In parallel to the well-established framework for European collaboration in higher education provided by the Bologna Process with the European Higher Education Area, the European Union is working towards creating a European Education Area. The European Education Area, unlike the Bologna Process, is limited to European Union member states and covers different levels and sectors of education to support lifelong learning.
In September 2020, the European Commission published a Communication on achieving the European Education Area by 2025. It outlines the next steps in this process and covers six dimensions: quality of education and training, inclusion and gender equality, green and digital transitions, teachers and trainers, higher education and the geopolitical dimension.
The Communication mentions concrete actions such as the European Universities Initiative; European graduate tracking, recognition of qualifications and study periods abroad; and a European approach for micro-credentials, which are considered as instrumental to implement the European Education Area. Other key actions related to higher education include the European Student Card Initiative, the University Transformation Agenda, exploring the feasibility of a European degree and a European statute for European university alliances and other university alliances, and reviewing the European quality assurance system.
The Erasmus+ programme is expected to play a key role in supporting the further development of the European Education Area.
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The European Universities Initiative aims to strengthen strategic and in-depth transnational collaboration through the development of networks involving universities from several European countries. To date, 215 EUA member universities are part of the 41 alliances selected under the two pilot calls and more are willing to engage.
EUA supports the European Universities Initiative and advocates for a balanced and focused approach in its roll-out. The Association was part of the European Commission’s stakeholder consultation group that accompanied the preparation of the two pilot calls and continues to closely follow the developments.
In April 2020, EUA published a position on the future of the European Universities Initiative developed jointly with its national university associations. It is underpinned by evidence from the sector collected in early 2020 through a survey of 219 higher education institutions from 34 systems across Europe.
The EUA’s TrackIt study showed already in 2012 the importance of graduate tracking at both the national and institutional level. In addition, the Eurograduate pilot demonstrated the feasibility of such a European survey.
Recently, an European Commission expert group (2018-2020) mapped the diverse national approaches of collecting administrative and survey data on graduates across Europe. The group has recommended to the European Commision a phased introduction of a European graduate tracking system, including all EU member states by 2030. The proposed system would be based on a mix of administrative data available at national levels and data collected through a European survey (similar to Eurograduate).
EUA continues to monitor the development of a European graduate tracking system, as member of an European Commission expert group and the Eurograduate advisory board.
Recognition of qualifications and learning periods is a crucial prerequisite for the free movement of learners and workforce within the European Union. The EU Council Recommendation on automatic mutual recognition of qualifications and learning periods abroad builds on progress already made in other fora, notably the Bologna Process and through the widespread ratification of the Lisbon Recognition Convention. It also encourages multilateral agreements between groups of EU member states.
EUA is in regular dialogue with ENIC/NARIC centres and the European Commission representing the point of view of universities, which in most EU countries are responsible for taking decisions on academic recognition. EUA also coordinated the Erasmus+ project Spotlight on Recognition (2020-2022).
As part of its efforts to promote lifelong learning, the European Commission has prepared a roadmap for developing a European approach to micro-credentials by 2025. The aim is to support the building of trust in micro-credentials across Europe for their wider use, portability and recognition.
EUA has been involved in the consultation group preparing the roadmap and continues to contribute to the development of the approach. In this respect, the Microbol project provides valuable insight.
On 30 September 2020, The European Commission published a Communication on “Achieving the European Education Area by 2025”. It outlines key EU actions in education for the next five years. EUA welcomes the Communication as an acknowledgement of the vital contribution of education to Europe’s identity, its future, and the sustainability and long-term resilience of its societies.
EU Commissioner Mariya Gabriel, during the European Research and Innovation Days in September 2020, stated that excellence and inclusiveness are two sides of the same coin in the new European Research Area (ERA). EUA welcomes the European Commission’s Communication “A new ERA for Research and Innovation” released on 30 September 2020 as a starting point to making this ambition a reality.
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