What is the most educated country in Europe?

The population with higher education qualifications, which is the highest level, varies considerably across Europe. On average, almost a third of people aged 25 to 74 in the EU have higher education, including public and private universities, colleges, technical training institutes and vocational schools. Level of education also varies by age and gender.

Which countries have the highest rate of higher education in Europe? How do education levels differ in Europe? Which countries pay the most attention to vocational education?

How are education levels defined?

Education levels were defined as low (less than high school), medium (high school), or high (college). The Eurostat classification is based on the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED), and refers to:

● Low: preschool, primary and lower secondary education (ISCED levels 0-2);

● Secondary: upper secondary education and non-tertiary post-secondary education (ISCED levels 3 and 4);

● More: higher education (ISCED levels 5 to 8). It includes public and private universities, colleges, technical training institutes and vocational schools.

In 2022, 31.8% of people aged 25-74 in the EU had a higher level of education, ranging from 17.4% in Romania to 49.8% in Ireland.

The Nordic and Baltic countries have higher shares than the EU average

The share of the highly educated was higher than the EU average in the Nordic and Baltic countries. Sweden and Norway are in third and fourth place with more than 45% of people with higher education.

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44% of the population of Latvia also had a diploma of higher education. Other Nordic and Baltic countries also have a higher proportion of tertiary graduates than the EU average.

In the United Kingdom, 43.5% of the population aged 25 to 74 had a tertiary qualification, more than the big four EU countries. France (38.2%) has the largest share, followed by Spain (38%).

After Romania, Italy has the lowest share of highly educated people (18.5%). This figure was also slightly lower than the EU average in Germany (31.5%).

The share of the population with higher education was significantly lower in the candidate countries for EU membership.

The share of the population with a lower level of education was above 40% in four EU countries

The proportion of the population with a low level of education was by far the highest in Turkey, with two-thirds (61.8%) not having reached the level of upper secondary education.

This figure was also below 40% in four EU countries, namely Portugal, Italy, Malta and Spain.

Vocational guidance plays an important role in several countries

Looking at the details of the average educational level, which includes general and vocational orientation, the share of vocational education is significantly high in several countries.

The proportion of people with a professional orientation at the average level of education was above 45% in nine EU countries, including the Czech Republic (63.9), Poland (52.2) and Germany (47.4).

Young people achieve higher levels of education

The share of higher education graduates is growing significantly among the young population across Europe. It also shows how countries have performed in recent decades. Thus, the level of the population aged 25 to 34 has been widely analyzed by international institutions.

More than two fifths of the EU population have higher education

In 2022, 42% of the EU population aged 25 to 34 had a higher education qualification. This share varies from 24.7% in Romania to 62.3% in Ireland.

In contrast to the population aged 25 to 74, the Nordic countries of Finland and Iceland had a lower proportion of people with tertiary education than the EU average.

This figure was above 50% in a third of the EU countries. Ten EU countries also fell short of the EU's 45% 2030 target.

Women are more educated than men

In the 35 European countries for which data are available, more women aged 25 to 34 than men have reached the level of higher education. In 2022, the proportion of women with higher education qualifications was on average 47.6%, compared to 36.5% of men.

With the exception of Finland, the gender gap was significantly larger in the Nordic and Baltic countries in favor of women. The biggest difference is recorded by Iceland (25.4 percentage points-pp), Slovenia (23.8 pp) and Slovakia (22.8 pp).

Turkey (1.3 pp), Switzerland (3.6 pp) and Germany (4.6 pp) have the smallest gap, showing that the shares of women and men with higher education degrees are very close.

The share of the population with higher education qualifications is changing

In the EU, the share of people aged 25 to 74 with higher education continued to grow. It increased from 19.1% in 2004 to 31.8% in 2022.

Lifelong learning: Adults in training

Lifelong learning is also important as people may need to update their skills. It is also called adult learning and corresponds to participation in adult education and training.

According to Eurostat, it includes all useful learning activities, whether formal, non-formal or informal. The goal is to improve the knowledge, skills and competencies of the participants. Adult learning is an important aspect of the digitization and automation of the labor market.

In 2022, the proportion of people aged 25-64 in the EU who participated in education or training in the previous four weeks was 11.9%, ranging from 1.7% in Bulgaria to 36.2% in Sweden .

While the share of adult education and training was high in the Nordic countries, in the Balkan countries the share was significantly lower than the EU average.

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