EU lags Russia, Korea on higher education: report

Wed Sep 8, 2010 10:10am EDT
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By Emily Coleman

BRUSSELS (Reuters Life!) - Young people in the European Union are less likely to finish higher education than those in Canada, Japan or Russia, according to a new study that underscores the need for the EU to invest wisely in education.

The study by the OECD, a club of the world's largest economies, looked at participation in education among 25-34 year olds and found that in 21 European countries only 34 percent of people, on average, had completed tertiary education.

Korea, Japan, Canada and Russia all had participation rates of more than 50 percent, according to the report, called Education at a Glance 2010 and released this week.

The highest participation rate in the EU was in Ireland, with 45 percent achieving tertiary qualifications.

The findings have broadbased implications for the European Union as the study also shows that unemployment rates among people with a tertiary education are substantially lower than those without higher education, hovering below 4 percent on average as opposed to being above 9 percent.

With unemployment in the European Union stuck at a 12-year high around 10 percent, the relative lack of youth engagement in further education could mean more people staying unemployed for longer, with a knock-on impact on growth.

"Europe cannot risk falling behind in education and training," said Androulla Vassiliou, the European commissioner for education, culture and youth, welcoming the study as it reinforces her call for greater education investment.

"Improving education and training systems is one of the key tasks for the future and the means to both secure Europe's economic success and its social cohesion."   Continued...