Most Educated Countries in the World
More people around the globe are attending college than ever before.
According to a 2017 UNESCO report, "the number of students in higher education institutions more than doubled" in recent years, increasing from 100 million in 2000 to 207 million in 2014. During that time, the global higher education gross enrollment ratio rose to 34 percent, up from 19 percent.
But not every country has contributed to this rise in higher education equally. These are the countries with the most educated populations.
46. South Africa
Percent of population age 25-64 with tertiary education: 7.2
Total population: 59.3 million
Note: Rankings are based on tertiary education, or highest level of education completed. Source is 2018 data is from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, unless otherwise noted.
Bottom Line: South Africa
About 7 percent of the 59 million people in South Africa have an advanced education.
The African nation is still dealing with the residual effects of apartheid, but South Africa's colleges and universities are on the rise.
The University of Cape Town, Stellenbosch University and the University of Kwazulu-Natal are just a few schools for students to consider in South Africa.
Percent of population age 25-64 with tertiary education (2010): 9.68
Total population: 1.44 billion
Bottom Line: China
According to 2010 data — the most recent data available on China — a bit less than 10 percent of this Asian county's massive 1.44 billion people have an upper education.
That's still a lot of people (144 million), but that also means there are seas of people without an advanced education.
All Chinese people are required to complete school through Grade 9, or junior middle school.
Percent of population age 25-64 with tertiary education (2011): 10.60
Total population: 1.38 billion
Bottom Line: India
About 10 percent of India's 1.38 billion people get an advanced education, and we're guessing many of India's most-educated people came from the private school system.
India has a massive number of private schools, and the overwhelming majority of India's students looking to complete an advanced degree do so in other countries.
Percent of population age 25-64 with tertiary education (2017): 11.86
Total population: 273.5 million
Bottom Line: Indonesia
The island nation of Indonesia is one of the fourth-most populous countries in the world, with 17,000 islands and 273.5 million people. Of its denizens, about 12 percent have a higher education, which isn't great.
The University of Indonesia, established in 1849, is the country's oldest university and ranked at a joint 277 in the World University Rankings.
As such, it's the country's best college.
Percent of population age 25-64 with tertiary education (2017): 17.21
Total population: 212.6 million
About 17 percent of Brazillians have a higher education. Brazil has 127 universities, with about half being private and half being public.
Higher education in Brazil started in the 1920s and were regulated by the government. College education in Brazil has a short and storied history, as they were re-structured in the 1960s to be only for the elite.
The best college in Brazil is the University de Sao Paulo, which ranked in 121st place in the 2018 World University Rankings.
Bottom Line: Brazil
About 17 percent of Brazilians have a higher education. Brazil has 127 universities, with about half being private and half being public.
Higher education in Brazil started in the 1920s and was regulated by the government. College education in Brazil has a short and storied history, as it waas restructured in the 1960s to be only for the elite.
The best college in Brazil is the University de Sao Paulo, which ranked in 121st place in the 2018 World University Rankings.
Percent of population age 25-64 with tertiary education: 18
Total population: 128.9 million
Bottom Line: Mexico
Nearly 18 percent of this North American country's 129 million people have an advanced education.
While Cancún is famous for hosting students from the United States during spring break, Mexico as a whole has at least 15 schools of higher education.
In addition to the beautiful scenery, the country offers students various research opportunities via university partnerships.
Percent of population age 25-64 with tertiary education: 19.3
Total population: 60.5 million
Bottom Line: Italy
Only 19 percent of Italy's 60 million people pursue higher learning.
With so much beauty in the European country, it's not shocking that most Italians aren't worrying about college. Between Rome, Milan, Venice and Florence, you could live a fascinating life without pesky classes.
But a country famous for art, ancient ruins, fashion and business offers a lot for students to explore outside of the classroom.
Percent of population age 25-64 with tertiary education: 20.8
Total population: 84.3 million
Bottom Line: Turkey
About 21 percent of Turkey's 84 million people continue their education after secondary school.
Turkey has more than 40 schools for higher education for students, and the country that straddles eastern Europe and western Asia is rich in history and culture.
