University students in Romania at 20-year low

The number of students attending university in Romania has hit a historic low, according to the National Statistical Institute. The two factors behind the slide are demographic decline and large outflows of students to other countries.

Only 377,370 university students were recorded in Romania at the beginning of the 2018-2019 academic year, which is the lowest number recorded in the past twenty years, reports the edupedu.ro portal referring to the National Statistical Institute’s (Institutul Național de Statistică, INS) data. This means that compared to 2010, when there were 761,541 students attending university, the number of students dropped to less than half that figure. Already in 2017-2018, only 388,364 students participated in BA programs, but for the 2018-2019 period their number hit a new low.

Romanian Graph Chart
Number of students between 2010-2019 in the Romanian higher education system (Source: INS)

Still, not all institutions are witnessing such a decrease in attendance. The Hungarian vice-rector of Babeș–Bolyai University (BBTE), Anna Soós, stated to transindex.ro that this decline in the number of students is not affecting them. In fact, they are experiencing the exact opposite – an increase in students:

“This trend does not apply to our institution, which means that in other universities the rate of decline is even higher. In our case, recent years’ numbers have generally been showing an increasing trend. This year, for example, the number of freshmen increased by 1.02%. This is valid both for the whole university and for the Hungarian faculty as well.”

In the 2018-2019 school year, altogether 402,696 university students were recorded in Romania, out of which 25,326 were foreigners. During this period, a total of 533,749 students (including masters, doctoral, and postdoctoral courses) were studying in the Romanian higher education system.

Classes for this year started on Monday in 406 state-owned and 148 private higher-education institutions all over Romania. Data show that besides Bucharest there are 36 counties in the country where a university or collage is operating. The only counties where no higher education institution exists are Botoșani, Giurgiu, Ialomiţa, Tulcea, and Vaslui.

Distribution of students by region
Distribution of students by region (Source: edupedu.ro)

The highest number of students can be found in the capital of Bucharest, while the second most popular area among students is the North-West region, where Kolozsvár/Cluj-Napoca is the most significant university center. The North-East region, home to the Jászvásár/Iași center, is in third place.

An OECD study – ordered by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – points out that the 20-year low in university attendance is primarily the result of large outflows of students. It also highlights that most young emigrants end up doing unskilled work abroad even though half of these emigrants hold a university (or college) degree. A massive 77% of those who emigrated to Canada have higher-education qualifications. For those who left to the US, 54% hold such degrees. On the other hand, only 17% of emigrants who went to Germany and Spain have diplomas, and out of those who went to Italy, this ratio is only 7%.

Title image: Graduating students at the Babeș–Bolyai University

Author: Attila Szoó