European strategy for universities and cooperation in higher education

European strategy for universities and cooperation in higher education
18 January 2022

The two new initiatives adopted today, a European strategy for universities and a Commission proposal for a Council Recommendation on building bridges for effective European higher education cooperation, will support universities in shaping sustainable and resilient economies, and in making the European Union greener, more inclusive and more digital.

The European strategy for universities

Europe is home to close to 5,000 higher education institutions, 17.5 million tertiary education students, 1.35 million people teaching in tertiary education and 1.17 million researchers. This strategy intends to support and enable all universities in Europe to adapt to changing conditions, to thrive and to contribute to Europe's resilience and recovery.  It proposes a set of important actions, to support Europe's universities towards achieving four objectives:

  • Strengthen the European dimension of higher education and research;
  • Consolidate universities as lighthouses of our European way of life with supporting actions focusing on academic and research careers, quality and relevance for future-proof skills, diversity, inclusion, democratic practices, fundamental rights and academic values;
  • Empower universities as key actors of change in the twin green and digital transition;
  • Reinforce universities as drivers of EU's global role and leadership.

Building bridges for effective European higher education cooperation

The Commission proposal for a Council Recommendation aims to enable European higher education institutions to cooperate closer and deeper, to facilitate the implementation of joint transnational educational programmes and activities, pool capacity and resources, or award joint degrees.  It is an invitation to the Member States to take action and create appropriate conditions at the national level for enabling such closer and sustainable transnational cooperation, more effective implementation of joint educational and research activities and the European Higher Education Area (Bologna) tools. It will facilitate the flow of knowledge and build a stronger link between education, research and innovative industrial communities. The objective is notably to support the provision of high-quality life-long learning opportunities for everyone with a focus on the most needed skills and competencies to face today's economic and societal demands.

The European dimension in higher education and research will be boosted by four flagships initiatives by mid-2024:

  • Expand to 60 European Universities with more than 500 higher education institutions by mid-2024, with an Erasmus+ indicative budget totalling €1.1 billion for 2021-2027. The aim is to develop and share a common long-term structural, sustainable and systemic cooperation on education, research and innovation, creating European inter-university campuses where students, staff and researchers from all parts of Europe can enjoy seamless mobility and create new knowledge together, across countries and disciplines.
  • Work towards a legal statute for alliances of higher education institutions to allow them to pool resources, capacities and their strengths, with an Erasmus+ pilot as of 2022.
  • Work towards a joint European degree to recognise the value of transnational experiences in the higher education qualification the students obtain and cut the red tape for delivering joint programmes.
  • Scale-up the European Student Card initiative by deploying a unique European Student Identifier available to all mobile students in 2022 and to all students in universities in Europe by mid-2024, to facilitate mobility at all levels.

Image © European Commission


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