Tag: European Commission

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“.

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.

High Level Group on Modernisation of HE in Europe: Universities need to put focus on teaching

teachingThe EU has for some time through various policy instruments getting increasingly involved in higher education across Europe. Initial progress through the Bologna Process has been followed up with activities such as the new multidimensional ranking – U-Multirank as well as an European Qualifications Framework.

Amongst else this resulted in September 2012 in the creation of a high level group on modernisation of higher education that had a specific focus on quality and excellence in teaching, in accordance with the general Modernisation Agenda for Higher Education the Commission has been promoting.

At the launch of the group in 2012 Androulla Vassiliou, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth emphasized thatWith the help of the high level group I want to ensure that every student, regardless of where they live or study in Europe, will benefit from quality teaching. This is a pre-condition for innovation, jobs and growth.”  The group was led by former President of Ireland, Mary McAleese and included a number of prominent members (rectors and university professors as well as representatives from the private sector). The activities of the group have been supported by wide scale consultation.

Last month, in June 2013 the high level group delivered its recommendations. At the launch of the report, Commissioner Vassiliou emphasized that the recommendations would not necessitate the use of substantial additional expenditure, and further highlighted the importance of teaching quality as well as Commissions commitment to “do all it can” to support implementation.

The core conclusion in the report is that institutions, while having its core mission divided by teaching and research, tend to focus on the latter. This is perhaps a fact that does not provide to be surprising to anyone studying higher education, provided the current excellence drive and increasing use of performance indicators that largely focus on research. However, the Commission has plans to change this as Vassiliou exmphasized: “The role of teaching in defining academic merit needs a stronger emphasis and recognition, especially in career terms” . Futhermore, greater focus has to be put on training of academics.