Students looking to study art should consider the country's capital, Ankara.
38. Costa Rica
Percent of population age 25-64 with tertiary education: 22.6
Total population: 5.1 million
Bottom Line: Costa Rica
About 22 percent of Costa Rica's 5 million people get an advanced education.
Despite the rugged landscape of Costa Rica, the country still has plenty to offer students in the form of higher education, including at least 13 schools.
Outside of the classroom, the heavily rainforested Central American country is known for its wildlife, volcanoes, beaches and jungle.
Percent of population age 25-64 with tertiary education: 23.4
Total population: 50.9 million
Bottom Line: Colombia
About 23 percent of the 50.9 million people in this South American country continue their education after secondary schooling.
With easy access to Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador and Panama, Colombia offers a lot to students who like to travel while in college.
There are more than 50 universities in Colombia, but students who are looking for a lively city atmosphere should check out the colleges in Bogotá.
36. Saudi Arabia
Percent of population age 25-64 with tertiary education (2016): 23.62
Total population: 34.8 million
Bottom Line: Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia spends almost 9 percent of its GDP on education.
Islam is a founding principal of education in Saudi Arabia, and the country is one of the best-educated ones in the Arab world. Some of its universities are very highly rated, too.
King Abdulaziz University and King Saud University are both highly ranked for their programs in mechanical engineering and pharmacy fields.
35. Czech Republic
Percent of population age 25-64 with tertiary education: 24.3
Total population: 10.7 million
Bottom Line: Czech Republic
About 24 percent of the 10.7 million people in this European country have a tertiary education.
The Czech Republic's capital city, Prague, can be enough of a draw for students who are looking for a bit of beauty alongside their college education. Students from the United States who speak Czech can study for free, and those who prefer their classes in English only need to pay about $1,100 a semester.
The country has more than 70 universities.
34. Slovak Republic
Percent of population age 25-64 with tertiary education: 24.6
Total population: 5.46 million
Bottom Line: Slovak Republic
Nearly 25 percent of the 5.4 million people in this central European country have an advanced education.
The Slovak Republic, aka Slovakia, is surrounded by Poland, Ukraine, Hungary, Austria and the Czech Republic.
Students who are European Union citizens can study for free. International students who don't have EU citizenship pay $2,500 to $6,500 in tuition per year.
Percent of population age 25-64 with tertiary education: 25
Total population: 10.2 million
Bottom Line: Portugal
A quarter of the 10 million people in this European get an education beyond secondary schools.
If you can pry yourself away from Portugal's stunning beaches and delicious foods, you'll find some great colleges.
There are at least 14 schools to choose from, but students need to pay more in tuition than they would in other parts of Europe.
Percent of population age 25-64 with tertiary education: 25.1
Total population: 9.66 million
Bottom Line: Hungary
About 25 percent of Hungary's 9.6 million people get a tertiary education.
Nightlife, music festivals and 1,500 thermal water springs make Hungary a unique place to study. There are affordable degree programs in medicine, psychology, engineering and business.
Plus, you can access Austria, Germany, the Czech Republic and Slovakia via trains in the country's capital and largest city, Budapest.
Percent of population age 25-64 with tertiary education (2017): 25.17
Total population: 19.1 million
Bottom Line: Chile
A quarter of Chile's population has a higher education, which is quite good. The nation spends roughly $13 billion on education, or about 21 percent of its GDP on education.
There are 61 colleges in Chile, of which 25 are public. Its highest-ranked university, according to U.S. News and World Report, is the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, which was founded in 1888 and has a stellar law and education program.
Percent of population age 25-64 with tertiary education: 29.1
Total population: 83.8 million
Bottom Line: Germany
Nearly 30 percent of the nearly 84 million people in this European country have a tertiary education.
Germany has several cities for students, including Berlin, Munich and Frankfurt. In Frankfurt, you'll find skyscrapers and banks, while beer halls and Oktoberfest make Munich famous. Art and nightlife are the best to experience in Berlin.
Best of all, school is free, even for international students.
Percent of population age 25-64 with tertiary education: 30.9
Total population: 37.85 million
Botton Line: Poland
Almost 31 percent of the nearly 38 million people in this European country keep studying after secondary school.
