Britain plunges down the world graduate league

According to the figures, Britain has fallen from third in the league table of developed nations in 2000 to 15th by 2008 -- the rate of students gaining degrees has plummeted, leaving the UK trailing the likes of Poland, Denmark, Portugal and Norway, the 'Daily Express' reported.

In 2000, 37 per cent of 18 to 21-year-olds in the UK gained degrees, nine per cent higher than the league average of 28 per cent. Only New Zealand, on 50 per cent, and Finland (41 per cent) were ahead. But by 2008, the average had risen to 38 per cent while the UK had slipped to 35 per cent.

The top three are now Finland on 63 percent with Iceland and Slovakia on 57 percent, according to the figures which come from a report, 'Education At A Glance', by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Andreas Schleicher, head of the OECD's indicators and analysis division, said: "For many years, the UK was very much at the forefront but now you do not see that competitive advantage."

The OECD report also said that "labour market demand for highly qualified workers has grown significantly" and countries with high graduation rates are "most likely to develop or maintain a highly skilled labour force".

Angel Gurria, OECD secretary general, added: "Good education increases employability. In countries hit early by the recession, people with low levels of education had more difficulties finding and keeping a job."

The report said competition is intensifying among countries as governments realise the importance of quality in their education systems to ensure longterm growth.

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