The EU has a goal of 40 percent of people completing a higher-level course
Eurostat figures have revealed that the European Union is edging closer to its Europe 2020 target in education.
The share of people who have attended a tertiary education college or equivalent, has risen from 23.6 percent in 2002, when the series started, to 37.9 percent in 2014, for those between the ages of 30 and 34.
Women have benefited the most from this increasing trend, as 42.3 percent have now been university educated or completed a course at a higher technical education institution, up to last year.
The latest figures has confirmed a 17.8 percent rise in learning achievement for women compared to 2002, as back then 23.6 percent had completed tertiary education courses.
For men the increase was less significant, as the leap was smaller from 22.6 percent to 33.6 percent over the same12 -year period.
The target for Europe’s 2020 strategy is that 40 percent of 30-34 year olds should have completed a higher education course.
There was also positive news on early school leavers, as that has decreased from 17 percent down to 11.1 percent in 2014, in line to meet the headline target of less than 10 percent leaving school early by the end of this decade.
In a reversal from the tertiary education figures, men have stopped the decline in early school leaving by a more sizable margin than women, as this fell from 19 percent in 2002 to around the 13 percent mark last year.
As for women there was still a drop in school leaving numbers for the same period, down to just under 12 percent from 15 percent.
The figures for each individual member state produced some interesting results, with the amount of tertiary education students, not always reflecting the traditional economic status of the country.
Lithuania recorded the highest amount of students as 53.3 percent had been to a higher education institution in the 30-34 age group, followed by Luxembourg at 52.7 percent, with Cyprus placing 52.5 percent through university, slightly ahead of Ireland who had 52.2 percent in third tier education.
Italy, one of the more established powers in the EU, had the fewest amount of students, with a relatively small 23.9 percent that had followed through to the highest education level.
Romania at 25.0 percent and Malta at 26.6 percent were the next lowest in tertiary education attainment.
Spain was also found to have the highest amount of lower secondary education graduates, 21.9 percent between the ages of 18-24 that did not move on to university.
Recent Eurostat figures revealed that the Spanish areas of Ciudad Autonoma de Ceuta (67.5 percent), Andalucía (61.5 percent), and Castilla La Mancha (61.3 percent), were three of highest areas with youth unemployment for 15-24 year olds in the EU.
“We think that this is very positive that more people can access higher education. We also believe that this is a good sign from the point of equal changes, and democratisation, creates societal and economic benefits,” Michael Gaebel, director of higher education policy at European Universities Association (EUA), said.
“It’s difficult to define what the ‘right types’ of courses are. Frequently the case is made that the economy lacks graduates of certain professional disciplines such as medicine, architecture, law, engineering,” he added.
“This is obviously a question of national and regional labour market demand, but is also effected by better job opportunities in neighbouring countries and even globally. A question is how accurately demand can be assessed and supply can be planned, given the fact that time to graduation takes several years. But also the changes in the economy, and the possibility that graduates migrate to other countries or other area of profession and work,” he said.
The EUA also say that there are also potentially conflicting interests, while students may prefer fields of study that guarantee employment, for industry it might be better to have access to a pool of qualified graduates that is considerably larger than the actual number of vacancies.
Academic degrees as opposed to more vocational ones, are not an obstacle to gaining employment after graduation the EUA believes.
They argued that surveys revealed that modern society and the economy require graduates who possess a variety of skills. Such as the ability to structure work and create solutions, work independently and in teams, decision making, intercultural skills, and the ability to communicate orally and in writing, in mother tongue and foreign languages.