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EU policy on higher education

26 November 2010
by Ina Dimireva -- last modified 21 June 2014

EU-level actions aim to help higher education institutions throughout Europe in their efforts to modernise, both in terms of the courses they offer and the way they operate.


What is this?

National governments are responsible for their education and training systems and individual universities organise their own curricula. However, the challenges facing higher education are similar across the EU and there are clear advantages in working together.

Why is it needed?

Higher education and its links with research and innovation plays a crucial role in individual and societal development and in providing the highly skilled human capital and the articulate citizens that Europe needs to create jobs, economic growth, and prosperity.

Higher education institutions are crucial partners in delivering the European Union's strategy to drive forward and maintain growth. The Europe 2020 strategy has set a target that by 2020 40% of young Europeans have a higher education qualification.

What is the Commission doing?

The European Commission works closely with policy-makers to support the development of higher education policies in EU countries in line with the Education and Training 2020 strategy (ET2020). The modernisation agenda for higher education fixes five key priorities for higher education in the EU:

  1. increasing the number of higher education graduates;
  2. improving the quality and relevance of teaching and learning;
  3. promoting mobility of students and staff and cross-border cooperation;
  4. strengthening the "knowledge triangle", linking education, research, and innovation;
  5. creating effective governance and funding mechanisms for higher education.

In order to ensure that these aims are met the European Commission is also developing and supporting tools to promote mobility (such as ECTS and the Diploma Supplement), increase the recognition of skills and qualifications, and provide better information about higher education in Europe.

The Commission also provides support to the Bologna Process, designed to promote higher education reform with a view to establishing a European Higher Education Area, and promotes the exchange of good policy practices between different countries through the ET2020 higher education working group.

Lastly, in addition to managing the Erasmus+ programme, which provides a variety of opportunities to higher education students, the Commission is also responsible for supporting international cooperation initiatives in higher education with countries outside the EU.

What has been done so far?

The European Commission has presented a series of policy documents, including an Agenda for the Modernisation of Europe's Higher Education Systems , which has been endorsed by Education Ministers and the European Parliament . It supports the implementation of the Modernisation Agenda through studies to provide policy evidence, exchanges of good practice and spending instruments such as the Erasmus+ Programme and the European Structural and Investment Funds.

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