There was general agreement that Erasmus+ is among the EU programmes with the highest European added value and funding would need to be significantly increased in the future to give more people the opportunity to learn, study, teach or work abroad. Particular emphasis was given to increase participation of people with a less favourable socio-economic background, with disabilities or migrants throughout all levels of education, training, youth activities, culture and sports. This is broadly in line with the European Commission’s Communication on policy choices for the EU’s next long-term budget. This urges Member States to back up their political priorities with the necessary amount of funding, and outlines possibilities from doubling the funding to increasing it up to EUR 90 billion which would represent six times more than the current programme (2014-2020). These are the first positive signs ahead of the European Commission’s official proposal for the next long-term EU budget which is awaited in early May and which Member States must then agree upon with the European Parliament.
Exploring the concept of European University Networks
Furthermore, education ministers at the council discussed various initiatives linked to the European Commission’s proposal to establish a European Education Area by 2025. Among those is also the establishment of European University Networks, an idea first brought up by the French President Emmanuel Macron in his Sorbonne speech about the future of Europe in September last year, and subsequently taken up by the European Commission and the European Council. While most Member States are positive towards the general idea, further discussions and clarifications are needed to determine the purpose, scope, implementation and financing of such networks. EUA is part of a stakeholder group established by the European Commission to further explore these issues.
Fostering recognition of qualifications and study periods abroad
Another important element towards further integration of European education systems that was discussed by ministers, is the recognition of qualifications and study periods abroad. The European Commission recently launched a public consultation on the topic with a view to develop a concrete proposal to Member States on how to foster recognition and implement their commitments made under the Lisbon Recognition Convention (LRC).
EUA has contributed to the public consultation based on its extensive work on the topic. The association would welcome further EU support for exchange and capacity building on how recognition should be carried out based on available frameworks such as the LRC.
EUA will continue to follow the various initiatives currently discussed on how to advance European cooperation in education, make sure that the universities’ voice is heard and advocate for coherence within and between the various policy frameworks such as the EU, the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) and the European Research Area (ERA).