The Europe 2020 strategy relies to a large extent on efforts made at country level, to which European instruments can contribute. Progress towards a European Innovation Union is therefore closely linked to the performance of Member States in mobilising reforms of R&I (Research and Innovation) systems, investing in knowledge and making structural changes towards more knowledgeintensive economies.
The number of school students and higher education students in EU - Europe (28) decreased from 98.318.300 in 2005 to 93.900.800 in 2006. The countries with the highest numbers of school students and higher education students were Germany (14.393.500), United Kingdom (12.735.800) and France (12.320.500). The countries with lowest numbers of school students included Cyprus(146.000), Malta (78.100) and Luxemburg (77.100). These numbers include the total number of persons who were enrolled in the regular education system in each country. It covers all levels of education from primary education to postgraduate studies.
In most European countries fulltime compulsory education finishes at the age of 15 or 16 and lasts nine or ten years. Compulsory education is significantly higher in Hungary (13 years),the United Kingdom and the Netherlands (both 12 years). Since 2000 several European countries have begun (or have completed) a process of restructuring their educational system. As a result compulsory education has been extended in Ireland, Italy, Cyprus, Slovakia and Poland by one year and two years in Latvia, Hungary and Romania. In some countries (such asGermany) young people must continue education or training (for example in the dual system of apprenticeship) until the age of 18. This participation need not be fulltime (typically: apprenticeship system) and it may not involve school attendance at all (for example, youth training projects with integrated learning and working).
To meet expectations, higher education has to respond to some major challenges: it must achieve a level of quality that stands the test of international comparison, improve governance and accountability, increase its funding and diversify its sources of funding. These major aims presuppose changes in higher education that have to be among the top priorities on the policy agenda and in the national strategies of European countries.
The need for longer-term planning and development of strategies for higher education is widely recognised across Europe. The majority of countries involved in this study are implementing or are in the process of introducing specific policy documents that outline national strategic priorities for ensuring the financial sustainability of the higher education sector.
At the European Union level, the Communication of 10 May 2006 urged Member States to press on with the modernisation of Europe’s universities with the aim of increasing universities’ contribution to the Lisbon Agenda for more growth and for more and better jobs. Member States are urged to liberate the EU’s substantial reservoir of knowledge, talent and energy with immediate, in-depth and co-ordinated change: from the way higher education systems are regulated and managed to the ways universities are governed.