Stay in the loop! Subscribe to our mailing list

Higher education reform in Europe: no time to sit back

On 25 November, the European Commission published its 2009 report on progress towards the Lisbon objectives in education and training as well as the draft bi-annual progress report on the implementation of the "Education and Training 2010" work programme. The report shows that while some progress in reforming the education systems of Europe has been made, the overall progress has been too slow, as in the previous couple of years: unsurprisingly, the Commission warns that four out of the five education and training objectives set for 2010 will not be reached. Indeed, only the target in the increase of maths, science and technology graduates has been reached, while the benchmark on the reading ability of 15 year-olds has even deteriorated since 2000. On the positive side, however, the number of working age adults (25 – 64) with low educational attainment has fallen by more than one million each year since 2000; (early) language learning in schools has improved; and the mobility of students in tertiary education has increased by more than 50 percent since 2000. The overall data hide significant differences between the high and low performers, though according to the report, the divide between the two groups is decreasing.

The draft 2010 progress report on the implementation of "Education and Training 2010" agenda, to be adopted jointly by the European Council and the Commission, assesses overall progress and sets out priorities for the future. The focus of this year’s report is on the provision of key competences at all levels of education and training. Some of the remaining challenges include, among others, the implementation of lifelong learning, increasing mobility, and making education and training more open and relevant to the needs of the labour market and society. While the investment per student has increased since 2000 at all educational levels, the growth has been slower in tertiary education than elsewhere. The EU member states would need to invest on average around EUR 10 000 more per student each year to reach the levels of the US. The joint report will be presented to the Education Council on 26 November 2009 and should be formally adopted by the same body in February 2010. The key messages will feed into the new strategy for growth to be discussed by the Spring European Council 2010.

For the EU 2020 Strategy, the follow-up of the Education and Training 2010 work programme, the European Commission has just launched a public consultation. Accompanying background documents and additional information is available at It is possible to contribute to the Commission directly, which has set up a designated e-mail account at

European Commission
Joint progress report “Key Competencies for a Changing World”

Staff working paper “Progress towards the Lisbon objectives in education and training”