Poland offers access to higher education to its students for free if they're citizens. If not, one can take the same entrance exams as Polish students and courses in Polish to avoid paying tuition.
Percent of population age 25-64 with tertiary education: 31.7
Total population: 10.4 million
Bottom Line: Greece
Nearly 31 percent of the 10 million people in this European country get an advanced education.
You can go to the birthplace of democracy and politics to study for free to little money. Students who are part of the EU can attend public universities for free but have to pay some fees for a master's degree.
Other international students have to pay between 1,500 and 9,000 euros a year (which includes textbooks) depending on the degree. Between the beautiful beaches, healthy food and history, it's no surprise that Greece is a top draw for international students.
Percent of population age 25-64 with tertiary education: 32.5
Total population: 2.1 million
Bottom Line: Slovenia
About 32 percent of the 2 million people in this European country have an advanced education. Slovenia sits between Italy and Croatia and is a beautiful country that provides affordable education for students from abroad.
Slovenia's leading university, the University of Ljubljana, is one of the largest in the world. EU residents pay nearly no tuition or fees, while Americans have about 150 English programs to choose from with different price points.
Percent of population age 25-64 with tertiary education: 32.7
Total population: 9 million
Bottom Line: Austria
About 32 percent of the 9 million people in this European country have advanced educational training.
Thanks to Austria, we have Mozart, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Wolfgang Puck. More than 60 percent of the country consists of the Austrian Alps, which are a great place to unwind after a long day of studying.
The country provides free education to all students and asks that people only pay small fees per semester.
Percent of population age 25-64 with tertiary education: 33.9
Total population: 1.89 million
Bottom Line: Latvia
Nearly 34 percent of the almost 2 million people in the European country get a tertiary education.
Latvia isn't the most famous European country, but the hidden gem draws visitors from all over, which is why you'll hear Latvian, Russian, German and English spoken here.
Head to the capital city, Riga, and you'll find most of Latvia's universities, including the nearly 100-year-old University of Latvia.
Percent of population age 25-64 with tertiary education: 35.7
Total population: 45.2 million
Bottom Line: Argentina
Nearly 36 percent of the 45 million people in the South American country have advanced training.
The government highly subsidizes public universities in Argentina. About 90 percent of students in the country attend a public college since tuition is nearly free regardless of income or academic achievements.
Percent of population age 25-64 with tertiary education: 36.9
Total population: 65.3 million
Bottom Line: France
Nearly 37 percent of the 65 million people in France have an advanced education.
Cheese and wine aren't the only benefits of living in this European country. If you are a citizen of France, Switzerland or the European Economic Area, you only have to pay some small fees to attend college at a public university in the country.
Percent of population age 25-64 with tertiary education: 37.25
Total population: 46.7 million
Bottom Line: Spain
About 37 percent of the 46 million people in this European country have an advanced education.
In Spain, students from the European Union can study for free by attending a Spanish university.
But the undergraduate tuition for other students isn't expensive, either. It costs about 680 to 1,280 euros a year.
Percent of population age 25-64 with tertiary education: 38.06
Total population: 5.8 million people
Bottom Line: Denmark
Almost 6 million people reside in Denmark.
Despite Danish being the native language, most residents speak English very well and sometimes another language, too.
Many of the country's universities are located in the capital of Copenhagen, but Aarhus, Odense and Aalborg are also home to excellent schools.
Percent of population age 25-64 with tertiary education: 38.34
Total population: 17.1 million
Bottom Line: Netherlands
Nearly 40 percent of the 17 million people who call the Netherlands home have an advanced education.
The northwestern European country is famous for canals, tulip fields, windmills and cycling routes.
Amsterdam, the country's capital and most famous city, has many universities. Other top colleges are in Utrecht and Rotterdam.
19. New Zealand
Percent of population age 25-64 with tertiary education: 39.29
Total population: 4.8 million
Bottom Line: New Zealand
About 5 million people call the two islands that make up the country of New Zealand home. It's known for sweeping mountains, massive glaciers, hot springs and golden-sand beaches.
