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The European Universities Initiative update and EU plans for higher education in 2024

With the ongoing Erasmus+ mid-term review, which will inform the further implementation in the remaining programme period, and will prepare the next programme generation, the European Universities Initiative (EUI) has been one of the central topics discussed in different fora in June.

While the high-level speakers in the opening panel of the 2nd Education and Innovation Summit reflected on the EUI’s overall ambition and innovation potential, participants in the seminar on the European universities alliances organised by the upcoming Spanish Presidency of the Council of the European Union on 26 June discussed the alliances’ societal outreach (with examples from several 1st and 2nd wave alliances) and the prospects of the European joint degree label (with examples from two projects currently piloting the criteria and the potential label).

The related and upcoming Communication towards a joint European degree is part of the tentative EU 2024 higher education package, together with two Council Recommendations on attractive and sustainable careers in higher education and on a European Quality Assurance and Recognition System.

This month, the European Commission also held consultation meetings with higher education stakeholder organisations, alliances and member states representatives on the investment pathway for the EUI and the upcoming monitoring framework of the initiative.

Regarding the first topic, the proposed pathway is expected to rely on synergies between education, research and innovation, simplification and sustainability in a broader legislative, political and financial context. Possible action pillars under discussion include education, research and innovation, infrastructure, and social inclusion and lifelong learning. Novelties in the proposed funding model might include a longer-term funding approach under Erasmus+ (up to seven years, to be further discussed) as well as closer cooperation with member states, particularly in better alignment of scale, timing and other (co-)funding modalities at the national level.

The monitoring framework for the EUI, which would evaluate the progress and transformational potential of the Initiative as a whole has been another important topic for stakeholder and expert consultations. The proposed pillars for assessment include (1) impact on the wider higher education system, (2) alliance governance and cooperation, (3) joint education provision and mobility, (4) society economy. Based on stakeholders’ and alliances’ input, the framework will be further revised based on related quantitative and qualitative evidence to be collected from the alliances over summer, in a pilot initiative, and further discussed with the involved experts and stakeholders.