is used for both expenditure by the institutions themselves (e.g. salaries paid by a fiscally autonomous university) and expenditure by governments on, or on behalf of, the institutions (e.g. salaries paid by a national education ministry directly to the individual teachers employed in public or private schools).
Expenditure for all levels of education combined encompasses the expenditure for all programmes from pre-primary (ISCED level 02) to tertiary education (ISCED level 8).
Total expenditure comprises current and capital expenditure. Current expenditure comprises personnel expenditure and other current expenditure.
Total public expenditure on education includes i) direct public funding for educational institutions and ii) transfers to households and enterprises (including non-profit organisations). Generally, the public sector funds education either by bearing directly the current and capital expenses of educational institutions (direct expenditure for educational institutions) or by supporting students and their families with scholarships and public loans as well as by transferring public subsidies for educational activities to private enterprises or non-profit organisations (transfers to private households and enterprises). Both types of transactions are reported as total public expenditure on education.
Expenditure on institutions is not limited to that made on instructional services, but also includes expenditure on ancillary services for students and families, where these services are provided through educational institutions. At the tertiary level, spending on research and development can also be significant and is included, to the extent that the research is performed by educational institutions. As such, expenditure on institutions includes expenditure on core educational goods and services, such as teaching staff, school buildings, or school books and teaching materials, and peripheral educational goods and services such as ancillary services, general administration and other activities. Education expenditure on institutions cover schools, universities and other public and private institutions involved in delivering or supporting educational services.
Expenditure on educational institutions from public sources corresponds to direct expenditure on educational institutions from public sources. It may take one of two forms:
- purchases by the government agency itself of educational resources to be used by educational institutions (such as direct payments of teachers’ salaries by a central or regional education ministry);
- payments by the government agency to educational institutions that have responsibility for purchasing educational resources themselves (for example a government appropriation or block grant to a university, which the university then uses to compensate staff and to buy other resources).
Direct expenditure by a government agency does not include tuition payments to an institution that have been received from students (or the families) enrolled in public schools under that agency’s jurisdiction, even if the tuition payments flow, in the first instance, to the government agency rather than to the institution in question.
Expenditure on educational institutions from private sources comprises: school fees; materials (such as textbooks and teaching equipment); transport to school (if organised by the school); meals (if provided by the school); boarding fees, and; expenditure by employers on initial vocational training.
Public financial aid to students refers to direct public assistance to pupils or students in the form of scholarships, public loans and family allowances contingent on student status. This is not a full measure of the level of assistance students may receive as for instance, students may also get financial support indirectly, for example through ancillary services (in other words student welfare services such as meals, transportation, health care or dormitories) or tax reductions.
Data on educational expenditure are compiled on a cash accounting rather than an accrual accounting basis. As such, expenditure is recorded in the year in which the payments occurred. This means in particular that:
- capital acquisitions are counted fully in the year in which the expenditure occurs;
- depreciation of capital assets is not recorded as expenditure, though repair and maintenance expenditure is recorded in the year it occurs.
Expenditure on student loans is recorded as the gross loan outlays in the year in which the loans are made, without netting-off repayments from existing borrowers.
Tables in this article use the following notation:
- Value in italics: data value is forecasted, provisional or estimated and is therefore likely to change;
- ':' not available, confidential or unreliable value;
- '-': not applicable
Education accounts for a significant proportion of public expenditure in all of the EU Member States — the most important budget item usually being expenditure on staff. The cost of teaching increases significantly as a child moves through the education system, with expenditure per pupil/student considerably higher in universities than in primary schools. Although tertiary education costs more per head, the highest proportion of total education spending is devoted to secondary education systems, as these teach a larger share of the total number of pupils/students.
There is a debate in many EU Member States as to how to increase or maintain funding for education, improve efficiency and promote equity — a challenge that became harder in the context of the financial and economic crisis and, in particular, increased levels of public debt. The debate is not purely about the levels and sources of finance, but also concerns proposals for reforms of education policies and systems and raises questions as to the development of labour force skills for the future, for the benefit of individuals and society. Possible approaches to funding include tuition fees, administrative or examination charges; another potential fundraising source is partnerships between business and higher educational establishments.
Education costs may be balanced by needs-based or merit-based support: merit-based support includes support awarded on the basis of academic performance; needs-based support includes income-contingent grants, loans (or other support) to try to stimulate enrolment rates in higher education, in particular among the less well-off members of society, thereby promoting equal opportunities as well as social mobility and inclusion. An analysis of national student fee and support systems in European higher education is available in a report produced by the European Commission and the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency.
- Education and training in the EU — facts and figures
- Being young in Europe today — education
- The EU in the world — education and training
Further Eurostat information
- 14 % of the funding of education institutions in the EU in 2008 comes from private sources, Statistics in focus 50/2011
- Key data on education in Europe 2012
- Education finance (t_educ_uoe_fin)
- Education finance (educ_uoe_fin)
Methodology / Metadata
- Education administrative data from 2013 onwards (ISCED 2011) (ESMS metadata file — educ_uoe_enr_esms)
Manuals and other methodological information
- Classification of learning activities — Manual
- ISCED 2011 operational manual — Guidelines for classifying national education programmes and related qualifications
- UOE data collection on formal education — Manual on concepts, definitions and classifications, 2014
Source data for tables and graphs (MS Excel)
- Regulation (EC) No 452/2008 of 23 April 2008 concerning the production and development of statistics on education and lifelong learning.
- A guide to educational expenditure statistics
- European Commission — Education and training — Strategic framework for education and training
- Eurydice — The information network on education in Europe
- OECD — Education
- OECD statistics on educational expenditure by nature and resource category
- OECD statistics on educational expenditure by funding source and transaction type
- UNESCO — Education for the 21st century
- Expenditure data on early childhood educational development (ISCED 0.1) is collected by Eurostat on a voluntary basis only, and is not provided by a majority of countries.