Statistics Explained

Culture statistics - culture-related education


Data extracted in May 2022.

Planned article update: June 2023.

Highlights

In 2020, over 2.5 million tertiary students in the EU were studying in culture-related fields.

Women accounted for close to two thirds of all tertiary students in culture-related fields.

In 2020, the average number of foreign languages learnt by teenagers in the EU was highest in Luxembourg followed by Finland and Romania.


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Tertiary students in culture-related fields of education, 2020

This article forms part of the Culture statistics online publication. It focuses on two areas that link education with culture:

  • tertiary students who are studying culture-related fields
  • the role played by education in facilitating cultural exchanges, for example, by learning foreign languages.


Full article


Tertiary students in culture-related fields of education


Defining tertiary students in culture-related fields of education

Universities and similar institutions provide tertiary education within the higher education sector. According to the international standard classification of education (ISCED), it is classified as ISCED levels 5 to 8.

The following fields are considered to be culture-related:

  • arts
  • humanities and languages
  • journalism and information
  • architecture and town planning.


Tertiary students – more than 2.5 million studying in culture-related fields across the EU in 2020

According to the UOE data collection, in 2020 there were more than 2.5 million students in the EU studying in culture-related fields. This equated to 14.1 % of all tertiary students in the EU (see Figure 1). The share of students in culture-related fields was above the EU average in seven EU Member States. It peaked at 19.8 % in Italy, followed by Sweden, Estonia, Greece, Ireland, France and Germany. The lowest shares of tertiary students following culture-related fields were in Latvia (9.5 %), Slovenia (9.4 %) and Cyprus (8.8 %). Note that data are not available for the Netherlands.

Figure 1: Tertiary students in culture-related fields of education, 2020
(%, share of all tertiary students)
Source: Eurostat (educ_uoe_enrt03)



In most EU Member States, the highest number of students in culture-related tertiary education followed a degree in the humanities and languages

Figure 2 provides a breakdown of the different culture-related fields that tertiary students followed in 2020. Humanities and languages was the most common field in the EU (around 1.3 million tertiary students), which was equivalent to almost half (48.7 %) of all tertiary students following culture-related fields (these shares include arts and humanities not further defined, together with interdisciplinary programmes and qualifications involving arts and humanities). Otherwise, 26.3 % of the EU students following culture-related fields in 2020 were enrolled in the arts, while 9.7 % were studying journalism and information studies and 8.8 % were studying architecture and town planning.

Humanities and languages generally account for the highest share of tertiary students following culture-related fields. In 2020, this pattern was observed in 19 of the 26 EU Member States (data not available for the Netherlands), with the highest share recorded in Luxembourg (81.5 %), followed by Romania (60.7 %) and Greece (58.8 %). In the remaining seven Member States (where humanities and languages were not the most common subject), the arts consistently had the highest share of tertiary students following culture-related fields. Ireland was the only EU Member State among these countries where more than half (59.7 %) of all students in culture-related fields were studying the arts.

The highest shares of tertiary students in culture-related fields following journalism and information studies were reported in Slovakia (27.0 %) and Croatia (16.1 %), while the highest share for town planning and architecture was reported in Austria (18.1 %).


Figure 2: Distribution of tertiary students in culture-related fields of education, 2020
(%, share of all tertiary students in culture-related fields of education)
Source: Eurostat (educ_uoe_enrt03)



Women accounted for most tertiary students in each of the culture-related fields of education

In 2020, there were more female than male tertiary education students in the EU studying culture-related fields, with women accounting for 63.9 % of the total (see Figure 3). The share of women was slightly higher among those studying journalism and information studies (67.5 %) and humanities and languages (66.9 %), while the gap between the sexes was much less pronounced for those studying architecture and town planning – here women accounted for 54.7 % of all students.

Figure 3: Tertiary students in culture-related fields of education, by sex, EU, 2020
(%)
Source: Eurostat (educ_uoe_enrt03)



Foreign languages


In 2020, secondary school pupils in Luxembourg and Romania were taught at least two foreign languages on average

In 2020, the average number of foreign languages learnt by pupils in lower secondary education (ISCED level 2) was higher than two in Luxembourg (2.5), Finland (2.2) and Malta (2.1). Ireland (0.9) recorded the lowest average number of foreign languages at ISCED level 2.

The average number of foreign languages learnt by pupils in upper secondary general education (ISCED level 3) peaked at 3.1 in Luxembourg. It was higher than 2.0 in the Flemish Community of Belgium, Finland, Estonia and France. By contrast, Greek pupils in upper secondary general education were studying just 0.7 foreign languages on average.

Generally, there was less focus on teaching foreign languages in vocational compared with upper secondary general education. This pattern was repeated in 22 of the 26 EU Member States for which a comparison was available (the comparison was impossible for Ireland). Romania was the only Member State where pupils in upper secondary vocational education studied, on average, as many foreign languages as those in upper secondary general education (2.0), while Italy, Portugal and Greece were the only ones where the average was higher for pupils in upper secondary vocational education. The average number of foreign languages learnt by pupils enrolled in upper secondary vocational education in the Netherlands, Portugal, Estonia, Greece, Lithuania, Spain, Germany and Denmark was less than 1.0 (see Figure 4).