New Zealand's capital is Wellington, and you'll find universities there. But Auckland, Dunedin and Christchurch are also known for their schools.
Some of the top master's programs in the country are business and management studies, social sciences and engineering.
Percent of population age 25-64 with tertiary education: 40.64
Total population: 11.6 million
Bottom Line: Belgium
Belgium is known for all the best things: chocolate, waffles, fries and beer.
It also has regions with individual languages, including Dutch-speaking Flanders in the north and French-speaking Wallonia to the south. Then there is a German-speaking community in the east.
Top colleges and universities can be found in Brussels, Leuven, Ghent and Antwerp.
Percent of population age 25-64 with tertiary education: 41.13
Total population: 1.3 million
Bottom Line: Estonia
The Eastern European nation’s capital, Tallinn, has several universities and colleges. But students can find one of the top-ranked institutions in Tartu, Estonia.
"Ranked in the top 1.2 percent of the best universities in the world, the University of Tartu is a prestigious public research university," according to Study Portals. "UT has 13,000 students, including 1,800 international students from 105 countries."
Percent of population age 25-64 with tertiary education: 41.65
Total population: 2.7 million
Bottom Line: Lithuania
The southernmost of Europe’s Baltic states borders Poland, Latvia and Belarus.
Some of the country’s best universities are in Vilnius, Kaunas and Klaipeda.
Tuition for public university programs is state-subsidized for Lithuanian citizens.
Percent of population age 25-64 with tertiary education: 43.27
Total population: 10.1 million
Bottom Line: Sweden
The 10 million folks who call the country home emphasize computer science, business, engineering and biotechnology.
If you have a passport from a country in the EU, you can study for free in Sweden.
But even students outside of that don't pay that much in tuition: 8,000-19,000 euros a year.
Percent of population age 25-64 with tertiary education: 43.58
Total population: 5.4 million
Bottom Line: Norway
The Scandinavian country is famous for its natural beauty, including coastal fjords and glaciers, and its capital, Oslo, is home to several universities.
Norway is "consistently ranked by the UN as having the highest standard of living in the world based largely on average levels of education and income," according to Study Portals. "Higher studies in Norway are some of the best in Europe."
Percent of population age 25-64 with tertiary education: 43.74
Total population: 8.6 million
Bottom Line: Switzerland
Switzerland is famous for its watches, chocolate, ski resorts and hiking trails, but the Central European country is also home to several excellent universities and colleges.
With banking and finance being two of the primary industries in Switzerland, it makes sense that many citizens would have advanced education.
Zurich, Geneva, Bern and Lausanne all have noteworthy universities.
Percent of population age 25-64 with tertiary education: 43.75
Total population: 341,000
Bottom Line: Iceland
The island nation is known worldwide for its dramatic landscape of volcanoes, waterfalls, hot springs and lava fields. But the country's citizens are more than nature lovers. They’re also highly educated.
Most of the population, which is only about 340,000 people, live in the capital Reykjavik. One of the country's largest universities is also there: the University of Iceland. The main selling point is that the school doesn't charge any fees for tuition. Students from North America do have to pay an annual registration fee of $600, though.
It is worth noting that none of the public colleges in Iceland charge tuition to American students.
Percent of population age 25-64 with tertiary education: 43.89
Total population: 626,000
Bottom Line: Luxembourg
Belgium, France and Germany surround the mostly rural country of Luxembourg. Most of the country's colleges and universities are in the capital, Luxembourg City. Most of the schools focus on business, but there are also programs for social work and law.
The country is known for its generous tax breaks, which is why business is the most popular program of study in Luxembourg. The Jack Welch College of Business at Sacred Heart University Luxembourg is one of the more well-known programs. The 16-month MBA includes a paid internship that runs from six to nine months.
There are also colleges for social work and law.
Percent of population age 25-64 with tertiary education: 45.19
Total population: 5.5 million
Bottom Line: Finland
The European nation borders Sweden, Norway and Russia, and ranks above all three in terms of most educated citizens.
Finland's capital, Helsinki, is home to some great universities, but students can find great options in Turku and Jyvaskyla, among other cities.
