Enlargement countries - education statistics
Data extracted in February 2019.
Planned article update: April 2020.
In 2018, the rate among young people of early leavers from education training was lower in four of the enlargement countries than it was in the EU.
In 2017, the share of those aged 30-34 years having completed a tertiary level of education ranged from a quarter in Albania to a third in Montenegro.
Proportion of 30-34 year olds having completed tertiary or equivalent education, 2017
This article is part of an online publication and provides information on a range of education statistics for the European Union (EU) enlargement countries, in other words the candidate countries and potential candidates. Montenegro, North Macedonia, Albania, Serbia and Turkey currently have candidate status, while Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo  are potential candidates.
The article gives an overview of education developments in these seven countries, presenting an analysis of the different educational levels in terms of enrolment, educational attainment and tertiary education.
Number of pupils and students
In 2016, there were 106 million pupils and students in the EU-28 across all forms of education from pre-primary to tertiary. In the enlargement countries, there were approximately 29 million pupils and students enrolled (see Table 1 for the latest period available for each country); this was equivalent to just over one quarter (27.3 %) of the total number of pupils and students in the EU-28.
While the absolute number of pupils and students is closely linked to the size and age structure of populations, there are a range of other factors that influence how long students remain in the education system, such as the length of compulsory schooling, opportunities in the labour market and the availability and cost of tertiary education. In recent years, policy interest has focused on encouraging young people to remain within educational systems so they may develop skills and gain qualifications that may help in the search for work in an increasingly knowledge-driven economy.
Within the EU-28, some 18.5 % of the overall number of pupils and students in 2016 were attending tertiary education establishments (as covered by ISCED 2011 levels 5-8). Across the enlargement countries the share of tertiary students was generally close to the EU-28 average, as all but two countries lay within the range of 16.7 % (North Macedonia) to 21.1 % (Serbia) in 2017; Kosovo (25.0 %) and Turkey (29.7 %) were the only countries to record higher shares.
Early leavers from education and training
Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro reported the lowest rates of early leavers from education and training
In 2018, the proportion of early leavers from education and training (the share of persons aged 18-24 who finished no more than a lower secondary education and were not involved in further education or training) stood at 12.3 % in the EU-28 among young men and 8.9 % among young women (see Figure 1). There were lower proportions of early leavers from education and training in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia and North Macedonia. By contrast, Kosovo recorded a somewhat higher proportion of early leavers from education and training than in the EU-28, with much higher proportions in Albania and Turkey: in the latter, 31.1 % of young men were early leavers and 34.0 % of young women. In Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia the proportion of early leavers was higher for young men than for young women, as in the EU-28, whereas in Turkey and North Macedonia the reverse situation was observed.
Youth education attainment
High levels of youth educational attainment in most enlargement countries
An alternative measure for analysing the outcomes of education systems is the youth education attainment level. This indicator is defined as the proportion of 20-24 year olds who have achieved at least an upper secondary level of education attainment (at least ISCED level 3).
In 2017, the share of the EU-28 population aged 20-24 with at least an upper secondary level of education stood at 83.3 %, with a higher rate for young women (85.8 %) than for young men (80.9 %). The overall youth education attainment level in the EU-28 rose by 5.0 percentage points between 2007 and 2017, although it should be noted that there is a break in series. Compared with the EU, there were four enlargement countries which reported a higher proportion of persons aged 20-24 having attained at least an upper secondary level of education. This was most notably the case in Montenegro (95.1 %), Bosnia and Herzegovina (93.9 %) and Serbia (93.2 %), while it was also the case in North Macedonia (89.0 %). A considerably lower level of youth educational attainment was recorded in Turkey (57.2 %) — see Table 2.
Although a time series is only available for some of the enlargement countries it can be noted that the proportion of persons aged 20-24 having attained at least an upper secondary level of education rose in all of them between 2007 and 2017, most notably in North Macedonia, Turkey and in Bosnia and Herzegovina, while the (percentage points) increase for Serbia was slightly lower than that recorded in the EU-28.
Within the EU-28, the gender gap in youth education attainment levels stood at 4.9 percentage points in 2017, with a higher level of attainment for young women than for young men; Serbia also reported higher proportions for young women. Turkey, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro recorded almost the same rates for young men and young women, while a much higher rate of youth educational attainment for young men (compared with young women) was reported in North Macedonia.
Figure 2 shows the annual average growth rate of students in tertiary education (ISCED levels 5-8) between 2012 and 2017. The time series for the EU-28 is shorter: between 2013 and 2016 the number of tertiary education students (excluding data for Luxembourg and the Netherlands) fell by 0.3 % per year. Among the enlargement countries, there was in three cases an increase in the number of tertiary students. Decreases around 2.5 % per year were recorded in Albania and in Bosnia and Herzegovina, with smaller decreases in Montenegro and North Macedonia. A relatively small increase (1.4 %) was recorded in Serbia, with larger increases in Turkey (up 9.0 % per year) and Kosovo (14.7 %; 2013-2016); note that there is a break in series for Kosovo. Some of these changes in student numbers may reflect demographic developments (for example, a growing number of young people in countries characterised by relatively high birth rates, or an overall decline in the number of young people in those countries with declining rates), rather than changes in the uptake of tertiary education among young people.
