Indicator B4. Who is expected to enter tertiary education?

If current entry patterns continue, it is estimated that 49% of young adults (excluding international students) will enter tertiary education for the first time before the age of 25 on average across OECD countries. However, first-time entry rates into tertiary education can vary significantly across countries and depend on the context within countries, the availability of programmes and their prevalence within the educational landscape. For example, Chile and Turkey have some of the highest first-time tertiary entry rates among OECD countries, mostly inflated by a high rate of entry into short-cycle tertiary education (Table B4.1). Conversely, Luxembourg reports the lowest first-time tertiary entry rates among OECD countries, due to the very high share of national tertiary students enrolled abroad (see Indicator B6).

In slightly more than half of OECD and partner countries, first-time entrants into tertiary education can choose from one of the three types of programme: short-cycle tertiary, bachelor’s or a master’s long first degree. A short-cycle tertiary programme (ISCED 5) is typically a short two to three year programme that develops occupation-specific skills and that most often prepares students for direct entry into the labour market. A bachelor’s or equivalent programme (ISCED 6), allows students to obtain a first degree qualification over three to four years, that would then be required if they wish to access a master’s or equivalent programme (ISCED 7), which is a second stage qualification (one to two years), and then a doctoral or equivalent programme (ISCED 8). A master’s long first degree (ISCED 7-LFD) does not require students to first obtain a bachelor’s degree, but when completed, after at least five years, the qualification attained is at the same level as a second stage master’s degree (OECD/Eurostat/UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2013[1]).

The level at which students first enter tertiary education is indicative of the length of their studies and the employment or further learning opportunities they will have access to once they graduate. The distribution of students across each tertiary entry-level programme depends on each programme’s availability, capacity and entry requirements within the national education system. The transition between programmes at the tertiary level is not always clearly distinguished and it may be possible to combine programmes and transfer credits from one programme to another.

On average across OECD countries, in 2018, more than three-quarters of first-time tertiary entrants enrolled in a bachelor’s programme. However, the predominance of such programmes in the educational landscape varies greatly from country to country. In Belgium, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Greece, India, Lithuania, Mexico, the Netherlands and the Slovak Republic, more than 90% of first-time tertiary students enter bachelor’s programmes. In other countries, first-time tertiary entrants are more evenly distributed across the various entry-level tertiary programmes. For example, in Austria, Chile, the People’s Republic of China, Colombia, Japan, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Turkey and the United States, more than one-third of first-time entrants into tertiary education entered short-cycle programmes, twice the OECD average of 17% (Figure B4.2).

Despite the benefits offered by short-cycle tertiary programmes, they are not available in all countries. Where they are, they are not always very attractive to students. In 12 OECD countries, short-cycle tertiary programmes represent less than 10% of first-time entrants into tertiary education (Figure B4.2). Master's programmes are the least common entry point into tertiary level. On average across OECD countries with available data, 6% of first-time entrants into tertiary education are in master's programmes, and this only exceeds 15% in Austria, Germany, Hungary and Sweden. They include highly specialised fields such as medicine, dentistry or, in some cases, law and engineering (OECD/Eurostat/UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2015[2]). In most countries, the majority of first-time tertiary entrants at master's level enter through master’s long first degrees. In the United Kingdom, where master’s long first degrees are not available, first-time tertiary entrants at master's level are students who are entering programmes based on industry experience rather than academic qualifications.

From an economic point of view, delayed entry into tertiary education can be costly to the public purse, as adults postpone their entry into the labour market and hence the time when they are typically able to start contributing financially to society (see Indicator A5). On average across OECD countries, the average age of first-time entrants was 22 years old in 2018. However, there are large disparities among countries. The average age ranges from younger than 20 years old in Belgium and Japan, to over 24 years old in Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland (Table B4.1).

Average ages can mask variations in the age distribution across first-time tertiary entrants. Although there are 10 OECD countries where the average age of first-time entrants is 22 years old, within these countries the share below the age of 25 ranges from 87% in the Czeck Republic and Poland to 74% in Colombia. However, the average age is generally correlated with the share of first-time entrants below the age of 25 across OECD countries. This ranges from almost 100% in Japan, which is one of the countries with the lowest average age (18 year-old), to 66% in Sweden, which is one of the countries with the highest age (25 year-old) (Table B4.1).

