23 Remarkable Higher Education Statistics [Curated in 2024]

The rise in demand for higher education has led to intense competition between universities to attract students. So, it should come as no surprise that higher education is a thriving sector.

What’s less clear, though, is:

What type of universities do students choose more often? Is the public or private sector predominant?

How often do students decide to study abroad?

What is the male/female ratio in fields that are usually dominated by men according to women in higher education statistics?

Today on Mark in Style, we’re going to answer these intriguing questions by delving deep into the latest higher education statistics

Here’s a little spoiler:

Fascinating Higher Education Facts (Editor’s Choice)

  • Private schools are becoming more and more popular. In fact, about one-third of students are enrolled in private universities worldwide.
  • The number of students enrolled in higher education is expected to more than double by 2025, to 262 million.
  • By 2025, about eight million students will study abroad, making the number three times higher than now.
  • India is the country with the highest number of universities (4354). The US is in second place with 3228 universities.
  • As of 2019, 36% of the US population had graduated from a higher degree institution.
  • As of 2019, 53.31 million students had graduated with a bachelor’s degree in the US.
  • Canada is the most educated country in the world, with 56.71% of adults who have a two- or four-year higher education degree.

International Education Statistics

1. There are 4354 universities in India, making it the country with the highest number of universities in the world. 


According to the higher education statistics by country, as of January 2020, India was first on the list. Right after that came the US with 3228 universities, China with 2596, Indonesia with 2304, Brazil with 1335, and Mexico with 1205 universities.

2. There are 56.7 million students enrolled in private universities worldwide.

(Learning English VoA news)

The higher education stats for 192 countries show that 33% of the higher education population has enrolled in private universities

Compared to the global numbers, the situation in the US is as follows: 

[bctt tweet=”About 27.5% of students in the US attend private universities, which is below the global average. ” via=”no”]

In contrast:

The countries, where the percentage of students enrolled in private universities is higher than the global average, are mostly located in Latin America, with 49% of higher education students attending private universities, and Asia, with 42%.

3. In 2017, about 66,145 students in Australia enrolled in a Higher Degree Research (HDR) programme, making up about 4% of all higher education enrollments, higher education data reveals.


Higher Degree Research (HDR) represents a postgraduate university degree that includes a supervised research project. Over time, between 2006 and 2017, there was a significant rise in the interest in HDR among students. The most evident growth happened especially from 2009 to 2015

The thing is:

Enrollments of international students to Australian universities had a lot to do with increasing the percentage of interest in HDR. Australian national education statistics show that the enrollments in HDR rose from 18% in 2006 to an impressive 33% in 2017.

4. With 31.3% international students, Australia was the number one destination for international students in 2020.


The second most popular destination was Canada, with 23.7%, followed by the UK with 22.3%.

5. By 2040, the total number of enrolled students in higher education is expected to reach 594 million.

(Monitor Icef)

The latest analysis by the RMIT University in Melbourne anticipates that there will be nearly 600 million university students by 2040. This is due to the continuous growth in global demand for higher education.

6. Around 70% of students were satisfied with the quality of digital and online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Although it took some time for students and teachers to adapt to the ‘new normal’, all in all, the online and digital learning during the pandemic proved to be a success. Over two-thirds of the students said that the experience was ‘excellent’ or ‘great’. However, almost all of them are eager to return to the campus.

Higher Education Statistics Europe

7. In 2017, Germany had about 3.1 million tertiary education students. It had the highest percentage of higher education students in the EU (15.6%).

(EC Europa)

Germany has always boasted an impressive higher education sector and a highly educated workforce.

But which other European states perform well in this category?

Since Germany was at the very top, here are the higher education rates by country:

  • France – 12.8%
  • UK – 12.3%
  • Spain – 10.2%
  • Italy – 9.3%
  • Poland – 7.8%
  • Netherlands – 4.4%

8. The highest-ranked European university in 2020 is Oxford University. 

(QS, Statista)

The QS University Rankings for 2020 place MIT on top, followed by Stanford and Harvard. 

At fourth, Oxford is the highest-ranked European university, followed by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (sixth), Cambridge (seventh), and Imperial College London (ninth).  


