As skills needs are rapidly evolving in Europe, the higher education sector has to adapt, since it’s in the unique position to help Europe become more digital and more inclusive. For this reason the European Union launched two initiatives in this direction: a European Strategy for Universities and a Commission proposal for a Council Recommendation on building bridges for effective European higher education cooperation.
The key role of higher education sector
The green and digital transition will require a grow in education, research and innovation, which is why the higher education institutions will have a key role in this process, including:
- achieving the European Education Area (EEA) and the European Research Area (ERA) by 2025
- shaping sustainable and resilient economies, and in making our society greener, more inclusive and more digital
- providing highly skilled Europeans with excellent prospects for employment, and engaged citizens participating in democratic life – 80% of recent tertiary graduates in the EU gain employment in less than 3 months after graduating
The European strategy for universities
The Digital Decade sets ambitious targets, aiming at 80% of people with at least basic digital skills and 20 million ICT specialists employed by 2030.
This strategy aims to support the European higher education institutions (over 5,000 in Europe) to help reach these ambitious goals. To to so, the strategy sets four key objectives:
- Strengthen the European dimension in higher education and research
- Support universities as lighthouses of our European way of life
- Empower universities as actors of change in the twin green and digital transitions
- Reinforce universities as drivers of Europe’s global role and leadership
Furthermore, to fully support the development of the strategy, the EU has planned four flagship initiatives:
- Further expanding the European Universities Initiative to 60 European Universities with more than 500 universities by mid-2024.
- Work towards the establishment of a legal statute for alliances of higher education institutions, to allow them to pool resources, competences and capacities.
- Examine the options and necessary work towards a joint European degree by mid-2024.
- 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.
Building bridges for effective European higher education cooperation
The Commission prepared also a proposal for a Council Recommendation that aims to enable European higher education institutions to cooperate closer and facilitate the creation of joint transnational programmes or joint degrees. The main objective of the proposal is to encourage Member States to support the provision of high-quality life-long learning opportunities for everyone to facilitate upskilling and reskilling, with a focus on the most in-demand areas.
The Recommendation aims to take transnational cooperation to a new level of quality and scope, and to directly benefit the students to improve their skills and employability by getting easier access to modern and innovative transnational campuses, to mobility abroad, and to transdisciplinary learning.