While the US and the UK may share dominant placement when it comes to international rankings for higher education degrees, programs and institutions, the similarity often ends there. From the cost of higher education to key performance indicators like dropout rates and employment outcomes, these two world powers have each charted their own unique paths.
Enrollment Statistics in the UK and US
Roughly 2.28 million students are enrolled in higher education any given year, representing approximately 3.5 percent of the total population. In contrast, about 20.4 million students are enrolled in US colleges and universities each year. This represents an uptick from the 5.1 million students enrolled in higher education in the year 2000.
According to recent data, about 85 percent of college-age adults are enrolled in a tertiary education program in the US each year, while roughly 56 percent of college-age adults are enrolled each year in the UK.
Total higher education degree rates in the UK and US are mostly in line with one another, with 42 percent of adults ages 25-64 old holding degrees in the UK, while 44 percent of adults in the same range hold a degree in the US.
In the United States, the graduation rate at four-year institutions sits at 88 percent, which means the dropout rate is roughly 22 percent. In the U.K., the dropout rate is lower, sitting at about 6.2 percent.
Tertiary Education Impacts on Career
In the United States, a tertiary degree is increasingly viewed as a requirement for a productive and lucrative career. Indeed, the difference between yearly earnings for college graduates and high school graduates is stark. The average worker holding at least a bachelor’s degree earns $1,156 weekly (£979.62), while a worker with only a high school secondary degree earns an average of $692 (£586.42) each week.
Employment rates for tertiary graduates have taken a big hit in both the US and UK in recent years, largely due to very soft employment markets following the 2008 financial crisis. Historical employment rates for graduates have hovered around 95 to 97 percent in both countries, but rates for every year since 2010 have been closer to 92 to 96 percent, with wide fluctuations from year to year.