Various factors may explain the differences in the age of first-time entrants into tertiary education. Structural factors, such as admission procedures, the typical age at which students graduate from upper secondary education, or cultural perceptions of the value of professional or personal experiences outside of education may explain the differences in the average age of entry to tertiary education across countries. Traditionally, students entered tertiary programmes immediately after completing upper secondary education, and this remains true in many cases. However, in a few countries, less than 25% of entrants to bachelor’s programmes enrol straight after upper secondary (Box B4.1 in (OECD, 2019[3])). This is the case in Israel, for example, where military service is compulsory. Delayed entry can indicate difficulties in access to tertiary education, either through selective entry requirements or numerus clausus (a fixed maximum number of entrants admissible to an academic institution). In Finland and Sweden, admissions are restricted for many programmes and fields of study, resulting in more than 60% of applicants being rejected (Indicator D6 in (OECD, 2019[3])). A wide age distribution may also reflect the existence of second-chance and lifelong learning programmes characteristic of flexible pathways allowing for re-entry into the education system. It can also reflect financial challenges in affording the private costs associated with higher education.

Countries with lower average entry ages are those where enrolment into tertiary programmes is more likely to follow directly after graduation from upper secondary level. In some cases, this is facilitated by tertiary systems with open admissions, such as in the Netherlands. In others, direct entry following upper secondary has also been fuelled by tertiary education expansion policies and a strong culture valuing academic achievement and educational attainment. For instance in Japan, an increase in tertiary capacity since the 1970s, combined with specific policies to promote tertiary attainment following the Japan Revitalisation Strategy, have led to higher enrolment rates in spite of selective admission systems (OECD, 2009[4]).

The prevalence of the different entry-level programmes and the student profile each programme tends to attract also affect the average age of first-time entrants. Students tend to enrol in bachelor’s programmes shortly after upper secondary school, while short-cycle tertiary programmes tend to attract older adults, potentially with some employment experience. Belgium and the Netherlands, where 98-99% of first-time entrants into tertiary education are bachelor’s students, are unsurprisingly among the countries with the lowest average entry age.

International mobility has expanded significantly in the past two decades. Higher demand for high-quality tertiary education worldwide, coupled with specific policies to promote student mobility within a geographic region (as is the case in Europe), or to support students in studying abroad specific fields of high relevance in the country of origin have largely driven the growth of international student mobility. For example, among European countries, the Erasmus Programme (European Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students) plays an important role in students’ mobility whatever the entry-level programme. International students provide an additional income stream for educational institutions and contribute to the economy of their host country. Beyond the economic benefits, interaction between domestic and international students promotes cultural understanding (culture, politics, religion, ethnicity and worldview), and dialogue, all essential to navigating an increasingly globalised economy (see Indicator B6). On average across OECD countries, 10% of first-time entrants into tertiary education were international students in 2018. Some countries are better than others at attracting international students. The share of international students among first-time entrants to tertiary programmes ranges from 1% or less in Chile, Colombia and Mexico to 22-23% in Austria, Hungary and Luxembourg and 31% in New Zealand (Table B4.1).

Equal opportunities for both men and women to enter tertiary education can contribute to stronger, better and fairer growth by raising the overall level of human capital and labour productivity (OECD, 2011[5]). Women are more likely to enter tertiary education before the age of 25 than men, and this is true in all OECD countries. On average across OECD countries in 2018, the first-time tertiary entry rate (excluding international students) among women below the age of 25 was 55% compared to 44% for men. Nonetheless, the gender gap varies in favour of women from less than 2 percentage points in Luxembourg and Mexico to 18 or more percentage points in the Czech Republic, Iceland and New Zealand (Table B4.1).

On average across OECD countries, 54% of first-time entrants into tertiary education are women. In some countries, men are particularly under-represented, for example in the Czech Republic, Iceland and Sweden, where women make up 58-60% of first-time entrants into tertiary education. Conversely, women are mainly under-represented in few non-OECD G20 countries with available data. In India and Saudi Arabia they make up 45-47% of first-time entrants into tertiary education (Table B4.1).

Short-cycle tertiary programmes are often designed to provide participants with professional knowledge, skills and competencies. Typically, they are practically based, occupation-specific and prepare students to enter the labour market directly. Unsurpringly, most programmes at this level have a vocational orientation. Only in Australia, Iceland, Japan, New Zealand, Sweden and the United Kingdom do some short-cycle tertiary programmes have a general orientation (see Indicator B7).

