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Educational expenditure statistics

From Statistics Explained

Data from September 2012. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database.

Expenditure on education may help foster economic growth, enhance productivity, contribute to people’s personal and social development, and help reduce social inequalities. The proportion of total financial resources devoted to education is one of the key choices made by governments in each country of the European Union (EU). In a similar vein, enterprises, students and their families also make decisions on the financial resources that they will set aside for education.

Figure 1: Public expenditure on education, 2009 (1)
(% of GDP) - Source: Eurostat (tsiir010)
Table 1: Expenditure on educational institutions, 2004 and 2009 (1) - Source: Eurostat (educ_figdp), (tps00068) and (tps00067), UNESCO, OECD

Main statistical findings

Public expenditure on education in the EU-27 in 2009 was equivalent to 5.4 % of GDP, while the expenditure of both public and private sources of funds on educational institutions amounted to 6.2 % of GDP (see Table 1).

The highest public spending on education relative to GDP was observed in Denmark (8.7 % of GDP), while Cyprus (8.0 %), Sweden (7.3 %), Finland (6.8 %), Belgium (6.6 %) and Ireland (6.5 %) also recorded relatively high proportions. Most EU Member States reported that public expenditure on education accounted for between 4 % and 6 % of their GDP (note that the data for Luxembourg excludes the tertiary education sector). Between 2004 and 2009 the combined public and private expenditure on education as a share of GDP rose by 1.9 percentage points in Ireland, 1.6 percentage points in Malta and by 1.5 percentage points in the United Kingdom; the only Member States to record a decrease in their relative expenditure were Slovenia, Slovakia and Poland, all down by either 0.1 or 0.2 percentage points. It should be noted that changes in GDP (growth or decline) can mask significant increases or decreases made in terms of education spending.

Declining birth rates in many countries will result in reduced school age populations, which will have an effect on ratios such as the average expenditure per pupil (given that expenditure is held constant). Annual expenditure on public and private educational institutions shows that an average of PPS 6 504 was spent per pupil/student in 2009 in the EU-27; this marked an increase of 18.5 % when compared with 2004. The expenditure on public and private educational institutions per pupil was almost four times as high in Denmark (the highest average among the Member States in 2009) as in Romania (the lowest average).

Data sources and availability

The standards for international statistics on education are set by three international organisations:

The main source of data is a joint UNESCO/OECD/Eurostat (UOE) questionnaire on education systems and this is the basis for the core components of the Eurostat database on education statistics.

Indicators on education expenditure cover schools, universities and other public and private institutions involved in delivering or supporting educational services. Expenditure on institutions is not limited to that made on instructional services, but also includes public and private expenditure on ancillary services for students and families, where these services are provided through educational institutions. At the tertiary level, spending on research and development can also be significant and is included, to the extent that the research is performed by educational institutions.

Total public expenditure on education includes direct public funding for educational institutions and transfers to households and enterprises. Generally, the public sector funds education either by bearing directly the current and capital expenses of educational institutions (direct expenditure for educational institutions) or by supporting students and their families with scholarships and public loans as well as by transferring public subsidies for educational activities to private enterprises or non-profit organisations (transfers to private households and enterprises). Both types of transactions are reported as total public expenditure on education.

Expenditure on educational institutions from private sources comprises: school fees; materials (such as textbooks and teaching equipment); transport to school (if organised by the school); meals (if provided by the school); boarding fees, and; expenditure by employers on initial vocational training.

Expenditure per pupil/student in public and private institutions measures how much central, regional and local government, private households, religious institutions and enterprises spend per pupil/student. It includes expenditure for personnel, as well as other current and capital expenditure. Public schools/institutions are defined as those which are directly or indirectly administered by a public education authority. Private schools/institutions are directly or indirectly administered by a non-governmental organisation (such as a church, trade union, a private business concern or another body).


Education accounts for a significant proportion of public expenditure in all of the EU Member States – the most important budget item being expenditure on staff. The cost of teaching increases significantly as a child moves through the education system, with expenditure per pupil/student considerably higher in universities than in primary schools. Although tertiary education costs more per head, the highest proportion of total education spending is devoted to secondary education systems, as these teach a larger share of the total number of pupils/students.

There is an ongoing debate in many EU Member States as to how to increase or maintain funding for education, improve efficiency and promote equity – a challenge that has become harder in the context of the financial and economic crisis and, in particular, increased levels of public debt. The debate is not purely about the levels and source of finance, but also concerns proposals for reforms of education policies and systems and raises questions as to the development of labour force skills for the future, for the benefit of individuals and society. Possible approaches to funding include tuition fees, administrative or examination charges, balanced by the introduction of income-contingent grants or loans to try to stimulate enrolment rates in higher education, in particular among the less well-off members of society. Another potential fundraising source is partnerships between business and higher educational establishments.

Further Eurostat information


Main tables

Indicators on education finance (t_educ_finance)
Total public expenditure on education (tps00158)
Private expenditure on education as % of GDP (tps00068)
Public expenditure on education (tsdsc510)
Annual expenditure on public and private educational institutions per pupil/student (tps00067)
Annual expenditure on public and private educational institutions compared to GDP per capita (tps00069)


Education (educ)
Indicators on education finance (educ_finance)
Expenditure on education in current prices (educ_fiabs)
Expenditure on education in constant prices (educ_fiexpc)
Expenditure on education as % of GDP or public expenditure (educ_figdp)
Expenditure on public educational institutions (educ_fipubin)
Expenditure on public and private educational institutions (educ_fitotin)
Financial aid to students (educ_fiaid)
Funding of education (educ_fifunds)

Dedicated section

Methodology / Metadata

Source data for tables and graphs (MS Excel)

Other information

External links

See also