Higher education is tertiary education leading to award of an academic degree. Higher education, also called post-secondary education, third-level or tertiary education, is an optional final stage of formal learning that occurs after completion of secondary education. It represents levels 6, 7 and 8 of the 2011 version of the International Standard Classification of Education structure. Tertiary education at a non-degree level is sometimes referred to as further education or continuing education as distinct from higher education. The right of access to higher education is mentioned in a number of international human rights instruments. The UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 1966 declares, in Article 13, that higher education shall be made equally accessible to all, on the basis of capacity, by every appropriate means, and in particular by the progressive introduction of free education. In Europe, Article 2 of the First Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights, adopted in 1950, obliges all signatory parties to guarantee the right to education. Since World War II, developed and many developing countries have increased the participation of the age group who mostly studies higher education from the elite rate, of up to 15 per cent, to the mass rate of 16 to 50 per cent. In many developed countries, participation in higher education has continued to increase towards universal or, what Trow later called, open access, where over half of the relevant age group participate in higher education. Higher education is important to national economies, both as an industry, in its own right, and as a source of trained and educated personnel for the rest of the economy. College educated workers have commanded a measurable wage premium and are much less likely to become unemployed than less educated workers.
Los términos educación superior, enseñanza superior, estudios superiores, educación profesional y educación terciaria aluden a la última etapa del proceso de aprendizaje académico, es decir, a todas las trayectorias formativas post-secundarias que cada país contempla en su sistema. Se imparte en las universidades, en las academias superiores o en las instituciones de , entre otros. Es un paso posterior a la educación secundaria, y es común, aunque no imprescindible, que exista una selección de acceso a las instituciones de enseñanza superior basada en el rendimiento escolar durante la etapa secundaria o en un examen de acceso a la universidad. Según el país, este examen puede ser de ámbito estatal, local o propio de cada universidad.