Short-cycle tertiary programmes have the double advantage of offering reasonably priced higher education (as two-year programmes, their direct and foregone costs are lower than four-year programmes; see Indicator A5) and a readily employable qualification, but they do not exist in all countries. In most countries, the employment rates for adults with short-cycle tertiary attainment are lower than for those with a bachelor’s degree, but there are exceptions in countries where short-cycle education is especially prevalent. For example, employment rates are slightly higher among adults with a short-cycle tertiary degree than among those with a bachelor’s in Austria, Denmark and Korea (see Indicator A3). In these countries, short-cycle tertiary entry rates below the age of 25 (including international students) range from 12% to 30%, higher than the OECD average of 11%. Similarly, the earnings of workers with a short-cycle tertiary degree are the same or higher than those of workers with a bachelor’s degree in Austria (see Indicator A4).

Short-cycle tertiary education is the second most common route into tertiary education on average across OECD countries after the bachelor’s degree. The short-cycle tertiary entry rate for students below the age of 25 (excluding international students) varies from 1% or less in Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Poland, the Slovak Republic and Switzerland, to 29-30% in Austria, Chile and the United States. In 2018, it was the main route of entry to tertiary education in Austria, China, and the Russian Federation (Figure B4.2). In some countries, this is due to the particular structure of these programmes. For example, in Austria and in the Russian Federation, short-cycle tertiary programmes span upper secondary and tertiary levels of education, leading to the wider take up of this level of education (Table B4.2).

On average across OECD countries, 96% of students in short-cycle tertiary education are enrolled in vocational education and training (VET) programmes. In about three-quarters of countries with available data, all students in short-cycle tertiary education are enrolled in VET programmes, and for the remaining countries, the percentage varies from 50% in the United Kingdom to 96% in Australia (see Indicator B7).

Although short-cycle tertiary programmes are primarily vocational, students from upper secondary vocational programmes are not necessarily more likely to enter them. In 2017, only 21% of entrants to short-cycle tertiary programmes had completed an upper secondary vocational programme in France compared to 69% in Norway (Table B5.2 in (OECD, 2019[3])). Students from upper secondary vocational programmes represent between 43% and 60% of entrants into short-cycle tertiary programmes in Sweden, Chile and Slovenia (OECD, 2019[3]). Direct access from upper secondary vocational to tertiary programmes varies across countries: in 2018, the share of upper secondary vocational students enrolled in programmes giving direct access to tertiary education varied from 0% in Norway and Sweden to 62% in France, 70% in Slovenia and 100% in Chile. However, these differences also highlight the various pathways available for upper secondary vocational students wishing to pursue tertiary education. For instance, in Sweden, students enrolled in upper secondary vocational programmes can add more academic courses to their curriculum in order to access higher education. In some countries, access is indirect and requires the prior completion of an intermediate level. In Hungary, for example, non-tertiary post-secondary education is a stepping stone for upper secondary vocational graduates into tertiary education (see Indicator B7).

While short-cycle tertiary programmes in most countries give access to further studies at bachelor’s or master’s level, in some countries they do not, even if they are sufficient for this level completion (Figure B4.3). In Colombia, Germany, Israel, Italy and Sweden, it is not possible for students to access directly to the higher educational level after graduating from a short-cycle tertiary programme. In Colombia and Israel, programmes at this level are dedicated to adults wishing to develop new skills. Adult programmes may be second-chance programmes, where individuals who did not obtain the qualifications they need during their initial education are provided another opportunity to do so. Such programmes may also aim to get individuals back into employment as quickly as possible. In these situations, flexible pathways from short-cycle tertiary to higher levels of education may not then be necessary.

In some countries, different short-cycle tertiary programmes are offered, some of which do provide access to the higher educational level, and some of which do not (Austria, France and Iceland). For example, in Austria, Berufsbildende höhere Schule provides access to the higher educational level whereas Meisterschule, Werkmeister and Bauhandwerkerschule do not. In some countries, programmes classified as insufficient for level completion may still provide access to the higher educational level. For example, in France, students who complete a one-year short-cycle tertiary programme classified as insufficient for level completion may enter a bachelor programme (mostly vocational) in the first year of the programme. In contrast, those that completed a longer short-cycle tertiary programme may enter directly in the third year of the bachelor programme after graduation.

