Education at a Glance 2016
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Education at a Glance 2016

OECD Indicators

Education at a Glance is the authoritative source for information on the state of education around the world. It provides key information on the output of educational institutions; the impact of learning across countries; the financial and human resources invested in education; access, participation and progression in education; and the learning environment and organisation of schools.

The 2016 edition introduces a new indicator on the completion rate of tertiary students and another one on school leaders. It provides more trend data and analysis on diverse topics, such as: teachers’ salaries; graduation rates; expenditure on education; enrolment rates; young adults who are neither employed nor in education or training; class size; and teaching hours. The publication examines gender imbalance in education and the profile of students who attend, and graduate from, vocational education.

The report covers all 35 OECD countries and a number of partner countries (Argentina, Brazil, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, India, Indonesia, Lithuania, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia and South Africa).

This edition includes more than 125 figures and 145 tables. The Excel™ spreadsheets used to create them are available via the StatLinks provided throughout the publication. More data is available in the OECD Education Statistics database.

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Indicator C3 How Many Students are Expected to Enter Tertiary Education? You do not have access to this content

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Indicator C3 shows entry rates into tertiary education, including bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral and short-cycle programmes. The indicator also shows the profiles of entrants into tertiary education by age and gender and provides entry rates for international students.

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Chapter Highlights

  • Some 59% of young adults in OECD countries are expected to enter a bachelor’s or equivalent programme over their lifetime, and 23% are expected to enter a master’s or equivalent programme over their lifetime.

  • On average across OECD countries, 82% of new entrants into tertiary education are under the age of 25 and 54% of new entrants are women.

  • International students represent 13% of new entrants into tertiary education but 28% at the doctoral level.

Figure C3.1. First-time tertiary entry rates (2014)

Note: Mismatches between the coverage of the population data and the new-entrants data mean that the entry rates for those countries that are net exporters of students may be underestimated and those that are net importers may be overestimated. The adjusted entry rates seek to compensate for that. Please refer to Annex 3 for further specific information by country.

1. Year of reference 2013.

Countries are ranked in descending order of first-time entry rate at tertiary level.

Source: OECD. Table C3.1. See Annex 3 for notes (

ContextExpand / Collapse

Entry rates estimate the proportion of people who are expected to enter a specific type of tertiary education programme during their lifetime. They provide some indication of the accessibility of tertiary education, the perceived value of attending tertiary programmes, and the degree to which a population is acquiring the high-level skills and knowledge that can create and fuel knowledge-based economies. High entry and enrolment rates in tertiary education imply that a highly educated labour force is being developed and maintained.

In OECD countries, the belief that skills acquired through higher education are valued more than those held by people with lower educational attainment stems from the perception, both real and feared, that routine jobs can be mechanised or performed in low-wage countries. There is also a common understanding that knowledge and innovation are key to sustaining economic growth. Tertiary institutions not only have to meet growing demand by expanding the number of places they offer, they also have to adapt their programmes and teaching methods to match the diverse needs of a new generation of students.

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  • At least 1 in 25 students in Germany, Switzerland and the United Kingdom are expected to enter a doctoral programme over their lifetime, but fewer than 1 in 200 students in Chile, China, Colombia, Indonesia, Mexico and Saudi Arabia are expected to do so.

  • Based on current patterns, it is estimated that an average of 18% of today’s young adults in OECD countries will enter a short-cycle tertiary programme over their lifetime, and 23% will enter a master’s degree or equivalent programme.

  • In Austria, Luxembourg, New Zealand and Switzerland, more than one in five entrants into a bachelor’s programme are international students, well above the OECD average of 10%.

NoteExpand / Collapse

Entry rates represent the percentage of an age cohort that is expected to enter a tertiary programme over a lifetime. This estimate is based on the number of new entrants in 2014 and the age distribution of this group. Therefore, the entry rates are based on a synthetic cohort assumption, according to which the current pattern of entry constitutes the best estimate of the behaviour of today’s young adults over their lifetime.

Entry rates are sensitive to changes in the education system, such as the introduction of new programmes. For example, during the implementation of the Bologna Process, some students in European countries stayed longer than expected in tertiary education, while others postponed their entrance to be given a degree adaptable to the new classification. Entry rates can be very high, and even greater than 100% (thus clearly indicating that the synthetic cohort assumption is implausible), during a period when there is an unexpectedly high number of entrants.

In some countries, high entry rates may reflect a temporary phenomenon – namely the effects of economic cycles and crises, when prospective students align their expectations to the realities of the job market or government incentives. Second-chance programmes, through which the government encourages older students to rejoin education, can also boost entry rates.

A surge in the number of international students can temporarily inflate entry rates. The percentage of expected new entrants into tertiary programmes changes dramatically when international students are excluded from the calculation. Together with older students, international students are a significant share of the total student population in some countries, and their numbers can artificially inflate the proportion of today’s young adults who are expected to enter a tertiary programme.

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