Culture statistics - culture-related education

This is the stable Version.


Data extracted in July 2020.

Planned article update: July 2021.

Highlights

In 2018, over 2.5 million tertiary students in the EU were studying in culture-related fields.

In 2018, the most common culture-related fields of tertiary education in the EU were humanities and languages; they accounted for approximately half of all students studying in culture-related fields of education.

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



Tertiary students in culture-related fields of education, 2018

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

  • tertiary students who are studying culture-related fields of education;
  • the role played by education in facilitating cultural exchange, for example, by learning foreign languages or by promoting the mobility of tertiary education students between EU Member States.


Full article


Tertiary students in culture-related fields of education

Defining tertiary students in culture-related fields of education

Tertiary education is provided by universities and similar institutions within the higher education sector. It is classified according to the international standard classification of education (ISCED) as ISCED level 5 to 8. Tertiary education includes what is commonly understood as academic education but also includes advanced vocational or professional education. It aims at learning at a high level of complexity and specialisation.

The following broad fields of education are considered to be culture-related:

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


More than 2.5 million tertiary students across the EU-27 were studying in culture-related fields of education in 2018

In 2018, there were more than 2.5 million students across the EU-27 studying within culture-related fields of education (see Table 1); this equated to almost 15 % of all tertiary students in the EU-27 (see Figure 1). The share of students in culture-related fields was above the EU average in seven Member States: it peaked at 18.8 % in Italy (2014 data) and in Estonia (16.3 %), while the next highest shares above the EU average were recorded in Germany (16.1 %), Greece (15.8 %), France and Sweden (15.5 %) and Ireland (15.4 %). At the other end of the range, the lowest shares of tertiary students following culture-related fields of education were in Latvia (9.4 %), Bulgaria (9.6 %) and Cyprus (9.9 %) — they were the only Member States to record single-digit share.

Figure 1: Tertiary students in culture-related fields of education, 2018
(%, share of all tertiary students)
Source: Eurostat (educ_uoe_enrt03)


Table 1 and Figure 2 provide a breakdown of the different culture-related fields of study that tertiary students followed in 2018. Humanities and languages were the most common field of study in the EU-27 (1.2 million tertiary students), which was equivalent to almost half (48.9 %) of all tertiary students following culture-related fields of education (note these shares include arts and humanities not further defined and inter-disciplinary programmes and qualifications involving arts and humanities). Otherwise, some 25.8 % of EU-27 students following culture-related fields of study in 2018 were enrolled in the arts, while 10.0 % were studying journalism and information and 9.9 % were studying architecture and town planning.

Table 1: Tertiary students in culture-related fields of education, 2018
(thousands)
Source: Eurostat (educ_uoe_enrt03)


In a majority of EU Member States humanities and languages accounted for the highest share of tertiary students within culture-related fields of education

A closer examination reveals that humanities and languages generally account for the highest share of tertiary students following culture-related fields of education. In 2018, this pattern was observed in 20 of the EU Member States, with the highest share recorded in Luxembourg (83.6 %), followed by Romania (61.9 %) and Germany (57.7 %). Among the seven exceptions (where humanities and languages were not the most common subject), the arts consistently recorded the highest share of tertiary students following culture-related fields of education. Ireland was the only Member State where more than half (61.5 %) of all students in culture-related fields of education were studying the arts.

The highest share of tertiary students in culture-related fields of education following journalism and information studies was observed in the Netherlands (28.2 %; 2014 data) and Slovakia (26.3 %), while the highest share for town planning and architecture was reported in Slovenia (20.6 %; 2015 data).

Figure 2: Distribution of tertiary students in culture-related fields of education, 2018
(%, share of all tertiary students in culture-related fields of education)
Source: Eurostat (educ_uoe_enrt03)


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

In 2018, there were more female than male tertiary education students within the EU-27 studying culture-related fields of education, as 63.6 % of the total were women (see Figure 3). The share of women was slightly higher among those studying journalism and information (67.6 %) and humanities and languages (66.7 %), while the gap between the sexes was much less pronounced for those studying architecture and town planning, where women accounted for 52.4 % of all students.