Countries are promoting the development of pathways from initial VET programmes to further and higher educational levels. Tertiary education allows students to acquire the skills they require to respond to today’s labour-market needs. On the one hand, there is continued demand for employees with skills that are not typically taught in academically oriented tertiary programmes. On the other hand, some people find academic learning unattractive, too long and too uncertain. Short-cycle tertiary vocational education matches those labour-market needs and those students’ expectations. Vocational education and training, may have been primarily designed to train people for a lifetime occupation, but rapid changes in the labour market, driven by technology, changing the skillsets required in many occupations and eliminating some types of job altogether while also creating new ones, suggest the need for a flexible tertiary education. The development of effective pathways serves multiple policy objectives, such as increasing the attractiveness of initial VET by meeting students’ aspirations, and removing any perception of VET tracks as dead ends; helping to meet growing economic demands for higher level skills and qualifications; supporting lifelong learning; removing wasteful barriers, such as requirements to repeat course material; and improving equity by promoting access to higher level programmes among more disadvantaged groups (UNESCO-UNEVOC, 2017[6]).

Many learning pathways from initial short-cycle tertiary to higher educational level are open in principle (Figure B4.3), “but rarely travelled” (Musset et al., 2019[7]). Graduates from this level may prefer to directly enter employment, either for financial reasons or due to challenges in gaining recognition of their degree to advance to higher educational level. To improve the pathways from initial short-cycle tertiary to higher education, reforms have been introduced in some countries to facilitate credit recognition. For example, in Australia, the national qualification framework (NQF) standardises the contents of knowledge, skills and attitudes required to observe “levels” of attainment and offers formal pathways from post-secondary VET courses into bachelor’s programmes, whereby graduates receive credits for subject, units or years of study that they have followed, which are taken into consideration when they apply for related degree courses in general higher education. Nonetheless, in Australia, only 9% of bachelor’s entrants come from (vocational) technical and further education colleges (Field and Guez, 2018[8]).

Some reforms have aimed to diversify the programmes on offer and increase the attractiveness of short-cycle tertiary programmes. For instance, in 2016 Chile created by law (Law N° 21.910) 15 new centres for VET in tertiary education, one per region, facilitating student access to VET throughout the country. In Sweden, higher vocational education (yrkeshögskola) is currently going through an expansion and increasing the number of student places. The expansion began in 2018 and will take place in stages until 2022 when the number of full-time equivalent student places will have increased by 45%. England (United Kingdom) implemented a reform encouraging sustainable employer investment in apprenticeship training by placing the control of apprenticeship funding in the hands of employers. Israel upgraded the status and quality of practical engineer programmes, and improving their correspondence with market needs.

On average across OECD countries, the average age of new entrants to short-cycle tertiary programmes was 25 years old in 2018. However, there are large differences among countries. The average age varies from 22 or younger in Austria, Belgium, Costa Rica, France, Japan, Korea, Luxembourg, Mexico and Portugal, to 28 and older in Denmark, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, New Zealand, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. The average age is reflected in the share of new entrants below the age of 25 which varies from more than 90% in Belgium, France, Japan, Korea and Mexico to below 35% in Iceland, Poland, Sweden and Switzerland. In all countries except Belgium, France, Israel, Luxembourg and Mexico, the share of new entrants under the age of 25 is higher at bachelor’s level than at short-cycle tertiary level (Table B4.2 and Table B4.3).

The disparities in the average age of new entrants in short-cycle tertiary programmes depends on the profile of students entering the programmes. In some countries, students tend to have some work experience before enrolling in these degrees. Even in countries with direct access to this level from upper secondary education, students are typically older as they tend to enter from upper secondary vocational programmes where completion rates are lower than for upper secondary general programmes (see Indicator B3).

On average across OECD countries, 5% of new entrants into short-cycle tertiary programmes were international students in 2018, the lowest share across all tertiary levels of education. In all countries except Chile, Denmark, Iceland, Ireland and Italy, the share of international new entrants at bachelor’s level or equivalent is greater than at short-cycle tertiary level (Table B4.2 and Table B4.3).

