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In June, the European Commission made further progress by acting on one of Ursula von der Leyen’s priorities for “a Europe fit for digital future”. Two new overarching initiatives – a European Digital Identity and a Data Act – will impact all sectors, and higher education is no exception.
On 3 June, the Commission proposed the framework for a European Digital Identity, which will be available to all EU citizens, residents, and businesses in the EU. Under the new Regulation, member states will offer citizens and businesses digital wallets that will be able to link their national digital identities with proof of other personal attributes. The latter may include educational qualifications such as higher education diplomas, among others.
The framework, which will be worked out at a technical level by the member states in the coming months, has the potential to foster further exchange of student mobility data between higher education institutions and to align university admission systems across the EU. At a broader level, it supports the European Student Card Initiative, aiming to enable students to identify and register themselves electronically at higher education institutions when moving abroad for studies, particularly with the help of the Erasmus+ Without Paper Network and the newly launched Erasmus+ app.
In parallel, the Commission launched a public consultation on the Data Act, which aims at facilitating access to and use of data and reviewing the rules on the legal protection of databases. The consultation is open until 3 September 2021. One of the aims of the act is to unlock the full potential of privately-held data used for purposes of general interest based on existing GDPR and ePrivacy rules. Such purposes may include healthcare, combating climate change, improving mobility and support to scientific research, to boost data analytics and machine learning in the EU. Higher education institutions are strongly encouraged to contribute to the open public consultation to ensure their needs and expectations with regard to the use and sharing of data in the higher education, research and innovation context are taken into account in the new legislation.