As part of Europe’s strategy for jobs and growth, the European Commission has presented a reform strategy to boost graduate numbers, improve teaching quality and maximise what higher education can do to help the EU economy emerge stronger from the crisis. The strategy identifies priority areas where EU countries need to do more to achieve shared education objectives and sets out how the European Union can support their modernisation policies.
The Commission’s reform strategy has been shaped by analyses, studies and consultations with higher education institutions, teachers, researchers, students, businesses, trade unions, governments and international bodies. The Communication is also accompanied by a Commission staff paper that examines recent developments in European higher education systems.
EU-level initiatives will include a multi-dimensional university ranking which will better inform students about the courses which are best for them and an ‘Erasmus for Masters’ loan guarantee scheme for students taking a full degree course abroad.
Speaking at the launch of the strategy, the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, Androulla Vassiliou, said: “Higher education is a powerful driver of economic growth and opens doors to better living standards and opportunities for people. It is also the best insurance against unemployment. Too many graduates struggle to find jobs or quality work. We need to reform higher education – and vocational education – so that we equip our young people with the skills they need to reach their potential in terms of development and employability.”
Priority areas in which further reforms are needed include:
• Increasing the number of graduates, attracting a broader cross-section of society into higher education, and reducing the numbers who drop out without completing their courses
• Improving the quality and relevance of higher education, so curricula meet the needs of individuals, the labour market and the careers of the future, as well as stimulating and rewarding excellence in teaching and research
• Providing more opportunities for students to gain additional skills through study or training abroad, and to encourage cross-border co-operation to boost higher education performance
• Training more researchers to prepare the ground for the industries of tomorrow
• Strengthening the links between education, research and business to promote excellence and innovation
• Ensuring that funding is efficient – freeing up higher education governance and investing in quality education to match labour market needs
In July, the Commission launched its proposals for the next multiannual EU budget (2014-2020) which include substantial increases for education, training and youth (+73%), and for research (+46%), in recognition of their pivotal role in supporting growth. The reform agenda for modernising higher education will guide the spending priorities of EU programmes in support of reforms.
For more information see:
1) Communication: EU strategy for modernising higher education: http://ec.europa.eu/education/higher-education/doc/com0911_en.pdf
2) Statistics – Commission Staff Working Paper on recent developments in European higher education systems: http://ec.europa.eu/education/higher-education/doc/wp0911_en.pdf
3) Modernising higher education – facts and figures: http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=MEMO/11/613&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en
4) An EU strategy for modernising higher education-Questions and Answers: http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=MEMO/11/615&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en