There are also large disparities across countries in the share of international students among new entrants, ranging from close to zero in Colombia, Germany, Mexico, Poland, Sweden and Switzerland to 18% in New Zealand and 39% in Iceland. As students in short-cycle tertiary programmes tend to be older than those enrolled in other tertiary programmes, they tend to be more likely to have family or personal obligations that may hinder their international mobility (Kirsch and Beernaert, 2011[9]).

On average across OECD countries, 27% of new entrants into short-cycle tertiary programmes in 2018 enrolled in the broad field of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM); 25% in business, administration and law; 15% in health and welfare; 13% in services; 11% in arts and humanities and the remainder in education; agriculture, forestry, fisheries and veterinary; and social sciences, journalism and information. Promoting the study of STEM fields has become a priority in many countries as science-related competencies, problem solving and quantitative analysis are considered essential in today’s data-based economy and are in high demand in the labour market. In Austria, Chile, Israel, Korea, Slovenia and Spain, where short-cycle tertiary entry rates for students under the age of 25 range from 13% (Israel) to 31% (Chile), STEM is the largest field of study with the share of new entrants ranging from 27% (Chile) to 63% (Israel) (Table B4.2).

There are large disparities in the distribution of new entrants by fields of study across countries at short-cycle tertiary level. In Belgium, the Czech Republic and Poland, where the short-cycle tertiary entry rate below the age of 25 is 1% or lower, all students are enrolled in just one broad field of study: health and welfare in Belgium and Poland, and arts and humanities in the Czech Republic. Conversely, in Germany, Iceland, Italy, the Slovak Republic and Switzerland, where the entry rate into short-cycle tertiary education is also 1% or lower, students enter a variety of fields of study (Figure B4.1).

On average across OECD countries, 53% of new entrants into short-cycle tertiary programmes are women. In some countries, men are particularly under-represented at this level, as in Belgium, the Czech Republic, Poland and the Slovak Republic, where women make up between 65% and 86% of new entrants. Conversely, women are particulary under-represented in Italy, Mexico, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia and Saudi Arabia where they make up between 19% and 40% of new entrants into short-cycle tertiary programmes (Table B4.2).

The disparities in the share of women among new entrants to short-cycle tertiary programmes may depend on the prevalence of some fields of study. Women in short-cycle tertiary programmes are under-represented in STEM fields while they tend to dominate in the field of health and welfare (OECD, 2019[3]). Hence, the share of women among new entrants into short-cycle tertiary across all fields of study tends to be lower when STEM fields make up a larger proportion of these programmes. In Mexico, Norway, Portugal and Slovenia (where the entry rates vary from 4% to 23%), STEM fields make up a large share of these programmes while the shares of women among new entrants are among the lowest, below 40% (Figure B4.1). Students’ choice of field of study is guided by a variety of factors, including career opportunities and their aspirations after education. One explanation of the under-representation of women in some fields could be that they fear they will not have equal career opportunities in those fields, after completing their education.

The gender distribution is more balanced at short-cycle tertiary level than across other tertiary levels in OECD countries. In 2018, on average across OECD countries, the entry rate to short-cycle tertiary programmes (excluding international students) was the same for women as for men (10%), whereas women have a signficantly higher entry rate at bachelor's level (49% for women versus 38% for men). However, this difference varies widely among countries. In Norway, Portugal and Slovenia, the gender gap in short-cycle tertiary entry rates is in favour of men by 3-7 percentage points, while in Austria, Latvia, New Zealand and Turkey, the entry rate for women is 5-6 percentage points higher than the rate for men. In countries with high short-cycle tertiary entry rates, the entry rate for women below the age of 25 tends to be higher than for men (Figure B4.4).

Bachelor’s programmes are the most common route into tertiary education on average across the OECD, accounting for 77% of first-time entrants into tertiary education. In Greece and India, it is the only route into tertiary education, as 100% of first-time entrants enter bachelor’s programmes.

On average and excluding international students, the bachelor’s entry rate is 44% across OECD countries, the master’s entry rate is 14% and the doctoral entry rate is just 1%. The low entry rate at doctoral level reflect the substantial investment required from both individuals and governments to develop this level of education, as the key entry point into a career in academic research. Furthermore, in some countries, adults with doctorates still have lower employment rates than those with a master’s degree. Nonetheless, these degrees continue to be in high demand and offer attractive returns on the initial investment. While the average annual cost is similar to that of a bachelor’s degree programme in more than half of OECD countries, graduates of these programmes earn 32% more, on average (OECD, 2019[3]).