There are many prestigious universities in Europe, and the most renowned ones seem to be located in the UK.

That’s the reason why so many international students choose the UK to pursue their studies. In 2012, the United Kingdom was the choice of 205,600 students from other EU countries.

9. 76.3 % of EU students have attained tertiary education.


A large percentage of EU citizens aged 25 and above have already pursued higher education. 

Key takeaway:

Europe has a large number of highly educated people

Finland is a great example of this trend, with up to 87.9% of students who attained tertiary education.

higher education statistics

10. The Purchasing Power Standard (PPS) in 2011 reached 663 billion concerning the public expenditure on education in the EU.


PPS is the name Eurostat uses for the artificial currency unit for the Purchasing Power Parities (PPP) and real final expenditures.

Spending on education has been growing throughout the years in most EU countries. Higher education statistics show that in 2013, Luxembourg spent an eye-watering $78,564 per student

Sweden takes up the highest place on the list by spending $20,170 per student.

US Higher Education Statistics

Most statistics and information about public higher education institutions within the US are collected and analysed by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)

So, without further ado, let’s check out some of the most notable stats and facts.

11. The US has the best higher education in the world.

(Study China)

According to statistics on higher education, the US is the number one country to attend university in the world. The US has 30 universities in the top 100 international universities. 

As we mentioned above, MIT takes the top spot. 

12. The percentage of the US population who are college graduates has grown steadily between 1940 and 2019.


There has been a significant increase within the last years in students graduating from university. 

Here’s the scoop:

[bctt tweet=”Around 36.6% of women successfully completed their studies in 2019, compared to 3.8% in 1940.” via=”no”]

US education statistics also show that there has been a massive increase in the percentage of male graduates, which has grown from 5.5% in 1940 to around 35.4% in 2019. 

13. The average annual tuition in public universities is $7,054 and $30,282 in private institutions.


According to the cost of higher education statistics, the difference in tuition between public and private universities is considerable. 

What’s more:

While US private universities are way more expensive than public ones, the price of both is way higher than the corresponding figures in Europe. Since higher education in the US is quite costly in general, students have to take student loans, scholarships, or grants to be able to attend university.

14. The annual tuition and fees for full-time students at Columbia University in the 2019/20 academic year amount to $61,850.


Higher education statistics for 2019 show Columbia University is ranked as the most expensive option in terms of the annual tuition and fees a full-time student has to pay. 

The University of Chicago is second with $59,298, and Brown University is third with $58,504.

UK Higher Education Statistics

15. UK students have shown the most interest in subjects related to medicine. The number of enrolled students in these subjects was 267,725 in the 2018/19 academic year.


The Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) is the official agency for higher education statistics and analysis of information within the United Kingdom. According to HESA, from the science field, students choose primarily subjects that revolve around medicine

In addition, from the non-science subject areas, business and administrative studies were top of the list, with around 224,650 enrolments in the same academic year.

16. In the 2018/19 academic year, a total of 2.38 million students enrolled in UK universities. 


The number of students enrolled in UK universities is quite high taking into consideration the figures for the past 20 years. 

According to the higher education data, the highest number of students was in the 2010/11 academic year,  with a total number of 2.5 million students. And with a large number of students come plenty of university teaching jobs.

17. The biggest number of students – 122,360 – enrolled in the Open University.


The Open University leads with the number of students enrolled in the 2018/19 academic year, with 75,200 female and 47,155 male students. At the bottom of the list is the University of Wales (central functions) with 0 students enrolled in 2018/19

Education data notes that the other UK universities that attracted the most students in 2018/19 are:

  • University College London – 41,180 students 
  • The University of Manchester – 40,250 students 
  • The University of Leeds – 36,250 students

18. 86,485 Chinese students enrolled in UK universities in the 2018/19 academic year.


Higher education statistics show that Chinese students make up the largest number of first-year non-UK students. 

Right after China come students from the EU, Asia, North America, and India. The smallest number of non-UK students enrolled in UK universities come from Australasia – 1,520 in 2018/19.

19. The number of international student applications to the UK plummeted by 40% in 2021.

(University Worldnews)

Even though the pandemic is one of the reasons, Brexit is the main cause why many international students decided not to study in the UK in 2021.

