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Boosting EU Research Talent: political agreement reached

The Council of the European Union reached a political agreement on 8 December 2023, on a way forward to keep, attract and retain research, innovation and entrepreneurial talents in the EU.  The political agreement on the final text of the Recommendation on a European framework to attract and retain research, innovation and entrepreneurial talents in Europe is a key element strengthening the European Research Area (ERA), in line with the ERA Policy Agenda 2022-2024. 

The recommendation aims at making Europe a desirable destination for global research talent and retaining the existing skilled researchers in the EU by means of improving working conditions and environments for researchers, ensuring work-life balance, and offering social protection, especially for early-career researchers. It also emphasises inter-sectoral mobility and the need of equipping researchers with transversal skills.  

This strategic move complements the goal of developing a European framework for sustainable and attractive careers in higher education. First proposed in the European Strategy for Universities, this initiative aims to identify and overcome challenges and barriers towards flexible and attractive academic careers in Europe (see, ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, April 2023). The European Commission is expected to propose a related Council recommendation under the Belgian Presidency in the first half of 2024 (see ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, December 2023).  

While addressing similar issues related to academic careers and common institutional settings, the two policy initiatives seem to run in parallel tracks, missing on the opportunity to enhance the crucial synergies between higher education, research and innovation, and service to the society. Furthermore, recent political decisions to consider major budget cuts to EU’s flagship funding programmes such as Horizon Europe and Erasmus+ may greatly undermine the capacity of higher education institutions to deliver on the important mission of attracting and retaining talent in a longer term (see ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, December 2023). 

ACA members have been supporting talent attraction and retention in higher education and research through a broad range of activities including, amongst others, national scholarship programmes, services and guidance offered within the EURAXESS network, dedicated training and capacity-building activities for higher education institutions (e.g. under the recently completed UniWeliS project, see ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, June 2023), as well as the exchange of good practice and peer learning in integrating staff mobility into institutional career development policies and practice.