Figure 3: Tertiary students in culture-related fields of education, by sex, EU-27, 2018
(%)
Source: Eurostat (educ_uoe_enrt03)



Foreign languages

Knowledge of foreign languages opens doors for cultural exchange. Linguistic competencies are required and encouraged in many workplaces.

Formal education provides the vast majority of people with their best opportunity to learn a language. In 2018, the average number of foreign languages being learnt by pupils in lower secondary education (ISCED level 2) was higher than two in Malta, in Finland and most notably in Luxembourg (where a peak of 2.6 was recorded), while pupils in the French community of Belgium, Ireland and Hungary learnt, on average, one foreign language— see Figure 4.

In 2018, the average number of foreign languages being learnt by pupils in upper secondary general education (ISCED level 3) peaked at 3.0 in Luxembourg and was higher than two in the Flemish community of Belgium, Finland, Estonia and France. By contrast, Portuguese pupils following an upper secondary general education were studying, on average, just 0.7 foreign languages.

Generally, there was less focus on teaching foreign languages in vocational compared with general upper secondary education. This pattern existed in 23 of the 26 EU Member States for which data are available in 2018. Romania, Poland and Italy were the only Member States where pupils following an upper secondary vocational education studied, on average, as many foreign languages as pupils following an upper secondary general education, while Portugal was the only one where the average was higher for pupils following an upper secondary vocational education. The average number of foreign languages being learnt by pupils enrolled in upper secondary vocational education in the Netherlands, Hungary, French community in Belgium, Lithuania, Greece, Estonia, Germany, Spain and Denmark was less than 1.0.

Figure 4: Average number of foreign languages learnt by pupils in secondary education, by level of education, 2018
(number)
Source: Eurostat (educ_uoe_lang03)


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

Table 2 shows that English was, by far, the most commonly taught foreign language in upper secondary general educational establishments in the EU. Aside from English, the next most commonly taught foreign languages included German, French, Spanish and Italian, while Russian and Chinese were the only non-EU languages that feature in Table 2.

In 2018, in a majority of the EU Member States more than 90 % of pupils following an upper secondary general education were learning English as a foreign language. The exceptions — where this share was less than 90 % — were Bulgaria (89 %), Hungary (87 %), Denmark (82 %) and Portugal (59 %). All of the pupils in the Flemish community of Belgium that were following an upper secondary general education learnt English and French (French is considered as a foreign language in the Flemish community), while all of the pupils in Luxembourg learnt German and French (as these are official languages) and the vast majority of pupils (96 %) also learnt English (as their third foreign language). 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 seven times, Spanish four times, Russian three times (in the Baltic Member States). The second most frequently taught foreign language in the French community of Belgium was Dutch (considered a foreign language in the French community), while it was Italian in Malta and Swedish in Finland.

Table 2: Four most-learnt foreign languages in upper secondary general education, 2018
(%, share of pupils learning each language)
Source: Eurostat (educ_uoe_lang01)


In almost all EU-27 Member States, more than half of the population knows at least one foreign language

Information on self-reported foreign language skills obtained from the adult education survey (AES) reveals that around one third (32 %) of the EU-27 adult population (aged 25 to 64 years) had no foreign language skills in 2016. In turn, 37 % declared that they knew one foreign language, while 22 % knew two languages and 9 % knew three or more languages (see Figure 5).

In 2016, the share of the adult population declaring that they knew at least one foreign language was above 90 % in eight of the EU Member States. The highest share was recorded in Sweden (97 %), while Latvia, Denmark, Lithuania and Luxembourg each reported shares within the range of 95-96 %; Finland, Malta and Estonia were the three remaining Member States where more than nine out of every 10 adults knew at least one foreign language. At the other end of the range, in Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania a majority of the population aged 25 to 64 years declared that they knew no foreign languages.

