In this blog post we are looking at delayed entry into higher education: students who enter higher education with a delay of more than 24 months after leaving school for the first time. We are interested to know if some students’ groups delay their higher education enrolment more often compared to others? Luckily EUROSTUDENT data provides some interesting insight into this question.
On average across EUROSTUDENT countries, 14% of students postpone higher education enrolment by more than two years after leaving school for the first time. The share of delayed transition students varies from less than 5 % in Slovenia, France, and Malta to 30% and more in the Nordic countries (Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Denmark). In around one fifth of the EUROSTUDENT countries, 20 % or more of students enter higher education with a delay. In another two fifths of the countries this share is between 10 % and 20 % (Fig. 1).
Figure 1: Students with time delay of more than 24 months between leaving school for the first time and entering higher education by education background (in %) *
Delayed transition students are similar in many aspects across all EUROSTUDENT countries:
- In the majority of countries, the share of delayed transition students varies by educational background**: higher shares of delayed transition students can be found among students without higher education background than among students with parents who hold a higher education degree themselves. In some countries (Sweden, Finland, Norway, Ireland, Hungary, Estonia, and the Czech Republic), the share of delayed transition students is at least 10 percentage points greater among students without higher education background than among their counterparts (Fig. 1).
- Moreover, the share of delayed transition students is higher among low intensity students, i.e. students who spend less than 20 hours a week on study-related activities (taught and personal studies) than among high intensity students in the majority of countries (see subtopic B13 in the EUROSTUDENT database).
- Delayed transition students can also, in most countries, most often be found among students depending on their own earnings rather than among students drawing mainly on other forms of financing (family or public support; see subtopic B15).
- In many countries an overwhelming majority of students who enter higher education with a delay have (regular) work experience before entering higher education. On unweighted EUROSTUDENT average, well over half (59 %) of delayed transition students have regular work experience before entering higher education, compared to 20 % of all students.
- Analysis of EUROSTUDENT data on students’ finances also shows that delayed transition students more often expressed experiencing (very) serious financial difficulties than all students in the majority of countries. Financial limitations – that may have existed before entering higher education – may therefore be a reason for delayed transition students more often engaging in employment directly after leaving school and thereby deferring their higher education enrolment.
As shown above, delayed transition students make up a large part of the student body in some countries. In many cases, their background and study situation differs from their peers who started studying directly after school. All this implies that increasing participation of delayed transition students in the higher education system may require a systematic approach and changes at multiple levels. Student support systems that are based on a more traditional definition of students may not be suitable for delayed transition students who are older, without higher education background, study with low intensity and often depend on their own employment to finance their living. The increasing diversity of students in the higher education systems necessitates a review of already existing study structures, student support services and funding opportunities, making sure that they meet the needs and requirements of a diverse student body.
More detailed results and analyses on this topic can be found in the latest EUROSTUDENT Intelligence Brief:
*Data source: EUROSTUDENT V, B13, B14. EUROSTUDENT question(s): 2.3 When did you obtain the qualification mentioned in 2.1 [highest level of education obtained on graduating from the school system for the first time]? 2.6 When did you enter higher education for the first time? Notes: Values below figure refer to “all students”. See chapter 2 in the EUROSTUDENT Synopsis of Indicators (pp. 27-44) for methodological notes and notes on national surveys.
** Educational background is measured through the indicator of parents’ highest educational attainment. Students with higher education background have parents of which at least one has attained a higher education degree (ISCED 1997 level 5-6; ISCED 2011 level 5-8). Students without higher education background have parents whose highest education degree is no higher than ISCED 1997/2011 level 4.