HEPI was honoured to host the UK launch of the OECD’s Education at a Glance 2019 in central London yesterday.
It is a data-rich report that takes time to digest properly. So, as a digestive aid, we are listing 15 of the many stand-out facts.
(NB In general, though not for every point, the OECD treats the UK as one educational system, despite the differences in education across the different parts of the UK.)
- We are above average among OECD countries for the number of Bachelor’s students but below average for the number of Master’s students.
- The returns from UK degrees are down somewhat on recent times but they still impressive, and the cause of the decline is not a general problem but reflects challenges at the margins – for example, with some courses not all.
- The problem of young people doing nothing (the so-called NEETs – not in education, employment or training) is now ‘pretty much under control’.
- Professional experience matters less than might be expected in the UK, and less than in other countries, relative to qualifications.
- The UK is , in relative terms, very good at extracting value from the skills that people have. So there is no widespread problem of ‘overskilling’.
- Graduates from tertiary education do more lifelong learning than others. In other words, ‘learning begets learning’.
- We are top of the G7 countries for education spending. So, overall, the challenges our education system faces may have less to do with money and more to do with other things.
- Relative to other countries with high private spending on higher education (such as Japan and the US), our university system performs better on access.
- People complete their studies in the allotted time more often in the UK than in any other OECD country.
- The UK is a very attractive places for international students, despite high tuition costs.
- We are an outlier in terms of the relative spend on academic education and vocational education. We spend more per student on the former even though the latter can cost more to deliver successfully.
- Women earn less than men across the OECD, even within the same fields of study – so pay differentials are not just down to women and men choosing different routes.
- We are unusual in paying primary teachers at the same levels as secondary school teachers, which the OECD regard as a ‘good choice’.
- The UK occupies the ‘risk quadrant’ on the OECD’s chart plotting teachers’ pay and class sizes: as a result of spending choices, the former is falling in real terms while the latter is rising.
- We have the youngest teachers in the OECD. This could have some advantages – except that it is partly a reflection of older teachers leaving the profession.