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“Investment in human capital of key importance for EU competitiveness”, says Slovenian Finance Minister Bajuk

A conference on the ‘Quality of Tertiary Education and the Economic Policy Agenda’ is being organised today by the Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Slovenia in cooperation with Bruegel and the regional Centre of Excellence in Finance. In his opening address, Slovenian Finance Minister Dr Bajuk emphasised, “There are two main reasons that prompted us to organise this conference: first, the fact that investment in human capital is one of the key priorities of the Slovenian Presidency and, secondly, the fact that globalisation and ageing of populations represent key challenges to the sustainability of public finance.”

The Minister pointed out that the challenges of globalisation and population ageing can be addressed by a strategy that includes growth in productivity and employment, which in turn calls for the quality of education to be improved. Investment in human resources is also a crucial factor for growth, structural adjustment and social inclusion. Furthermore, the theme of the conference is a response to the 2007 annual review of the structural reform progress in the EU Member States, which indicated that it is precisely this area of human resource development in which efforts need to be stepped up in future. The EU strategy to enhance investment in human capital should encompass the whole education system and work on a life-long basis. Under that strategy, tertiary education as a decisive factor in innovative potential plays a particular role.

In terms of the quality of public finance, the Minister emphasised that the conference could clarify three issues related to the quality of education and, in particular, of tertiary education:

  • the contribution of education towards keeping the labour force in the labour market,
  • the impact of education quality on public revenue through increased productivity and reduced social transfers, and
  • ways to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of tertiary education spending.

Dr Bajuk also pointed out the importance of the conference in providing an opportunity to identify additional forms of cooperation at EU level, stating: “Today’s conference is thus a good opportunity to take stock of relative conditions of tertiary education in the EU and its contribution to growth and macroeconomic performance, as well as to discuss and exchange views on how to improve tertiary education standards and try to identify ways for the EU dimension to underpin national efforts.”

EU Member States invest a significantly smaller proportion of GDP in human resources compared with the United States: the USA invest approximately 7% of their GDP in education while, in the EU Member States, the average investment is close to 5.5%. However, the discrepancy in tertiary education expenditure is even more marked, with the USA setting aside 3% of GDP and EU countries, on average, a mere 1.4%. Considering that, in keeping with the Lisbon Strategy for growth and jobs, the EU Member States have committed themselves to increasing R&D expenditure to 3% of GDP, the tie-in between this target and tertiary education investment needs should be assessed.

In conclusion, Dr Bajuk stressed that a number of initiatives, such as the Bologna Process and exchange programmes (e.g. Erasmus), were under way in the area of research and education at EU level but that further progress could be made by increasing the mobility of students, teaching staff and researchers and by benchmarking the performance of universities. The idea of creating a European ranking system to benchmark universities, in the context of the Lisbon strategy, was also a suggestion from the EU Finance Ministers at the recent spring European Council.


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Date: 04.04.2008