There used to be a time when it was rare for anyone to pursue an education beyond a high school diploma. Depending on the industry, many necessary skills could just be developed on the job, so higher education was never seen as a requirement for success. Today, unless you’re the next Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, or Oprah, finishing some kind of post-secondary education is probably in your best interest.
That’s because, these days, competition is fierce. While there are plenty of higher education options besides your typical four-year campus-based undergraduate university degree, continuing your education beyond high school has become a necessity.
In Europe, tertiary education attainment is approximately 19.5% for those aged 55-74, an older generation. Move that age range down, and the number significantly increases. 31.7% of those aged 25-54 had tertiary education – suggesting that as time goes on, more and more people gain qualifications. The overall number of those with university degrees only increases every year. The Europe 2020 strategy has set a target that 40% of 30-34 year olds should have tertiary educational attainment.
Here are a few inspiring statistics that prove the world is getting smarter, thanks in part to higher education.
1. From 2000 to 2010, the number of people 25-34 with tertiary degrees in OECD countries increased by approximately 30%
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development was founded in 1961 to help stimulate economic progress and world trade. Education is an important aspect of that because it improves job prospects, earning potential and quality of life. As reported in the OECD’s publication, Education Today 2013: The OECD Perspective, by 2010, there were an estimated 66 million 24-34 year-olds with a post-secondary degree in the 35 OECD countries, which includes the UK, the USA, Canada, Hungary, Korea, and Germany. That means higher education continues to be seen as an important step towards economic growth and individual success.
2. Adult learners pursuing further tertiary education has increased over the last ten years.
The European Commission has committed to increasing the percentage of adults pursuing their education later in life and has set a goal to have 15% of adults aged 25-64 in EU countries taking part in adult learning by 2020.
Early leavers from training and education has been dropping continuously in Europe – for both men and women – since 2002. In 2002 the percentage was 17% – now that figure is 11%.
While the number of mature students will probably never surpass the number of traditional age students at any given time, lifelong learning has become more of a possibility thanks to schools offering more flexible ways to pursue a postsecondary education. Online degree programs like those offered through the University of Europe Laureate Digital’s network of schools provide a quality education with the added convenience of being able to study from anywhere in the world on your own schedule. For mature students upgrading their skills and making a career change, that flexibility is the key factor in their decision to go back to school.
3. Social science graduates have the potential to double their salaries by mid-career and demand for strong communication skills will only continue to grow over time.
The Education Policy Research Initiative and Statistics Canada teamed up to debunk the myth that social science and humanities degrees are a waste of time that will only lead to low paying, dead end jobs. They found that, while earning potential isn’t as high as STEM-based degrees like engineering, social sciences and humanities graduates do pretty well for themselves.
Researchers in the UK also found that 3.5 years after finishing school, the proportion of employed social science graduates is higher than that of graduates of STEM subjects. Part of that is due to universal skills they developed like strong communication skills and problem solving and critical thinking skills. These essential competencies are highly valued by employers — so higher education is never a waste of time, no matter what degree you earn.
4. The number of women enrolled in graduate programs in the EU-28 exceeds the number of men, and is further increasing.
In 2013, approximately 4.8 million students graduated from tertiary education establishments in the European Union. In the same year, 54.3% of all tertiary students were women in the EU-28, and the percentage of women among tertiary students were slightly higher among those studying for Master’s degrees, at 57.4%.
The percentage of 30-34 year old tertiary education graduates grew from 23.6% to 38.7% in Europe, and growth was considerably faster for women, who were above the European 2020 target at 43.4% in 2015. Perhaps surprisingly, the percentage of men in the same demographic who had tertiary education was lower by almost 10% in 2015, at 34.0%.
During the 2010-2011 school year, 55% of undergraduate students in the UK were female, and the trend of women outnumbering men in post-secondary education has continued. Trends are showing that since women are waiting until later in life to settle down and have kids, they have a lot more time to pursue higher levels of education and focus on their career goals.
5. The number of students enrolled in tertiary education outside their country of citizenship grew from 1.7 million in 1995 to 4.5 million in 2012.
As the internet and social media continues to connect the world, many students are finding it easier — and more beneficial — to study abroad. There are a number of benefits to studying abroad, including having the opportunity to gain language skills, choose the most appropriate degree for your budget and career goals, develop a global perspective on the issues that affect your industry, and enhance your personal development through an understanding of different cultures. The accessibility of online study has made those benefits available to even more prospective students, therefore making higher education something that is within reach for a lot more people.
6. The OECD reports that 21% of all first-time entrants into a master’s level program and 40% at the doctoral level are international students.
As students pursue higher and higher levels of education, they are more likely to choose a program that is outside of their home country. As they hone in on a specialization and narrow down their desired career path, the number of suitable programs gets smaller. If the goal is to become a researcher or professor, having that coveted “global perspective” is a great way to stand out from peers. Students are no longer restricted to their home town or even their home country — now they can collaborate with professionals from all over the world. This leads to more innovative, diverse ways of thinking and a population that is more concerned about the world as a whole.
7. More than 35 million people have enrolled in online courses in the last 4 years, and 2015 enrollments doubled from 2014.
There are over 4200 MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) available, and their popularity has exploded in recent years thanks to many factors. Finding, registering and completing an online course is infinitely easier and more convenient than a traditional course. Since higher education is so much more accessible, people are eager to take advantage of it and make sure they’re staying ahead of the curve in their industry. Competition is fierce, so any opportunity to engage in continuous learning is a great way to show your ambition.
When it comes to pursuing an education these days, there’s no one size fits all strategy. Luckily, there are a lot of options available that allow students to work at their own pace, from anywhere in the world. The convenience and accessibility of higher education means it’s never too late to take a class, or earn a degree.
So… it’s time to get learning! The world is getting smarter, you don’t want to be left behind!
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