Czech Republic Trails Behind EU and OECD Averages in University Graduates

According to the most recent data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) for 2022, the Czech Republic is facing a significant gap in the percentage of individuals aged 25 to 64 with university degrees when compared to both the European Union (EU) and OECD averages. The figures reveal that only 26.67% of individuals in this age group in the Czech Republic hold a university degree, falling far below the EU average of 37.67%. Only Italy and Romania report lower rates within the EU.

When comparing these statistics to the OECD countries, where the average percentage of individuals with tertiary education stands at 40.44%, the Czech Republic also lags behind. Canada tops the list among OECD countries with the highest proportion of university graduates, with a staggering 63% of individuals aged 25 and over holding degrees. Japan, Ireland, and Korea closely follow suit.

Within the EU, Ireland leads the way with 54% of its population having attained higher education. In contrast, the Czech Republic, with approximately 27% of its population being university graduates, ranks lower. Neighboring Germany reports a 33% university graduate rate, while Poland stands at 34%, Austria at 36%, and Slovakia at 29%. Italy and Romania have the lowest percentages of university graduates among EU countries, with just 20%.

Despite a prolonged decline in applications to higher education institutions in the Czech Republic over the past decade, there is now a resurgence of interest. Notably, this year has witnessed a surge in applications to renowned institutions such as Charles University, the Czech Technical University, and the University of Chemical Technology in Prague. This upward trend is expected to continue, driven in part by a rising demographic curve, especially from the academic year 2027/2028.

Higher education institutions, represented by bodies like the Czech Rectors’ Conference (CRC) and the Council of Higher Education Institutions (CHI), are advocating for increased funding from the state budget to accommodate the growing number of prospective students. Currently, there is a budget shortfall of approximately CZK 11 billion for universities.

These institutions stress the need for greater investment in university education and scientific research, as current spending on universities in the Czech Republic falls below the EU average. For instance, the Czech Republic allocates 0.86% of its GDP to tertiary education, whereas the EU average stands at 1.27%, according to Milan Pospíšil, chairman of the Council of Universities.

While the Ministry of Finance has allocated CZK 253.4 billion for schools in the upcoming year, representing a decrease of CZK 11.6 billion compared to the current year, Education Minister Mikuláš Bek (STAN) emphasizes that this proposal does not align with coalition agreements. He asserts that universities should receive the same funding as in the current year, with CZK 30.9 billion earmarked for education at public universities, including an additional CZK 2.3 billion compared to the previous year. Furthermore, approximately CZK 20 billion has been allocated for research and development in education this year, including funds from the EU. It remains to be seen how these budgetary decisions will impact the efforts to bridge the educational gap and bolster the Czech Republic’s standing in higher education.

Article by Prague Forum

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