The EU 2020 Agenda has taken an important step forward by setting the target for tertiary graduation rates at an ambitious 40%. This paper finds that many European countries, however, including the largest economy – Germany – will not be able to meet this target. Moreover, the crucial topic of educational quality is not even touched upon. Comparing the EU with China in total numbers, the authors find that China’s education system already produces the same number of graduates with tertiary education as the whole EU15. Given the large output of graduates, which is the key to productive spending on R&D, this means that China is likely to soon become a growing power in innovation. Initially the country is expected to concentrate on incremental innovation, with radical innovation to come only later and it is here, the authors warn, that the quality of the university system might represent a major obstacle in the Chinese government’s efforts to close the gap with the US and the EU15 in terms of innovation potential.
Felix Roth is a CEPS Research Fellow and Anna-Elisabeth Thum is a Research Assistant at CEPS.