Tag: EU

Science4Refugees initiative

science4refugess_bannerRefugee situation is a topic gaining substantial amount in European societies at the moment. The need for solutions spans from the short term need to find accomodation and food, to more long term concerns.

The EU has launched an initiative to support those with academic backgrounds who now find themselves in a refugee situation. From the Science4Refugees website:

  • The European Commission has launched the Science4Refugees initiative to help refugee scientists and researchers find suitable jobs that both improve their own situation and put their skills and experience to good use in Europe’s research system.
  • Science4Refugees matches talented refugees and asylum seekers who have a scientific background with positions in universities and research institutions that are ‘refugee-welcoming organisations’ and that have suitable positions available, including internships and part-time and full-time jobs.
  • Science4Refugees is accessible to refugees and institutions through the EURAXESS – Researchers in Motion portal, a pan-European initiative providing access to a complete range of information and support services to researchers wishing to find jobs and pursue their research careers in Europe

If you are yourself, or know anyone with this background – sign up and enter the CVs to the EURAXESS portal, marking it with “Science4Refugees”.

Read more about he conditions and procedures for application here

New EU report: Best systems to promote student mobility in Germany, Belgium, Spain, France and Italy

eurydice reportThe EU has now launched a new mobility scoreboard to create an oversight over member state activities in relation to mobility of students. The Eurydice report published four days ago was a follow up to the 2011 Council Recommendation on mobility and is a product of cooperation with experts from the member states. The scoreboard focuses on five areas which we will briefly summarise below:

  • information and guidance
  • foreign language preparation
  • portability of public grants and loans
  • recognition of learning outcomes
  • and mobility support to students from a low socio-economic background

The data was collected in 2012 and 2013 from a questionnaire developed by Eurydice, member  states and the European Commission. The report covers all EU member states as well as Iceland, Turkey, Liechtenstein and Norway.  Based on selected indicators, scorecards were developed that ranked countries from “green” (best scores) to “red” (worst scores), with a total of six ranks of scores.

Education and Training in Europe 2020 – responses in member states

EUThe European Commission has published a new Eurydice report on the responses to Education 2020 from the EU member states. The report reviews all four key areas relevant to Education 2020 strategy: early school leaving (ESL), higher education, youth employment and vocational education and training (VET) and lifelong learning. The aims of the report are to provide a more cross-case analysis rather than a progress report by individual countries that can instead be  found here.

When it comes to higher education, the core benchmark used is the widely stated 40% of age cohort with tertiary education, and the policy ambitions are closely related to the 2011 Modernisation agenda with two main goals being: increased attainment rates and improvement of quality and relevance of higher education. While improvement is reported across the countries, one is still left with a question what that 40% participation rate means in terms of distribution within countries, and why is such a general benchmark useful in itself. Countries reporting growth or decrease can do that for very various reasons, some of which might be minor corrections or have little relevance for higher education policies. While the report also takes into account the equity and access aspects of widening participation, the report also refers to a recent Eurydice report and states that these are rarely a core element in higher education policies (p.37).

Regarding the quality and relevance, the report is primarily concerned with quality assurance systems, performance based funding, closer links to the industry and employability of graduates, following the core focus of the Modernisation agenda. While certain best-practice cases and initiatives related to these topics are highlighted across these topics, there also appears to be great diversity regarding the focus on these issues and the instruments employed, something to be expected considering the diverse higher education landscape in Europe.

Budget cuts and skills mismatches – doom and gloom in European higher education?

Tertiary education attainment  (Source: Monitor for )

Tertiary education attainment
(Source: EU Education and Training Monitor )

Last week, the latest Education and Training Monitor was published by the European Commission, highlighting the impact of budget cuts on European higher education.

The Commission has been calling Member states to focus on “growth friendly expenditure“, including education and training, issuing individual recommendations to 17 countries in July 2013. However, the tendency is that funding available for education and training has been decreasing and budget cuts are a common phenomenon across Europe.

