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EU countries struggle to meet Lisbon objectives

European education and training is unlikely to meet the targets set in the education-related part of the Lisbon Strategy. This is the overall finding of the European Commission’s 2007 report on progress towards the Lisbon objectives in the area of education and training. Like its predecessors, the 2007 report tries to measure Europe’s achievements by means of a large number of indicators, as well as the 'five education benchmarks' (quantitative targets) agreed by European education ministers in 2002.

There is little positive development with regard to four of the five benchmarks, referring to school drop-out (‘early school leavers’), numbers of graduates from upper secondary education, participation in lifelong learning, and literacy levels of 15-year olds. Only the higher-education-related benchmark of an increase of 15% of tertiary graduates (measured against year 2000 numbers) in the fields of mathematics, science and technology has already been reached now. However, this is almost entirely due to an increase in graduates from computer sciences. The report also points out that the number of graduates in competitor countries is growing much faster, with China having overtaken the EU already in 2004.

The report also stresses that Europe still invests too little in higher education. If it was to reach US funding levels, European per-student spending would need to double, or go up by 10 000 Euro. On student mobility into and out of EU countries, the document provides a battery of data, without – strangely – displaying trends over time. Interestingly, an attempt is made to measure the ‘quality’ of European higher education, by means of the rakings of Shanghai Jiao Tong University and the THES. The unsurprising result is that European universities score well among the top 500, but not nearly as well in the top 100.