When folks aren't working on their education, they can see the Northern Lights in Finland's Arctic Lapland province.
Percent of population age 25-64 with tertiary education: 45.73
Total population: 25.5 million
Bottom Line: Australia
Almost 50 percent of Australians have a tertiary education. Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide are all major cities and coastal.
Melbourne is considered the cultural heart of Australia, so students won't get bored in this city, which is known for its museums, restaurants, cafés, live music and nightlife.
The country's total gross domestic product is about $1.69 trillion. About 70 percent of that comes from jobs in the service industry. While lots of those jobs don't require an advanced degree, top-tier positions will likely be filled with college graduates.
Additional industries with a higher need for college degrees include health care, tourism, media and entertainment.
8. United Kingdom
Percent of population age 25-64 with tertiary education: 45.78
Total population: 67.9 million
Bottom Line: United Kingdom
England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland make up the United Kingdom, which is the birthplace of Shakespeare. Of course, it would be known for a well-read population.
London is famous for its colleges and global influence. But the country is also home to centuries-old universities Oxford and Cambridge.
Percent of population age 25-64 with tertiary education: 46.94
Total population: 4.9 million
Bottom Line: Ireland
The Emerald Isle has been long famous for its writers.
Some of the best colleges in the country include Trinity College Dublin, Royal College of Surgeons, University College Dublin and the National University of Ireland, Galway.
Limerick, Cork and Galway are known for their universities as much as the nation's capital of Dublin.
6. United States
Percent of population age 25-64 with tertiary education: 47.43
Total population: 331 million
Bottom Line: United States
While more Americans are going to college than ever before, as a country, the U.S. tops out at No. 4 on this list.
The United States, however, dominates the rankings of the best colleges in the world.
Eight of the 10 top universities across the world are in America, according to U.S. News & World Report rankings.
5. South Korea
Percent of population age 25-64 with tertiary education: 49.01
Total population: 51.3 million
Bottom Line: South Korea
South Korea is on the southern half of the Korean Peninsula and shares one of the most heavily militarized borders with North Korea.
South Korea's country's capital, Seoul, is home to about 10 million people and many of the country's top universities.
But Daegu, Chuncheon, Cheonan and Gyeongsan are known for their colleges and study abroad programs.
Percent of population age 25-64 with tertiary education (2017): 50.92
Total population: 8.66 million
Bottom Line: Israel
There's no doubt that Israel is highly educated, and its education system is quite different than what we are used to in the U.S.
Schools in the lower school system in Israel are divided by faith, and weapon training is common (military service is compulsory in Israel).
According to U.S. News and World Report, the best university in Israel is the Weizmann Institute of Science, which ranked it as the 99th-best global university in the entire world.
Percent of population age 25-64 with tertiary education: 51.93
Total population: 126.5 million
Bottom Line: Japan
Just a bit over half of the adult population in Japan has the highest level of education.
The island nation sits in the Pacific Ocean, and is known for its dense cities.
One such city, Tokyo, is home to hundreds of colleges and universities. Japan's highest-ranked institution, the University of Tokyo, is here.
Percent of population age 25-64 with tertiary education (2017): 56.70
Total population: 146 million
Bottom Line: Russia
In Russia, government educates you. No, seriously, it's a socialist country.
According to 2017 figures from the OECD, almost 57 percent of Russians have an advanced education. It spent roughly 3.7 percent of its $1.66 trillion on education in 2018 and has 766 universities located throughout its sprawling landmass.
Russia's highest-rated university is Moscow State University, which was ranked as the 266th-best college in the world by U.S. News and World Report. It has incredible programs in physics, space science, mathematics and chemistry.
Percent of population age 25-64 with tertiary education: 57.89
Total population: 37.7 million
Bottom Line: Canada
Nearly 60 percent of Canada’s population has completed the highest level of education.
The major cities in Canada include Toronto, Vancouver, Montréal, Québec City and the capital, Ottawa. Even though Canada has many cities, it's also home to huge swaths of wilderness that include the Canadian Rocky Mountains and Niagara Falls.
Degrees in engineering, business administration, management sciences and finance are among the top 10 for students.
Related: Most Educated States in the U.S.