Here’s the deal:

According to the data from 2019-2020, there were around 147,800 EU students enrolled at UK universities. As of January 2021, the number of applicants from EU countries was 26,010. This is a huge 40% drop from the previous year when the number of applicants was 43,030.

Diversity in Higher Education Statistics

20. In the 2017/18 academic year, around 206,887 bachelor’s degrees in health professions were awarded to women in the US. This number is six times higher than the 38,022 degrees awarded to men.


After all, it seems that some degrees attract students according to their gender. 

The thing is:

STEM subjects have more male students, whereas females show greater interest in arts and humanities. When it comes to healthcare, the graduation facts show the field is dominated by women.

21. 23% of Blacks surpass their family wealth due to attending higher education, compared to 56% of Whites.

(Advancing Diversity and Inclusion in Higher Education

According to minorities in higher education statistics, the results go hand in hand with the percentage of attending higher education. 

In general, marginalised minorities are less likely to have a university degree or have children who will earn a degree. For that reason, there is a certain obstacle when it comes to social mobility.

22. 69% of Asian students go straight to university after finishing high school.

(Advancing Diversity and Inclusion in Higher Education

A high number of Asian-American high school graduates enroll straight to postsecondary institutions. They take up the highest percentage, followed by Whites (55%), Blacks (47%), and Hispanics (38%).

23. 96% of college and university classrooms have students with disabilities.


Lately, the breaking up of stigma and inclusion of students with disabilities at university studies has been increasing. With this increase comes the more frequent presence of students with disabilities in higher education statistics. 

But there’s still a long way to go:

[bctt tweet=”Even though up to 9% of university students have some sort of disability, only 1-3% would register for getting support services. ” via=”no”]

People Also Ask

How many students are in higher education in the world?

There are 250 million higher education students in the world right now. The numbers are expected to rise, reaching 594 million students by 2040

The figure for 2040 is based on an expected average annual growth of 4.2%. In fact, the rise in higher education interest goes hand in hand with the growth in the world economy.

The college education by country projections estimate that by 2035, countries in sub-Saharan Africa will become the so-called “sunrise markets” for higher education. Around 18 countries of this region will have a huge population of 18 to 25-year-olds. 

Nevertheless, countries from Asia-Pacific will keep on dominating.

What is the success rate of college graduates?

Did you know that one-half of all college students don’t graduate within six years? This is the reason why so many young people are stuck with student debt but have not obtained an actual degree. 

Nevertheless, the students who actually graduate will earn 66% more than those with a high school diploma. 

What’s more: 

Those who failed to obtain a college degree are very likely to face unemployment.

[bctt tweet=”On average, a bachelor’s degree graduate will earn $1 million more than an employee with a high school diploma.” via=”no”]

Is higher education important for success?

Even though higher education doesn’t equal success, your chances will be higher if you do have a college degree. That being said, there are some examples of college dropouts who became highly successful. One of them is Bill Gates. 

Here are some of the benefits a university degree will bring:

  • Economic – lower probability of unemployment.
  • Health – less stress when it comes to financial security.
  • Civic involvement – once the financial issue is settled, people have more time to become involved in charity organisations and do volunteer work.
  • Personal development – people who have already invested in a university diploma will more likely continue to invest in other personal development programmes.
  • Better communication skills – at university, people learn a lot about written and spoken communication.
  • Greater sense of discipline – education can make you disciplined, and discipline can help with career and professional development. 
  • Sense of accomplishment – the sense of accomplishment that you’ll get through university is priceless.

What percent of the world is university educated?

According to a study conducted by Harvard University and the Asian Development Bank, around 6.7% of the world population has a college degree. The percentage of university diploma holders stood at 5.9% in 2010, so the numbers are on the rise. And with elearning and blended learning becoming ever more popular, things are looking up.

When it comes to the highest educated city in the world, it’s London, with 59% of all residents having a college degree.

Wrapping it up

Now that you have a better insight into the latest higher education statistics, you can fully appreciate the positive trends in the sector in recent years as well as their importance. 

Bottom line:

With steady growth in the number of university graduates, the world is embracing higher education like never before. And that can only be a good thing. 







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