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Upgrade for EU's higher education strategy

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Upgrade for EU's higher education strategy

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(BRUSSELS) - The Commission adopted new initiatives on school and higher education Tuesday, including a 'graduate tracking' proposal to help states gather information on what graduates do after their studies.

The overall aim is to help Member States provide high quality and inclusive education for all young people through a series of concrete actions, so they acquire the knowledge and skills needed to participate fully in society, are able to respond to new opportunities and challenges opened up by for instance globalisation and technological change, and can tailor their education to the needs of the labour market.

"We need high-quality education systems throughout the EU," said Education Commissioner Tibor Navracsics: "The initiatives outlined today and ongoing EU support will help Member States and education providers take the steps needed to improve opportunities for all young people in Europe, helping to build fair and resilient societies."

The Commission says action is needed "to improve the quality and performance of education systems in Europe, so they can keep up with societal change and serve all children and young people."

Decisions in the education area are taken at national and regional level, but the Commission supports EU Member States while respecting the principle of subsidiarity.

With regard to schools, the EU executive says evidence from Member States finds three areas where action is needed and where EU support can help address important challenges:

  • Raising the quality and inclusiveness of schools;
  • Supporting excellent teachers and school leaders;
  • Improving the governance of school education systems.

The Commission is proposing to complement actions taken by Member States in these three areas by supporting mutual learning, strengthening the evidence for what works in education and assisting national reforms for Member States that so wish.

Examples of such support include boosting competence development and inter-cultural learning through school partnerships, mobility and e-Twinning projects under Erasmus+; strengthening peer learning on the careers and professional development of teachers and school leaders; and setting up a new support mechanism to help Member States seeking assistance in designing and implementing education reforms.

The renewed higher education strategy builds on the 2011 Modernisation agenda. In the Communication adopted today, the Commission sets out its plans for four key areas:

  • Ensuring graduates leave higher education with the skill sets they and the modern economy need;
  • Building inclusive higher education systems;
  • Making sure higher education institutions contribute to innovation in the rest of the economy;
  • Supporting higher education institutions and governments in making the best use of the human and financial resources available.

Finally, to ensure that higher education can help boost growth and job creation, universities need to tailor curricula to current and anticipated needs of the economy and society, and prospective students need up-to-date, solid information to help them decide what courses to choose. This is why the Commission is in parallel presenting a proposal for a Council Recommendation on graduate tracking, as part of the new Skills Agenda for Europe, which will also cover graduates from vocational education and training programmes in addition to higher education graduates. This will encourage and support Member State authorities to improve the quality and availability of information on how they progress in their careers or further education after finishing their studies.

The Commission has also proposed a budget for the next three years and a dedicated legal base for the European Solidarity Corps.

The initiatives presented today deliver on the commitments made in the initiative on Investing in Europe's Youth of 7 December 2016, in particular the vision for improving and modernising education, in which the Commission announced a series of actions to help Member States provide high quality education for all young people. It comprises a series of actions to help Member States and institutions provide high quality education for all young people, in line with the first key principle of the European Pillar of Social Rights which states that everyone has the right to quality and inclusive education, training and life-long learning.

The actions are also in line with the ambitions set out in the Rome Declaration of 25 March 2017, in which EU leaders committed to "a Union where young people receive the best education and training and can study and find jobs across the continent", and with the Commission's reflection paper on harnessing globalisation of 10 May 2017 and its reflection paper on the social dimension of Europe of 26 April 2017, which both recall the central role that education and training play in determining the competitiveness and future of Europe's economies and societies.

The latest results of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) survey point to weaknesses in competence development at school education level. Schools could also play a stronger role in promoting social fairness as well as improving their response to the fast technological and digital changes that are having a profound effect on our economies and societies. Higher education institutions, in addition to these roles, can help boost the economy of the regions in which they are located and are a vital driver of innovation.

Questions and answers

Factsheet on schools development

Factsheet on modernisation of higher education

School policy

EU activities in the field of higher education


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