On average across OECD countries, 84% of new entrants into bachelor’s programmes or equivalent are below the age of 25. The share varies from more than 96% in Belgium, Japan and Korea, to 68-69% in Israel, Sweden and Switzerland (Table B4.3). Differences in the share of new entrants below the age of 25 reflect the possibilities of re-entry into the education system among adults and selective entry requirements for bachelor’s programmes. Traditionally, students enter a bachelor’s programme immediately after completing upper secondary education, and this remains true in many countries. However, in some countries, the transition from upper secondary to tertiary education may occur at a later age, as discussed above (see first-time entrants section).

On average across OECD countries, 74% of new entrants at master’s level and 58% at doctoral level are below the age of 30. Master’s programmes may lead directly to a labour market-relevant qualification but they are also a prerequisite to accessing an advanced research qualification such as a doctorate in many countries. Interestingly, in Ireland and Luxembourg, the share of new entrants below the age of 30 is greater at the doctoral level than at the master’s level (Table B4.2).

The share of internationally mobile students increases on average with the level of education, but this pattern varies across countries. On average across OECD countries, international students make up 9% of new entrants at bachelor’s level, 21% at master’s level and 29% at doctoral level. New entrants at master’s level tend to be more likely to be mobile than at bachelor’s level in all countries, except in Greece and the Slovak Republic where the share of international students entering bachelor’s programmes is slightly higher than at master’s level. New entrants into doctoral programmes tend to be more mobile than at master’s level, but this varies across countries. In Belgium, Iceland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland, the share of international students among doctoral new entrants is between 20 percentage points and almost 40 percentage points higher than in master’s programmes. In contrast, the difference is negligible (less than 1 percentage point) in Greece, Spain and the United Kingdom. In Australia, Germany, Latvia and Lithuania, the share of international entrants to doctoral programmes ranges from around 3 percentage points to almost 20 percentage points lower than in master’s programmes. Doctoral studies require substantial investment from both individuals and governments and some countries may prefer to concentrate on student mobility at master’s level. Germany, Latvia and Lithuania have some of the lowest shares of international students at doctoral level, while Australia has the second highest share of international students among master’s new entrants (Table B4.2).

While English-speaking countries are the most attractive destinations for students overall (see Indicator B6), other non-English speaking countries recruit from abroad more than half of new entrants at master’s level (Luxembourg) or doctoral level (Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland) (Table B4.3). Some countries have been developing programmes or changing their funding policies to attract international students at these levels of education in order to help play a leading role in research and innovation.

On average across OECD countries and excluding international students, the first-time entry rate of women to bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral programmes is greater than among men, but the gender gap shrinks as the level of education increases. At bachelor’s level or equivalent, 49% of women are expected to enter a bachelor programme before the typical age of 25, compared to 38% of men. While the entry rate among women is larger than that of men in all countries at bachelor’s level, the gender difference varies from 3 percentage points or less in Luxembourg, Mexico and Turkey to 21-22 percentage points in Australia and Israel. At master’s level, 17% of women are expected to enter the programme before the typical age of 30, compared to 11% of men on average across OECD countries. The entry rate of women is higher than men for all countries with available data, except for Turkey. At doctoral level, the entry rate among women (below the typical age of 30) is almost equal to the rate among men, at 1% on average across OECD countries. Across OECD countries, the gender difference at doctoral level is very limited, within the range of ±0.5 percentage points (Table B4.3).

Entry rate is the sum of age-specific entry rates up to an age threshold. The age-specific entry rate is calculated by dividing the number of entrants by age in a certain education level by the total population of the same age. The rate can be calculated including and excluding international students in the numerator of each age-specific entry rate.

First-time tertiary-level entry rate is an estimated probability, based on current entry patterns, that a young adult below an age threshold will enter tertiary education for the first time. The rate can be calculated including and excluding international students in the numerator of each age-specific entry rate.

Bachelor’s/master’s/doctoral level entry rate is an estimated probability, based on current entry patterns, that a young adult below an age threshold will enter a bachelor’s/master’s/doctoral programme during his or her lifetime. The rate can be calculated including and excluding international students in the numerator of each age-specific entry rate.

