Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools
You are here: Home topics Education and Training in the European Union Education, Training and Youth in the EU

Education, Training and Youth in the EU

24 August 2006
by eub2 -- last modified 25 November 2010

The opportunities which the EU offers its citizens for living, studying and working in other countries make a major contribution to cross-cultural understanding, personal development and the realisation of the EU's full economic potential. Each year, well over one million EU citizens of all ages benefit from EU-funded educational, vocational and citizenship-building programmes.


The Union's Education and Training 2010 work programme sets the framework for national policies and EU-funded programmes. This recognizes the central role of education and training in the EU's jobs and growth agenda, and the vital social dimension of education and training. Education and training improve our understanding of the values of solidarity, equal opportunities and social participation. There is also a positive relationship between education and training and health, the environment, general quality of life and levels of crime.

Opportunities in vocational education and training

One of the largest EU-funded programmes is the Leonardo da Vinci programme for vocational training and lifelong learning, with on average more than EUR 150 million to spend annually. It promotes cross-border exchanges and projects which foster innovation and entrepreneurship, improve the quality of training and make it easier to obtain and use vocational training and skills in other countries.

The EU also promotes vocational training through Cedefop, the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training, in Thessaloniki. Cedefop provides scientific and technical know-how in specific fields and promotes the exchange of ideas between different European partners.

Programmes for students

The Erasmus programme for students and teachers devotes on average some EUR 135 million annually to grants for students and teachers to spend time at more than 2 000 universities in 31 countries.

A separate Erasmus Mundus programme open to students and academics from all over the world promotes Masters courses involving consortia of least three European universities.

Leonardo da Vinci and Erasmus cover the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey. Switzerland also participates, but on a more limited basis.

Other programmes include:

Grundtvig, for lifelong learning programmes.

Comenius, for co-operation between schools and their teachers.

Lingua, which promotes linguistic diversity, better language tuition and lifelong opportunities to learn languages. Lingua complements activities under the Commission's Language Action Plan and the EU goals of maintaining linguistic diversity and giving everyone the opportunity from an early age to acquire practical skills in two foreign languages.

Funding for the application of new technologies in education is available through the Minerva programme and from a range of other sources which support the eLearning stream of the eEurope Action Plan. eLearning encourages the use of computers, multimedia tools and the internet. An eTwinning programme for schools is an offshoot of this.

Lifelong learning to keep up with a knowledge-based economy is an EU priority. Consequently, many of these programmes are open to people of all ages.

Benchmarking educational performance

Education, training and lifelong learning are vital to a vibrant economy since they are the key to quality jobs and active participation in society.

The EU has educational objectives for 2010 designed to provide everyone with the basic essentials for a knowledge-based society.

  • * at least 85% of 22-year olds should have completed upper secondary education;
  • * no more than 10% of those aged 18-24 should have left school before completing upper secondary education or vocational or other training;
  • * the total number of graduates in mathematics, science and technology should have increased by 15% while the gender imbalance should decrease;
  • * the percentage of 15-year olds with low achievement in reading literacy should have decreased by at least 20% compared to 2000 levels;
  • * the average level of participation in lifelong learning of those aged 25 to 64 should be at least 12.5%.
  • * everyone who leaves school without a job should be offered employment, apprenticeship, additional training or alternative measures to promote their employability within four months.

Single-format Europass documents valid throughout the EU record different types of skills and qualifications acquired in different EU countries. The Europass formats are the Europass CV, the Europass Language Portfolio, Europass Mobility and Europass Diploma Supplement to record higher education and the Europass Certificate Supplement to record vocational training.

Addressing shared challenges in higher education

The EU's work in education focuses on co-operation in confronting shared challenges, while recognising national diversity. One of those challenges is encouraging mobility in the interests of personal development and maximisation of the EU's economic potential.

Promoting convergence and comparable qualifications in higher education, for example, through coordinated reforms, compatible systems and common action serves these objectives. The EU is working with 20 other countries through the 'Bologna process' to create a European Higher Education Area by 2010.

A 'Copenhagen process' in which 32 countries participate promotes cooperation in the reform and development of vocational education and training systems. Work is under way to implement a European educational credit transfer system and to facilitate mutual recognition and the transferability of vocational qualifications. This includes a plan for a European Qualifications Framework for Lifelong Learning.

Promoting international cooperation

The EU promotes educational cooperation, exchanges and courses in European integration with some 80 countries around the world, from Mongolia to Mexico and from Algeria to Australia.

The European Training Foundation in Turin, an EU agency, promotes innovative practice in human resource development for societies and economies in transition around the Mediterranean and in eastern and south-eastern Europe and central Asia.

Creating opportunities for young people

Policies for young people are not restricted to education. EU heads of state and government in March 2005 adopted a European Youth Pact. This establishes common principles on creating job opportunities for young people, providing them with a set of core skills while they are in education, and establishing a balance between work and home life once they take a job.

In addition, the EU's Youth programme promotes active involvement in the community and projects which give young people a greater sense of EU citizenship, the EU provides some €75m annually to support young people wanting to do cross-border voluntary work, run projects to help local communities or take part in study programmes not covered by Socrates or Leonardo da Vinci. These exchanges are being expanded to include more young people from both inside and outside the EU, particularly from countries on the EU's eastern and southern borders.

EU Education, Training and Youth web links

European Commission Education and training DG
EU Education, training and youth grant programmes
Summaries of EU Legislation in Force: Education, Training and Youth
Recent case-law of the Court of Justice and the Court of First Instance
Further information on Education, Training and Youth on Europa

Source: European Commission
Last updated: March 2006

Sponsor a Guide

EUbusiness Guides offer background information and web links about key EU business issues.

Promote your services by providing your own practical information and help to EUbusiness members, with your brand and contact details.

To sponsor a Guide phone us on +44 (0)20 7193 7242 or email sales.

EU Guides