While fewer than 1 in 10 adults (aged 25 to 64 years) in the EU-27 declared that they knew three or more foreign languages in 2016, there were some EU Member States where linguistic ability was considerably higher. More than half (51 %) of the adult population in Luxembourg declared to know at least three foreign languages (note that these include German and French which are official languages), while this share was of 45 % in Finland and 38 % in Slovenia. In the remaining Member States, the proportion of adults stating that they knew at least three foreign languages was below 30 %, with this share falling to less than 5 % in Italy, Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, Poland and Romania.

Figure 5: Population aged 25-64 years reporting knowledge of foreign languages, by number of languages, 2016
(%)
Source: Eurostat (edat_aes_l21)


One quarter of all adults declared themselves to be proficient in their best-known foreign language

Figure 6 provides an alternative analysis with a focus on language proficiency among people who know at least one foreign language. Note that this information is also taken from the adult education survey and is once again based on self-reported data among adults (aged 25 to 64 years). In 2016, some 25 % of the EU-27 adult population declared themselves proficient in their best-known foreign language, while 31 % stated they had a good level of knowledge and 44 % a basic level of knowledge.

The level of language proficiency varied considerably across the EU Member States: in 2016, Luxembourg, Sweden and Malta were the only Member States where more than half of all adults considered themselves proficient in their best-known foreign language. By contrast, this share fell to less than one fifth among those adults living in Poland, Romania, Czechia and Italy.

There were five EU Member States where a majority of the adult population declared that they had only a basic level of knowledge for their best-known foreign language; this share peaking at more than three fifths in Czechia (63 %) and Italy (64 %). In a majority of the Member States, the share of the adult population declaring themselves to have a basic level of knowledge for their best-known foreign language was higher than the proportion of adults describing themselves as proficient. By contrast, Malta, Slovenia, Sweden and Luxembourg were the only Member States where the share of adults declaring themselves to be proficient was at least twice as high as the proportion with a basic level of knowledge.

Figure 6: Level of best-known foreign language, population aged 25-64 years, 2016
(%)
Source: Eurostat (edat_aes_l31)



Mobility of students in tertiary education

Studying abroad provides students with the opportunity to experience a new educational system and to discover (or get to know better) the culture of their host country. Furthermore, students studying abroad and those who remain in their own country may benefit from a range of inter-cultural experiences linked to this mobility. The data presented in this section cover two types of mobility: degree mobility (which refers to students enrolled on a programme in another country, with the intention of graduating from the programme in the country of destination) and Erasmus credit mobility which refers to shorter stays abroad, during which students attend courses and earn credits that are then transferred to the programme on which they are enrolled in their home country.

16 % of doctoral students in the EU were from abroad

As students move through the tertiary education system, they are increasingly likely to study abroad. In 2017, degree mobile students from abroad (hereafter simply students from abroad) accounted for one-sixth (16.3 %) of all doctoral students (ISCED level 8) in the EU-27 (see Table 3). This share was considerably higher than for other levels of tertiary education: students from abroad accounted for 10.7 % of the total number of students enrolled for a master’s degree (ISCED level 7) in the EU, 4.7 % of those enrolled for a bachelor’s degree (ISCED level 6), and 3.6 % of those enrolled for a short-cycle tertiary degree (ISCED level 5).

In 2017, the highest shares of students from abroad studying for a doctoral degree were recorded in Luxembourg (85.2 %), the Netherlands (43.1 %), France (39.7 %), Denmark (35.2 %) and Sweden (35.1 %). In ten Member States, this proportion was lower than 10 %.

Students from abroad accounted for approximately three quarters (75.8 %) of all students in Luxembourg who were studying for a master’s degree in 2017. This share was more than three times as high as the next largest share — 21.5 % recorded in the Austria. In eight Member States students from abroad accounted for less than 10 % of the total number of students enrolled for a master’s degree.

Students from abroad were much less common among students studying for a bachelor’s degree or a short cycle tertiary education. In 2017, there were only four EU Member States where the share of students from abroad studying for a bachelor’s degree was above 10.0 %; this was the case of Czechia, Austria, Luxembourg and Cyprus.