First-time entrants into tertiary education are students who are enrolling in tertiary education for the first time, without previous education at any other tertiary level. They may enter tertiary education at different levels through short-cycle tertiary (ISCED 5), bachelor’s programmes (ISCED 6) or master’s programmes. First-time entrants to a master’s programme in most cases refer to entrants to a master’s long first degree (ISCED 7-LFD), but may also include entrants to a stage of a programme at ISCED level 7 insufficient for level or partial level completion; and students authorised to enter a master’s programme after validation of acquired experience (VAE).

Internationally mobile students or international students are those students who left their country of origin and moved to another country for the purpose of study.

Master's long first degree (LFD) is a master’s programme (ISCED 7-LFD) of 5 to 7 years that prepares for a first degree or qualification that is equivalent to master’s level programme in terms of their complexity of content. This includes highly specialised fields such as medicine, dentistry or, in some cases, law and engineering.

New entrants to a tertiary level of education are students enrolling for the first time into a tertiary level of education but may have previously entered and completed a degree in another tertiary level of education.

Unless otherwise indicated, entry rates are calculated as net entry rates (i.e.as the sum of age-specific entry rates) up to an age threshold. The net entry rate for a single age is obtained by dividing the number of first-time entrants of that age for each type of tertiary education by the total population of the corresponding age. The sum of net entry rates is calculated by adding the rates for each year of age until the age threshold. The result represents the expected probability of entering tertiary education for the first time before the age threshold if current entry patterns are maintained. The age threshold refers to the upper limit for entering into a tertiary degree. Age 25 is used as the upper limit for entering into a short-cycle tertiary, bachelor’s degree and first-time tertiary education overall. At the master’s and doctoral levels, 30 is considered to be the upper age limit for entry.

Gross entry rates are used when data by age are missing and if the average age of entry is well below the age threshold considered for the calculation of this indicator. In this case, the number of entrants of which the age is unknown is divided by the population at the typical entry age (see Annex 1).

The average age of students is calculated from 1 January for countries where the academic year starts in the second semester of the calendar year and 1 July for countries where the academic year starts in the first semester of the calendar year. As a consequence, the average age of new entrants may be overestimated by up to 6 months while that of first-time graduates may be underestimated by the same.

Entry rates are sensitive to changes in the education system, such as the introduction of new programmes or the number of international students. Rates could at times be very high, during periods when there are unexpectedly high numbers of entrants. This indicator also reports the share of first-time entrants below the age threshold, alongside the entry rate, to provide contextual information on the relevance of the age threshold for each country.

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 tertiary programmes. When international students are included in the calculation, the percentage of expected first-time entrants into tertiary programmes can change significantly.

For more information, please see the OECD Handbook for Internationally Comparative Education Statistics 2018 (OECD, 2018[10]) and Annex 3 for country-specific notes (https://doi.org/10.1787/69096873-en).

Data refer to the academic year 2017/18 and are based on the UNESCO-UIS/OECD/EUROSTAT data collection on education statistics administered by the OECD in 2019. Data for some countries may have a different reference year. For details, see Annex 3 at https://doi.org/10.1787/69096873-en.

References

[8] Field, S. and A. Guez (2018), Pathways of Progression: Linking Technical and Vocational Education and Training with Post-Secondary Education, United Nationas Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000265943.

[9] Kirsch, M. and Y. Beernaert (2011), Short Cycle Higher Education in Europe, Level 5: The Missing Link, European Association of Institutions in Higher Education (EURASHE), https://www.eurashe.eu/library/modernising-phe/L5_report_SCHE_in_Europe_full_report_Jan2011.pdf.

[7] Musset, P. et al. (2019), Vocational Education and Training in Estonia, OECD Reviews of Vocational Education and Training, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/g2g9fac9-en.

[3] OECD (2019), Education at a Glance 2019: OECD Indicators, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/f8d7880d-en.

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[1] OECD/Eurostat/UNESCO Institute for Statistics (2013), International Standard Classification of Education, ISCED 2011, http://uis.unesco.org/sites/default/files/documents/international-standard-classification-of-education-isced-2011-en.pdf.

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Table B4.1 Entry rate and profile of first-time entrants into tertiary education (2018)

Table B4.2 Entry rate and profile of new entrants into short-cycle tertiary level (2018)

Table B4.3 Entry rate and profile of new entrants into bachelor's, master's and doctoral levels (2018)

StatLink: https://doi.org/10.1787/888934163648

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