Enrolment in tertiary schools, 2009


Observations for policy

Education is a major concern in Europe. The objective is to further develop the education systems in order to increase the level of skills and competitiveness. Consequently, this issue constitutes an important Service of General Interest (SGI).

Public expenditure cuts triggered by the financial crisis and will impact on issues concerning the quality and accessibility to SGI and most likely on the future provision and maintenance of those services. Many economic and demographically disadvantaged regions face the risk of becoming even more disadvantaged as a consequence of the budget cuts needed to manage the financial crisis. This could hamper policy ambitions concerning economic, social and territorial cohesion as the gap between rich and poor regions can be expected to increase.

Policy context

Education is one of the most important resources in Europe. The Europe 2020 strategy mentions that higher education is a key policy area where collaboration between the EU and Member States can deliver positive results for jobs and economic development. The aim is that 40 per cent of young people aged 30-34 should have a higher education qualification or equivalent by 2020. Therefore, access to high quality education shall be seen as an important SGI.

Map interpretation

Education is a SGI that can be illustrated by the number of enrolments in non-compulsory schooling of pre-primary, upper-secondary and tertiary education. By means of attainment rates of compulsory schooling it is possible to anticipate results. However, the focus on non-compulsory schooling allows a better evaluation of the education system, especially in term of attractiveness.

The map shows the enrolment in tertiary schools per 1oo inhabitants in the relevant age which in turn varies depending on the national education systems between 18-22 and 19-24 years. This indicator measures the availability of tertiary educational institutions in regions across Europe.

In general, universities located in urban regions dominate this sector and clearly contribute to the polycentric structure of Europe. In addition to this pattern, there are also national differences such as those between the Nordic countries and Croatia or Turkey.

Young adults in tertiary education are often mobile and the absence of regional tertiary institutions does not constitute an obstacle. However, these institutions are very often regarded as the main employer in the regional labour market.

Despite long standing history of old universities in Europe, these institutions are not necessarily located in strong economic cities and therefore the correlation between economic growth and R&D expenditure has little explanatory power.

Concepts and methods

The indicator is calculated by the number of students per 100 inhabitants of the relevant age. The number of students represents the number of places in tertiary education facilities.