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15 things worth glancing at in the new Education at a Glance

  • 11 September 2019

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.)

  1. We are above average among OECD countries for the number of Bachelor’s students but below average for the number of Master’s students.
  2. 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.
  3. The problem of young people doing nothing (the so-called NEETs – not in education, employment or training) is now ‘pretty much under control’.
  4. Professional experience matters less than might be expected in the UK, and less than in other countries, relative to qualifications.
  5. 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’.
  6. Graduates from tertiary education do more lifelong learning than others. In other words, ‘learning begets learning’.
  7. 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.
  8. Relative to other countries with high private spending on higher education (such as Japan and the US), our university system performs better on access.
  9. People complete their studies in the allotted time more often in the UK than in any other OECD country.
  10. The UK is a very attractive places for international students, despite high tuition costs.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. We are unusual in paying primary teachers at the same levels as secondary school teachers, which the OECD regard as a ‘good choice’.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.

1 comment

  1. Great attendance and debate yesterday at the HEPI launch of the OECD ‘Education at a Glance 2019’ – interesting findings as always. Really good analysis from Andreas Schleicher and a very important key quote ‘The tertiary education sector needs to reinvent itself to give people greater ownership over what they learn, how they learn, when they learn and where they learn to meet tomorrow’s demand for knowledge and skills’’. This plays into the need to innovate the education, learning and qualification landscapes – credentialing, integration and delivery of education and skills. It highlights how important it is that further and higher education continue to work yet more closely together, the need for connectivity between learning levels and qualifications, the UK industrial strategy, and of course key education initiatives around developing strong work based learning models, like the UK degree apprenticeships. The report shows that UK employers are really efficient at maximising the use of the skills of their workforce, but whilst this is provides good value for money there needs to be a stronger focus on investment in learning and development to ensure this keeps pace with upskilling needed in a disrupted, dynamic world of work. No surprise to find that early participation in tertiary education leads to a stronger pattern of life long learning, with employers developing the part of the workforce which has a record of achievement – leaving a lot of untapped potential because of social inequality and mobility for example. The analysis of teacher age/profile provides a neat example of employer retention issues and how there needs to be a balance between experience, skills and qualifications. This is particularly important as we move into the demographic shift to increasing numbers of 18 year olds. This demographic change is mirrored in Australia and last week was the subject of a speech by Dan Tehan, Australian federal minister of education, who called for the need for greater funding for universities, citing potential annual return of AUD3.2 billion. In common with the OECD report he also called for greater alignment between universities and industry and cited the UK’s degree apprenticeships model. In summary the OECD report provides the usual fascinating insight into global education and spotlights some key points for the UK that need attention.

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