Europe 2020 Strategy has specified a target of 40% of people aged 30-34 holding a higher education degree, and while progress is slow, there has been steady increase towards that number. However, despite the average number looking good, this increase might only lead to more disparity between countries. Clear differences can be identified between countries like Greece and Italy on the one hand, and the likes of Ireland on the other. With successful countries increasing their attainment levels, the gap with the countries not following this increase is only likely to increase.

The Education and Training Monitor further refers to PIAAC results to highlight problems with adult skills and competencies in Europe, and how this would be a serious concern for competitiveness in Europe. The issue is also closely aligned with EU focus on lifelong learning, as the key findings suggest: “Europe is facing a serious skills gap that risks hampering growth and employment in the future“. Furthermore, the ones participating in lifelong learning tend to be the ones who are young and highly educated. This is highlighted as an issue, as: “20% of 16 to 65 year-olds is unable to exceed a basic level of literacy and 24% is unable to do so in numeracy“.

EU focus on youth unemployment – can vocational education save Southern Europe?

EUThe current economic crisis has had wide spread effects and one can frequently hear talk about the lost generations of youth who were hit particularly hard. Recent CEDEFOP skills forecasts indicate a rather slow growth, even when following the more optimistic scenarios. According to the baseline scenario, the EU27 countries can expect to return to pre-crisis levels between 2017 and 2018, according to the pessimistic scenario they would still be below crisis levels in 2025.

Furthermore, the predictions also include a gradual but constant increase of people working in high skilled sectors, and even low-skilled sectors are expected to increase in complexity. But also these predictions refer to the issues with youth unemployment, indicating the urgency of the issue.

In July 2013, the European Alliance for Apprenticeships was launched, marking the EUs increased interest in combating youth unemployment. Apprenticeships are seen as a key aspect of promoting new arenas for learning and facilitating employability.

At a CEDEFOP conference earlier this summer, the EU Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth Androulla Vassiliou explained some of the rationales, highlighting strong EU involvement in the area

Traineeship opportunities at the European Commission

The European Commission has recently announced a new application round for traineeships who will start their period in March 2014. These traineeships provide a unique opportunity to get to know the how the various EU institutions operate.

A number of graduates from the Hedda master programme in higher education have taken these traineeships and they have provided to be an important stepping stone for future career in Brussels.

The traineeships last for five months from March 2014, and the Commission provides a basic grant for trainees – currently about a €1,000 per month in addition to reimbursement of travel expenses. Every year 1300 trainees will be selected.

The applicants can be from all over the world, with three main criteria:

  • degree of at least 3 years of study (minimum a bachelor),
  • very good knowledge of English or French or German.
  • very good knowledge of a second EU official language (required for nationals of EU countries).

If you are interested in Community matters, this is a wonderful opportunity to build a network of acquintances and while there is no guarantee of further employment, high quality trainees can be recruited after completed traineeship following the general guidelines for employment. Read more about the rules for traineeships here.

The application procedure is explained here.  Application deadline 30.08.13.

Number of Erasmus students has reached 3 million

Newest statistics launched by the EU show that the number of students who have spent parts of their studies abroad with an Erasmus grant has now passed 3 million. Erasmus mobility programme was introduced in 1987 and is considered one of the definite success stories of European initiatives in the area of education. The programme includes at this point 33 countries (EU Member States, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey).

Number of students annually (Source: Europa.eu)

Number of students annually (click to view full size image)
(Source: Europa.eu)

26 years ago when the programme was introduced it attracted 3,244 students Europe wise. The numbers for the 2011/2012 academic year indicate a new record – over 250 000 students spent either part of their studies abroad or had a job placement with a foreign company. Furthermore, well over 45 000 staff members, both academic and administrative received support to teach or train abroad. Over 33 ooo of these were teaching assignments, marking a 5.4% increase compared to the previous year.

The highest growth amongst outbounding students was in Croatia with 61,8%, potentially explained with their recent joining with the programme. However, high growth rates were also shown in Denmark, Slovenia and Turkey. The country sending out most students was Spain, followed by Germany and France – all three being among the larger countries in Europe. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, Spain was also the most popular destination country with a clear margin, followed by France and Germany.

The Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, Androulla Vassiliou commented on the recent numbers: “Erasmus is more important than ever in times of economic hardship and high youth unemployment: the skills and international experience gained by Erasmus students make them more employable and more likely to be mobile on the labour market. Erasmus has also played a tremendous role in improving the quality of higher education in Europe by opening up our universities and colleges to international cooperation. Looking to the future, I’m delighted that our new Erasmus+ programme will enable 4 million young people to study, train, teach or volunteer abroad in the next seven years.”

Have you had experience with an Erasmus programme? How did the experience contribute to your studies?

HEIK seminar: Capacity building as an EU policy instrument – the case of the Tempus program

We are pleased to share yet another session from the HEIK academic seminar series in the field of higher education, with both invited international speakers and members of the research group HEIK (Higher Education: Institutional dynamics and Knowledge cultures) here at the University of Oslo.

This lecture was recorded in April 2013 and features professor Bjørn Stensaker (HEIK, UiO) and dr. Antigoni Papadimitriou (HEIK) and focuses on capacity building as an EU policy instrument.

Listen without the Flashplayer

Abstract for the session:

Professor Bjørn Stensaker  (HEIK, Faculty of Education, University of Oslo)

Professor Bjørn Stensaker
(HEIK, Faculty of Education, University of Oslo)

Within the European Union (EU) different policy instruments have been applied as means to realize political ambitions. In the higher education sector capacity building initiatives have been particularly popular, and the seminar explores one of the oldest and most dominant instruments used by the EU during the last two decades: the Tempus program, aimed at modernizing the higher education sector in Central and East-European countries. Based on data from over 50 universities in the Western Balkans, we discuss whether the many Tempus projects in this region have had an impact at the institutional level. Comparisons between institutions deeply involved in the program and those with no or few affiliations provide few indications of direct effects. Finally, possible explanations for the apparent absence of effects are discussed.

Call for applicants: MEEUC scholarships in European studies

meeucMEEUC Visiting Research Fellowships 2013-2014 programme supports visiting fellows at the Monash European and EU Centre (MEEUC) at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. This initiative enables noted international scholars, Australian and international postgraduate students to undertake research on EU themes at the MEEUC and to participate in its research, teaching and outreach activities.

For international research fellows, grants of up to A$6000 are available to assist with travel and accommodation, for periods of one month or more. For domestic (Australian) research fellows, grants of up to A$2000 are available, for periods of up to one month. Themes to be addressed include:

  • EU external relations;
  • The EU, developing countries and emerging powers;
  • Comparative regionalism;
  • Regional organizations and global governance;
  • The EU and global challenges.

Applications closest to these research themes will be privileged above others. Visiting Fellows take part in the activities of the Centre, including seminars, conferences and outreach initiatives. For application forms and further information, download more information here.

Applications deadline 31 May 2013

News: Higher education attainment in the EU growing – share of women in STEM fields decreasing

EUIncreasing educational attainment within the EU was amongst the key objectives in the Europe 2020 strategy, with the goal set on 40% of 30-34 year olds with tertiary education. Despite the recent economic downturn, the share of people with tertiary education has been steadily growing: in 2005 the number was 28%, in 2010 it had increased to 34% and the most recent numbers from 2012 that were recently published indicated that 36% in the 30-34 age cohort had obtained tertiary education.

Furthermore, the recent data indicates that the highest share of the 30-34 age cohort with higher education can be found in Ireland with 51%, Cyprus (49,9%), Luxembourg (49,6% and Lithuania (48,7%), and lowest in Italy, Romania and Malta (22%). Lithuanias northern neighbours Latvia were amongst those with highest growth rates, and the attainment levels almost doubled in Latvia between 2005 and 2012 to 37%. While Romania was amongst the countries with lowest attainment rates, they have nevertheless shown considerable growth, as in 2005 it was only 11% of the age group that had obtained tertiary education.

Androulla Vassiliou, the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, commented on the most recent numbers:

The progress in achieving our education targets is a positive message in a time of economic uncertainty. The jobs of the future will demand higher qualifications and these figures show that more young people are determined to achieve their full potential. We are also seeing that efforts to improve Europe’s education systems and increase accessibility are paying off (..)