Table 3: Degree mobile students from abroad, by level of tertiary education and by country of origin, 2017
(%, share of total number of students for each level of education)
Source: Eurostat (educ_uoe_mobs03), (educ_uoe_mobs02) and (educ_uoe_enrt02)


In 2017, there were almost 290 000 Erasmus students and trainees from the EU studying abroad

During the 2017/18 academic year, the Erasmus+ exchange programme was open to students from all of the EU Member States, the United Kingdom, three of the four EFTA countries (Switzerland was a partner country), as well as North Macedonia and Turkey — a total of 33 countries.

Almost 290 000 Erasmus students and trainees from the EU-27 studied abroad during the 2017/18 academic year (see Table 4). The highest numbers of outgoing students — more than 40 000 students and trainees — were recorded for France, Germany and Spain, while the number of outgoing students leaving Italy was somewhat lower (38 682). Together these four EU Member States accounted for over half (58.4 %) of all outgoing students in the EU-27.

A similar analysis reveals that among the EU Member States, Spain hosted, by far, the highest number of Erasmus students (51 321), followed by Germany (34 539) and France (29 833).

In relative terms, some of the EU Member States hosted significantly more Erasmus students than they sent abroad: this was particularly the case in Malta, Sweden, Ireland and Luxembourg, where there were at least twice as many incoming as outgoing students in 2017/18. Romania was the only Member State to report more than twice as many outgoing compared with incoming Erasmus students and trainees. In absolute terms, Spain hosted far more incoming students and trainees than outgoing, a difference of 11 thousand, while France reported the largest difference in the other direction, with around 18 thousand more students and trainees leaving France than entering it.

Table 4: Mobile Erasmus students and trainees, 2012/13 and 2017/18
(number)
Source: European Commission, Directorate-General for Education and Culture, Erasmus statistics


Source data for tables and graphs


Data sources

The compilation of education statistics that are presented in this article draws principally on a joint UOE data collection exercise, administrated by UNESCO, the OECD and Eurostat, hereafter referred to 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 personnel and education expenditure.

Tertiary students in culture-related fields of education

The international standard classification of education (ISCED) is the reference classification for organising education 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 in the following way:

  • 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 there are four main fields of education that 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); and
  • 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.

The adult education survey (AES) is a source of data on self-reported competencies on foreign languages, focusing on the adult population (people aged 25 to 64 years).


Mobility of students in tertiary education

The UOE data collection exercise covers domestic educational activity, in other words education provided within a country’s own territory. All tertiary students studying within a country, including degree mobile students from abroad, are included in the statistics for the reporting country.

Learning mobility in tertiary education has been defined as the physical crossing of national borders between a country of origin and a country of destination and subsequent participation in activities relevant to tertiary education (in the country of destination). Degree mobile students are enrolled as regular students in any semester/term of a degree programme taught in the country of destination, which is different from their country of origin (defined, in principle, as the country of prior education, although for the time being most countries use alternative criteria such as country of residence or citizenship) with the intention of graduating from the programme in the country of destination.

Since it began in 1987/1988, the Erasmus programme has provided over six million European students with the opportunity to go abroad and study at a higher education institution or train in a company. The Erasmus programme is one of the best-known European learning mobility programmes. Students can study abroad for up to 12 months (in any cycle of tertiary education). Erasmus+ (2014-2020) is the EU’s programme to support education, training, youth and sport in Europe. Erasmus+ is built on the achievements and objectives of the previous Erasmus project but it offers much more opportunities for studies, training and youth work abroad through more developed system of funding and loans. Moreover, it embraces a new dimension which is sport by creating new funding opportunities for sport actions and activities.

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 may also provide a stimulus for economic growth, job creation and international trade.

That is why culture is becoming increasingly important within the EU. In accordance with Article 167 of the Lisbon Treaty, 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 policy actions 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; and 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-sectorial priority in the latest work plan. 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, 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)
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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)
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Level of the best-known foreign language (edat_aes_l3)
Level of the best-known foreign language (self-reported) by sex (edat_aes_l31)