Increasing the share of 30-34 year-olds with tertiary level education attainment is one of the specific objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy.

A benchmark of at least 40% has been agreed for the EU average. While acknowledging the equal importance of medium-level vocational education and training, raising tertiary education attainment among young people will accompany and support the targeted research and innovation oriented smart growth. This will also help meet the increasing demand for a highly qualified work force.

The indicator is defined as the percentage of the population aged 30-34 who have successfully completed tertiary-level education. Tertiary level education programmes are defined as those classified to ISCED 5-8.

Figure 29: 30-34 year-olds with tertiary attainment (%)

Source: Eurostat, EU labour force survey.

Key points

In 2016, 39.1% of people aged 30-34 had attained tertiary level education in the EU. At this level, an increase of 0.9 percentage points will be sufficient to meet the Europe 2020 target of 40%. The highest levels of tertiary education attainment are reported in Lithuania, Cyprus, Ireland, and Sweden (above 50% in 2016). In contrast, in Malta, Croatia, Italy, and Romania fewer than 30% of 30-34 year-olds had tertiary level attainment (in 2016).

Several countries have national targets. By 2016, thirteen countries had reached their national target (Denmark, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, the Netherlands, Austria, Slovenia, and Sweden). Finland was also above its 42% national target which is based on a narrower national definition.

The share of 30-34 year-olds with high-level education attainment has increased, from 33.8% in 2010 to 39.1% in 2016 across the EU. An increase has occurred in almost all EU Member States but has been particularly marked in Greece and Lithuania. Spain is an exception, where the share of 30-34 year-olds with tertiary attainment slightly decreased over the same period.

Among non-EU countries, the share of 30-34 year-olds with tertiary attainment in 2016 was highest in Switzerland (at 53.5%), and lowest in Turkey (at 26.5%).

Table 29: 30-34 year-olds with tertiary attainment (%)

Arrows ↗ or ↘ signal a positive or negative trend based on more than two data points and of magnitude 0.1 per year or more. Trends based on more than two data points but of smaller magnitude are indicated by →; trends based on two points only are marked ▪. Trends are estimated by means of regression models.
The 2014 “b” flags in the Eurostat online tables have been ignored, except for Austria, on the basis of other relevant Eurostat metadata.
(b) Break after 2010. Therefore baseline data not included. (u) Eurostat: "low reliability". (z) Eurostat: "not applicable". (e) Eurostat: "estimated".
(T) DE: target 42% (including ISCED 4); FR: target 50% (17-33 year-olds); IT: target 26-27%; LV: target 34-36%; AT: target 38% (including ISCED 4); FI: target 42% (narrow national definition); SE: target 40-45%.

Source: Eurostat, EU labour force survey.


Annex 1: short description of indicators and additional notes


Annex 2: Reading the indicator statistical overviews