Just under one quarter of the population aged 30-34 had completed a tertiary level of education in Albania with this share reaching just over one third in Montenegro
Figure 3 shows the proportion of 30-34 year olds who had completed a tertiary level of education. Within the EU-28, this ratio had reached nearly two fifths (39.9 %) of this subpopulation by 2017. All of the enlargement countries for which data are available (no data for Kosovo) reported lower proportions of 30-34 year olds having completed a tertiary level of education, ranging in 2017 from just under one quarter in Albania and in Bosnia and Herzegovina to just over one third in Montenegro (where the highest proportion was recorded, 34.0 %).
There has been considerable focus on differences between subjects that are studied by men and women at university. Figure 4 shows that the number of new male graduates in 2016 with a science or technology degree was 24.5 per 1 000 male inhabitants aged 20-29 years. This was approximately twice as high as the corresponding ratio for women (13.1 per 1 000 female inhabitants).
In all of the enlargement countries for which data are available (no data for Bosnia and Herzegovina or Kosovo), the ratio (relative to the population aged 20-29 years) of men having graduated from a science or technology discipline was lower than in the EU-28, peaking in Serbia at 16.4 graduates per 1 000 male inhabitants aged 20-29 in 2017. However, Albania stood out as its ratio of women having graduated from a science or technology discipline — 14.3 per 1 000 female inhabitants aged 20-29 years in 2017 — was higher than the EU-28 average; each of the remaining enlargement countries recorded ratios for female tertiary graduates in science and technology that were below the EU-28 average. It is interesting to note that Albania was the only enlargement country where the ratio for young female tertiary graduates in science and technology was higher than the ratio for young men.
Source data for tables and graphs
Data for the enlargement countries are collected for a wide range of indicators each year through a questionnaire that is sent by Eurostat to partner countries which have either the status of being candidate countries or potential candidates. A network of contacts in each country has been established for updating these questionnaires, generally within the national statistical offices, but potentially including representatives of other data-producing organisations (for example, central banks or government ministries). The statistics shown in this article are made available free-of-charge on Eurostat’s website, together with a wide range of other socio-economic indicators collected as part of this initiative.
Education statistics cover a range of subjects, including: expenditure, personnel, participation and attainment. The standards for international statistics on education are set by three 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 (EU).
The main source of data for the EU-28 aggregate is a joint UNESCO/OECD/Eurostat (UOE) questionnaire on education systems and this is the basis for the core components of the Eurostat database on education statistics; Eurostat also collects data on regional enrolments and foreign language learning. EU-28 data on educational attainment are mainly provided through household surveys, in particular the EU labour force survey (LFS).
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.|
Each EU Member State is responsible for its own education and training systems. As such, EU policy in this area is designed to support national action and address common challenges, by providing a forum for exchanging best practices. Through the strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training (known as ET 2020), which was adopted by the Council in May 2009, EU Member States identified four common objectives for 2020: making lifelong learning and mobility a reality; improving the quality and efficiency of education and training; promoting equity, social cohesion, and active citizenship; and enhancing creativity and innovation, including entrepreneurship, at all levels of education and training. The strategy sets a number of benchmarks in relation to education that are to be achieved in the EU-28 by 2020, including:
- 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 early leavers from education and training should be less than 10 %;
- the share of low-achieving 15-year olds in reading, mathematics and science should be less than 15 %;
- the share of 30-34 year olds with tertiary educational attainment should be at least 40 %.
While basic principles and institutional frameworks for producing statistics are already in place, the enlargement countries are expected to increase progressively the volume and quality of their data and to transmit these data to Eurostat in the context of the EU enlargement process. EU standards in the field of statistics require the existence of a statistical infrastructure based on principles such as professional independence, impartiality, relevance, confidentiality of individual data and easy access to official statistics; they cover methodology, classifications and standards for production.
Eurostat has the responsibility to ensure that statistical production of the enlargement countries complies with the EU acquis in the field of statistics. To do so, Eurostat supports the national statistical offices and other producers of official statistics through a range of initiatives, such as pilot surveys, training courses, traineeships, study visits, workshops and seminars, and participation in meetings within the European Statistical System (ESS). The ultimate goal is the provision of harmonised, high-quality data that conforms to European and international standards.
Additional information on statistical cooperation with the enlargement countries is provided here.
- This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.
- Statistical books/pocketbooks
- Key figures on enlargement countries — 2019 edition
- Key figures on enlargement countries — 2017 edition
- Key figures on the enlargement countries — 2014 edition
- Population and social conditions (cpc_ps)
- Candidate countries and potential candidates: education (cpc_pseduc)
- Participation in education and training (educ_part)
- Pupils and students - enrolments (educ_uoe_enr)
- Education and training outcomes (educ_outc)
- Educational attainment level (edat)
- Population by educational attainment level (edat1)
- Transition from education to work (edatt)
- Early leavers from education and training (edatt1)
- Educational attainment level (edat)
- Education administrative data until 2012 (ISCED 1997) (educ_uoe_h)
- Education indicators - non-finance (educ_indic)
- Distribution of pupils/ students by level (educ_ilev)
- Tertiary education graduates (educ_itertc)
- Enrolments, graduates, entrants, personnel and language learning (educ_isced97)
- Students by ISCED level, age and sex (educ_enrl1tl)
- Education indicators - non-finance (educ_indic)
- Candidate countries and potential candidates (ESMS metadata file — cpc_esms)