Most Italian students live at home, Finland has the oldest students and Germany the lowest proportion of female students, according to a report on the social and economic conditions of students in Europe.
Euro Student 2000 was commissioned by the German ministry of education and covers Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and the Republic of Ireland.
Participation rates in higher education range from 30 per cent in Austria, Belgium and Germany, to 67 per cent in Finland, which also has the second highest proportion of female students (60.4 per cent) after Ireland (60.7 per cent).
Ireland has the shortest formal course duration at 3.1 years for a first degree. In Italy, where a masters degree should take no more than four or five years, the actual length is, on average, seven-and-a-half years. Austria and Finland have the second longest course duration with an average of six-and-a-half years.
According to the report, knowledge of English is on the increase. German, French and Spanish also feature heavily but the level of proficiency usually does not match that of English.
A good knowledge of a foreign language increases international mobility: about a quarter of students fluent in a second language have spent some time abroad, either on language courses or studying at a foreign higher education establishment.
Humanities and the arts, then business and law, are the most popular choices for studying abroad. Within Europe, the UK is the preferred destination. Studying in the US or other non-EU countries often poses financial difficulties as students' grants and allowances do not cover the costs.