Finland sends 80% to university on 100% grants: why can\’t we?

Or at least, so we are told and asked over at LC.

maybe so, but Finland, with a GDP below ours, manages to send 80% of its young people to university on 100% grants.

So why can\’t we do this?

Largely because the 80% number in Finland is entirely bollocks.

Here\’s the OECD numbers for tertiary education in Finland.

Looking at the 25-34 age cohort ( we don\’t want to look at older ages because there\’s been an expansion of tertiary education everywhere over the past generation or two) Finland graduates some 23% through the university system. That\’s a little above the 20% of the OECD average.

However, Finland also graduates another 17% through the polytechnic system (as against 9% for the OECD average). These poly degrees are considered to be rather lower in value than a uni degree (to some extent like the distinction in the US between an Associate or two year degree and a Bachelor\’s or four year one. Not quite, but the holder of a poly degree would usually be asked to do another year of classes before being accepted into a uni Master\’s degree course).

And lumped in with the poly degrees are also all of the vocational and trade schools: graduating from the police college for example. Plus chippies, plumbers and brickies, I have no doubt. (We have a couple of Finnish readers here and I\’d welcome clarification on that point).

So, including all tertiary education, vocational, poly and academic uni, Finland graduates some 40% of the age cohort. Less than the UK does for university alone.

So where does the 80% number come from?

That\’s actually the graduation rate of those who have actually started at one of the tertiary institutions: it ain\’t the proportion of the population that gets degrees, it\’s the proportion of those who start degrees who go on to get degrees.

So, your Friday nugget of information: those who try to tell you that 80% of Finns go to uni are talking bollocks: if not actually innumerate.

4 thoughts on “Finland sends 80% to university on 100% grants: why can\’t we?”

  1. The number comes from the very poorly worded (as usual) BBC online news.

    Headline: “How about 80% going to university?”

    Third paragraph reads:

    “In Finland, 80% of young women are now going to university. It’s currently the highest proportion of graduates in the world.”

    See how they give the figure and contradict it in one sentence!

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