Figure 4: Average number of foreign languages learnt by pupils in secondary education, by level of education, 2020
(number)
Source: Eurostat (educ_uoe_lang03)



English is the most common foreign language taught to upper secondary pupils in the EU

Table 1 shows that English was by far the most commonly taught foreign language in upper secondary general education in the EU. The next most commonly taught foreign languages were German, French and Spanish.

In 2020, in most EU Member States more than 90 % of pupils in upper secondary general education were learning English as a foreign language. The exceptions – where this share was less than 90 % – were Hungary (89 %), Denmark (78 %), Greece (65 %) and Portugal (62 %). All pupils in the Flemish Community of Belgium in upper secondary general education learnt English and French (French is considered a foreign language in the Flemish Community). In Luxembourg (with three official languages – Luxembourgish, French and German), all pupils learnt English and French, and 99 % of them learnt German.

Looking at the second most frequently studied foreign language in upper secondary general education in each of the EU Member States, German appears 10 times, French and Spanish each five times. Close geographic and historical ties also influence which foreign languages pupils learn. In 2020, the second most frequently taught foreign language in the Baltic Member States was Russian; in the French Community of Belgium it was Dutch (considered a foreign language in the French Community); in Malta it was Italian, and in Finland Swedish.

Table 1: Four most-learnt foreign languages in upper secondary general education, 2020
(%, share of pupils learning each language)
Source: Eurostat (educ_uoe_lang01)



Source data for tables and graphs


Data sources

The education statistics presented in this article draw principally on a joint exercise run by UNESCO, the OECD and Eurostat known as the UOE data collection. It provides annual statistics on the participation in and the completion of education programmes by pupils and students, as well as data on education staff and education spending.

Tertiary students in culture-related fields of education

The international standard classification of education (ISCED) is the reference classification for organising educational programmes and related qualifications by levels and fields. ISCED 2011 took into account a range of changes to education systems (for example, those relating to the Bologna process in tertiary education, or the expansion of education programmes for very young children).

Levels of education are classified by ISCED 2011 as follows:

  • ISCED 0: early childhood education;
  • ISCED 1: primary education;
  • ISCED 2: lower secondary education;
  • ISCED 3: upper secondary education;
  • ISCED 4: post-secondary non-tertiary education;
  • ISCED 5: short-cycle tertiary education;
  • ISCED 6: bachelor’s or equivalent level;
  • ISCED 7: master’s or equivalent level;
  • ISCED 8: doctoral or equivalent level.


ISCED also classifies fields of education and training (ISCED-F 2013). Within this classification, four main fields have been identified as being related to culture:

  • arts (fine arts, music and performing arts, audio-visual techniques and media production, design, craft skills);
  • humanities (religion, foreign languages, history and archaeology, philosophy and ethics);
  • journalism and information (journalism and reporting, library, information, archiving);
  • architecture and town planning.


Foreign languages

Within the UOE data collection, Eurostat gathers information on foreign language teaching in primary and secondary educational programmes. The educational curriculum drawn up in each country defines the languages considered as foreign languages. Regional languages are included, if they are considered as alternatives to foreign languages. Non-nationals studying their native language in special classes or those studying the language(s) of the host country are excluded. Foreign languages learnt in formal education include all modern languages taught as foreign languages; ancient Greek, Latin, Esperanto and sign languages are excluded. Only foreign languages studied as compulsory subjects or as compulsory curriculum options are included.

Context

Culture is one of Europe’s greatest assets: it is a source of values, identity and a sense of belonging. It also contributes towards well-being, social cohesion and inclusion. The cultural and creative sectors also provide a stimulus for economic growth, job creation and international trade.

This is why culture is becoming more important in the EU. In line with Article 167 of the Treaty of Lisbon, the EU ‘shall contribute to the flowering of the cultures of the Member States, while respecting their national and regional diversity and at the same time bringing the common heritage to the fore’.

The EU supports these objectives through the Creative Europe programme, as well as a number of policies set out in the work plan for culture (2015-2018) and the work plan for culture (2019-2022). The latter, adopted by EU culture ministers in November 2018, sets out the main priorities for European cooperation in cultural policymaking:

  • sustainability in cultural heritage;
  • cohesion and well-being;
  • an ecosystem supporting artists,
  • cultural and creative professionals and European content;
  • gender equality;
  • international cultural relations.

The production of reliable, comparable and up-to-date cultural statistics, which provide a basis for sound cultural policymaking, is a cross-sectoral priority in the latest work plans. Eurostat compiles culture statistics from several different data collections to provide policymakers and other users with information on the main developments in the field of culture, covering issues such as education, employment, business, international trade, and participation and consumption patterns.

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  • Culture (all Statistics Explained articles on culture)
Education and training (educ)
Participation in education and training (educ_part)
Pupils and students - enrolments (educ_uoe_enr)
Tertiary education (cult_uoe_enrt)
Students enrolled in tertiary education by education level, programme orientation, sex and age (educ_uoe_enrt02)
Students enrolled in tertiary education by education level, programme orientation, sex and field of education (educ_uoe_enrt03)


Languages (educ_lang)
Language learning (educ_uoe_lang)
Pupils by education level and modern foreign language studied - absolute numbers and % of pupils by language studied (educ_uoe_lang01)
Average number of foreign languages studied per pupil by education level (educ_uoe_lang03)