European society today needs more than ever the contribution of universities and other higher education institutions. Europe is facing major challenges, such as climate change, digital transformation and an aging population, at a time when it is facing the biggest global health crisis of the last century and the economic impact of that crisis. Universities, and the higher education sector as a whole, are at the crossroads of education, research and innovation, of creating sustainable and resilient economies, and of a greener, more inclusive and more digital European Union.
The two new initiatives A European strategy for universities and a Commission proposal for a Council recommendation on bridges for effective European cooperation in higher education will be adopted by universities today.
Mr. Margaritis Σχοινάς, Vice President for the Promotion of our European Lifestyle, said: "European universities of excellence and participation are both a prerequisite and a foundation for our European way of life. Such universities support both open, democratic and just societies as well as sustainable development, entrepreneurship, inclusion and employment. With today's proposals we seek to raise transnational cooperation in higher education to a new level. "With common values, greater mobility, wider scope and synergies, we will give a truly European dimension to our higher education."
The Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Marija Gabriel, stated: «Today's proposals will benefit the entire higher education sector and, above all, our students, who need modern transnational campuses with easy access to mobility abroad, in order to enable a truly European educational course and experience. We are ready to join forces with Member States and higher education institutions across Europe. Together we can bring education, research and innovation closer to serving society. "European university coalitions are preparing the ground; by mid-2024, the European budget will support up to 60 European university coalitions with more than 500 universities across Europe."
The European strategy for universities
Europe hosts around 5.000 higher education institutions, 17,5 million higher education students, 1,35 million higher education teachers and 1,17 million researchers. The aim of this strategy is to support and enable all European universities to adapt to changing conditions, to thrive and to contribute to Europe's resilience and recovery.
Proposes a number of important actions to support European universities in achieving four objectives:
- strengthening the European dimension of higher education and research,
- consolidating universities as beacons of our European way of life, with supportive actions focusing on academic and research careers, the quality and relevance of skills of timeless value, diversity, integration, democratic practices, fundamental rights and fundamental rights;
- empowering universities as key drivers of change in the dual — green and digital — transition,
- strengthening universities as the driving force of the EU's global leadership.
Building bridges for effective European cooperation in the field of higher education
The Commission's proposal for a Council aims to enable European higher education institutions to work more closely and multifacetedly and to facilitate the implementation of joint transnational education programs and activities, the pooling of skills and resources, and the award of joint degrees. This is a call to the Member States to take action and create the right conditions at national level in order to enable this closer and more sustainable transnational cooperation and the more effective implementation of joint educational and research activities, and to tools of the European Higher Education Area (Bologna). It will facilitate the flow of knowledge and create stronger links between the communities of education, research and industrial innovation. The main aim is to support the provision of high quality lifelong learning opportunities for all, with an emphasis on the skills and competencies that are most needed to meet today's economic and social demands.
From theory to practice: four flagship initiatives
The European dimension of higher education and research will be strengthened with 4 flagship initiatives by mid-2024:
- Enlargement to 60 European universities with more than 500 higher education institutions by mid-2024, with an indicative Erasmus + budget totaling 1,1 billion euros for the period 2021-2027. The aim is to develop and exploit common long-term structural, sustainable and systemic cooperation in the fields of education, research and innovation, with the creation of European inter-university campuses, where students, staff and researchers from all over Europe can enjoy mobility. and to jointly create new knowledge at transnational and interdisciplinary level.
- Seeking enactment legal status for coalitions of higher education institutions, so that they can raise resources, skills and benefits, with an Erasmus + pilot program from 2022.
- Pursuit of creation common European degree in recognizing the value of transnational experiences in the degree of higher education received by students and reduction of bureaucracy for the implementation of joint programs.
- Upgrading the European Student Identity Initiative using a unique European student ID, which will be offered to all mobile students in 2022 and to all students at European universities by mid-2024, to facilitate mobility at all levels.
Coordination of efforts between the EU, the Member States, the regions, civil society and the higher education sector is crucial for the implementation of the European University Strategy. The Commission calls on the Council, the Member States and the universities to discuss this policy agenda and to work together on universities that are resilient to future developments.
Η Commission proposal for a Council recommendation on bridges for effective European cooperation in higher education will be discussed with the Member States. Once this proposal has been approved by the Council, the Commission will support the Member States and their partners in its implementation.
The Commission has announced its intention to launch the co-creation of a higher education reform agenda in Communication on the implementation of the European Training Area by 2025 and in its announcement of the new European Research Area. In Council conclusions on the new European Research Area, adopted on 1 December 2020, emphasizes that "stronger synergies and interconnections need to be developed between the European Research Area, the European Higher Education Area and the elements of the European Higher Education Area related to higher education". To its resolution of 26 February 2021 on a strategic framework for European cooperation in the field of education and training with a view to the European Education Area and beyond (2021-2030), the Council identified the establishment of an agenda for the transformation of higher education as a specific action in the priority area of higher education.
The European Research Area policy agenda annexed to the Council Conclusions on the future governance of the European Research Area, adopted on 26 November 2021, supports university-related actions, including specific action to strengthen higher education institutions to be developed in parallel with the European Research Area and in synergy with the European Training Area.
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