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European Strategy for Universities

The European Commission presented a ‘higher education package’, consisting of the European Strategy for Universities and a proposal for a Council Recommendation on effective European higher education cooperation.

An outcome of an intensive co-design process, the Strategy recognises the universities’ role in the European way of life and builds on the first lessons learned from the European Universities Initiative. It outlines four key joint objectives for the sector by mid-2024, which require alignment of policy priorities and investments at EU, national, regional, and institutional levels:

  • Strengthening the European dimension in higher education and research;
  • Supporting universities as lighthouses of the European way of life;
  • Empowering universities as actors of change in the twin green and digital transitions;
  • Reinforcing universities as drivers of the EU’s global role and leadership.

The Strategy provides a roadmap for action based on a set of flagship initiatives supporting these goals as of 2022 and making up a framework for European cooperation in the higher education sector:

  • The European Universities Initiative supported through Erasmus+, Horizon Europe, and other programmes, with the ambition to expand to 60 European Universities alliances involving more than 500 universities;
  • A legal statute, allowing European universities and other types of alliances to share resources, activities, and data via a legal personality, and piloted under Erasmus+ in 2022;
  • A joint European degree that could attest learning outcomes achieved as part of transnational cooperation, with emphasis on the development and piloting of European award criteria in 2022;
  • The European Student Card initiative, facilitating access to transnational mobility at all levels in Europe, upscaled with the help of a unique European Student Identifier available to all mobile students in 2022.

These flagships are complemented by further actions foreseen to support the implementation of other objectives, including:

  • A European framework for attractive and sustainable careers in higher education expected by 2023;
  • A European framework for diversity and inclusion, including on gender gaps;
  • The new Erasmus Charter for Higher Education and the new Erasmus Student Charter, integrating academic freedom and integrity;
  • Proposals for Council Recommendations on learning for environmental sustainability and micro-credentials for lifelong learning and employability; etc.

Several stakeholders (e.g. EUA, the Guild) have published their quick reactions to welcome the package and flag any immediate concerns. ACA especially welcomes the aim of fostering Europe’s global role and leadership by strengthening international exchanges via the ‘Study in Europe’ activities, enhancing peer-learning among universities and agencies on internationalisation, and building partnerships with priority regions. Nonetheless, given the scale and importance of this pillar, the vision and the accompanying set of actions could be expanded in order to fully match the ambition.

An active participant in the Strategy’s co-design, ACA will continue to support the debate on the new policy agenda and work towards its uptake by the higher education sector across Europe.

More information

Communication on a European strategy for universities