The UK has fewer people educated to A-level standards than countries such as Lithuania, Slovakia and Estonia, a union claimed on Wednesday.
Figures from the European Commission's Eurostat website place the UK 19th out of 33 countries in terms of the proportion of people (aged 25-64) who have at least an upper secondary education - equivalent to A-levels, the Universities and College Union (UCU) claim.
According to the UCU's interpretation of the data, the could fall further behind the rest of Europe if access to education becomes harder.
The statistics suggest that in 2010, 76.1% of UK people were educated to this level, compared to Lithuania (92%), the Czech Republic (91.9%), Slovakia (91%) and Estonia (89.2%) - the nations at the top of the table.
UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: "The UK should be at the top of the table when it comes to education. We pride ourselves on being world leaders in many areas and must not settle for mid-table obscurity.
"Even more worrying is the very real possibility that we will slide further down the table as people find it harder to access education following price hikes and restrictions on places."