European Union

How does the European Union support higher education in Europe?

Sustained and substantive investment is required in order to turn education into a driver of development. Authorities in Member States remain responsible for the way higher education is organised and delivered in their countries. EU activities are designed to bring an additional international dimension to studying, teaching, researching or making policy in higher education.

Through its Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020 programmes, the European Union supports international exchanges for students, academic staff and researchers, as well as structured cooperation between higher education institutions and public authorities in different countries.

The objective is to create new opportunities for people in higher education to learn from one another across national borders and to work together on joint projects to develop good learning and teaching, undertake excellent research and promote innovation.

What is the European 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 renewed EU agenda for higher education, adopted by the Commission in May 2017, identifies four key goals for European cooperation in higher education:

  1. Tackling future skills mismatches and promoting excellence in skills development
  2. Building inclusive and connected higher education systems
  3. Ensuring higher education institutions contribute to innovation
  4. Supporting effective and efficient higher education systems.

To help achieve each of these goals, the Commission proposes specific actions at EU-level, primarily supported by different strands of the Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020 programmes. In particular, the European Commission supports:

  • the exchange of good policy practices between different countries through the ET2020 higher education working group;
  • the Bologna Process, designed to promote the internationalisation of higher education in Europe.through more mobility, easier recognition of qualifications and streamlined quality assurance mechanisms;
  • the development and use of mobility and recognition tools, such as the ECTS system and the Diploma Supplement, to increase transparency and facility exchanges in Europe.

More recently, in the context of the European Education Area, the European Commission has taken a number of further initiatives:

  • the concept of Networks of European Universities brings a major change to higher education practices, through integrated curricula and mobility, thus fostering quality, excellence and innovation;
  • the proposed Council recommendation on automatic mutual recognition of higher education and school-leaving diplomas helps to remove barriers to student mobility within Europe;
  • the future European Student Card will facilitate the secure exchange of student information and reduce administrative burden for higher education institutions, serving as a concrete example of the emerging European Education Area.

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European Higher Education Organization is a public organization carrying out academic, educational and information activities on higher education in Europe.

The EHEO general plan stresses that:

  • Higher education systems require adequate funding and, as an investment in economic growth, public spending in higher education should be protected.
  • The challenges faced by higher education require more flexible governance and funding systems, which balance greater autonomy for education institutions with accountability to stakeholders.

Thus, EHEO plans:

  • improve academic and scientific interaction of universities;
  • protect the interests of universities;
  • interact more closely with public authorities of European countries;
  • popularize European higher education in the world;
  • develop academic mobility;
  • seek funding for European universities.