5. A Knowledge-based Europe

5.4 Europe’s got talent

Europe’s diversity, freedom of movement of people and cooperation between Member States is potentially an unrivalled source of innovation. The race for global talent calls for the upgrade of education systems in Europe. 

The pools of talent outside Europe are growing.

Recently, in terms of the absolute number of tertiary students, the EU and the United States have shown similar levels of participation in tertiary education.

Over the last decade, the steep growth in China and India has meant a growing pool of well-educated individuals coming from these emerging economies.

While the EU had 16% of the world’s tertiary student population at the beginning of the millennium, the share dropped to 9% in 2017 due to a larger number of students among global competitors.

European universities educate few students coming from outside Europe.

As in the United States, the European student population has been becoming progressively more international, showing to some extent that European universities are attractive on the global stage.

Still, Member States could better attract talents outside of Europe to catch up with the levels observed in the United States’ higher education system.

There are more STEM students and the scope of their studies is getting broader.

The share of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) students in the EU has increased since 2007, with strong improvements in many central and eastern European countries.

Between 2007 and 2017, the share of STEM students grew from 22 % to 28 %, with particularly high shares in Germany, Greece, Finland, Estonia, Romania and Portugal.

With more attention being given to the role of design in product marketing and innovation, students of arts and design are becoming an important asset in modern economies as they are contributing to the emergence of "creative industries".

Source: DG Research and Innovation, Chief Economist - R&I Strategy & Foresight Unit based on Eurostat (online data code: educ_uoe_grad01) and UNESCO data
Notes: KR, US, JP, IS, IL: 2016. LU, IL: 2011; JP: 2013.
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Source: DG Research and Innovation, Chief Economist - R&I Strategy & Foresight Unit based on Eurostat (online data code: educ_uoe_enrt03)
Notes: SI: 2016. EU estimated and does not include IT and NL. EU: 2016. IT, NL: 2014.
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Source: Eurostat (online data code: edat_lfse_03)
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6. The way forward: 11 policy recommendations