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Proposal Council Recommendation – Towards effective European higher education cooperation

The European Commission’s new ‘higher education package’ included a proposal for a Council Recommendation on building bridges for effective European higher education cooperation.

Highlighting the special role of transnational higher education cooperation in sustaining Union values and building Europe’s resilience and sustainable future, the Commission’s proposal outlines persisting barriers to deeper and more effective cooperation. The latter include, among others, differences in external quality assurance, uneven implementation of automatic mutual recognition of qualifications and study periods abroad, variations in degree structures and in the application of the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS), and partial recognition of virtual and blended learning.

These issues can be addressed, based on the proposal, through a coherent legislative framework that articulates European and national legislative measures for the effective implementation of available European initiatives and tools (European Universities, Bologna Process tools, the European Student Card) and for the development of new instruments such as a joint European degree and a legal statute for higher education alliances.  

Recommendations put forward by the European Commission for the consideration of the Council, and addressing action by members states encompass the following actions:

  • Enabling alliances of higher education institutions to test feasibility of setting up a legal statute based on the full application of the European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation (EGTC) Regulation;
  • Support higher education institutions in the development and implementation of innovative joint transnational education activities by letting them decide on admission and enrollment criteria, language of instruction, online learning and mobility, inclusion of flexible learning pathways, credit allocation and transfer, external quality assurance, joint degree templates, etc.;
  • Support embedded mobility in joint transnational educational programmes;
  • Provide sustainable funding for European Universities alliances and deeper transnational institutional cooperation in higher education;
  • Strengthen mutual trust through external quality assurance and accreditation of joint educational programmes by moving towards institutional-based external quality assurance and self-accreditation of programmes;
  • Support high-quality virtual collaborative learning and joint interdisciplinary activities;
  • Involve learners, academics and researchers in the governance of higher education institutions.

The Commission entrusts itself with the task of piloting the legal statute for European University alliances and the European degree, supporting the European Universities as part of Erasmus+ and Horizon Europe, and rolling out the European Student Card.

Member states have broadly welcomed the Commission’s proposal at the meeting of EU ministers responsible for higher education, research and innovation organised on 24 and 25 January in Paris in the context of the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Clearly, implementation will be key in this process. National policy makers’ commitment to supporting and promoting the European initiatives will depend, inter alia, on their expected impact on higher education institutions and systems, which will have to be thoroughly evaluated in the next step.

ACA looks forward to the next steps in the transformation of the European higher education, to be able to respond better to existing and future challenges, especially in a period where the need for expertise and top talent is ever growing and a determined approach in becoming a global leader in higher education and research is indispensable.

More information

Council Recommendation on building bridges for effective European higher education cooperation.