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With a 15 September 2010 press event, the European Commission’s Youth on the Move initiative was formally launched. Officially described as “the EU’s flagship initiative to respond to the challenges young people face and to help them succeed in the knowledge economy”, Youth on the Move is concerned with both education and employment issues in Europe. The promotion of mobility (both for professional and academic purposes) has been identified as one of four fundamental action related to this effort. The other key action lines are focused, broadly speaking, on youth employment, including entrepreneurship support; lifelong learning issues; and improving access to higher education, as well as the modernisation and international attractiveness of European higher education.
The mobility component of Youth on the Move builds openly on existing European programmes and initiatives designed to foster student mobility, but also proposes several new ideas or expansion of existing actions. These include the setting up of a dedicated Youth on the Move website to enable access to all EU learning and mobility opportunities; the implementation of a “Mobility Scoreboard” to “benchmark and measure progress in removing these [mobility] obstacles in the Member States”; better access to European Court of Justice rulings on the rights of mobile students; and the introduction of a “European Skills Passport”, envisioned as a lifelong record of skills and experiences that can “ease” international recognition. And although funding is openly recognised by the Commission as an area of concern, no new ground-breaking funding mechanism appears to be part of the Youth on the Move agenda, at least in terms of the mobility component. Nevertheless, it seems that the new initiative, together with the more encompassing Europe 2020 Strategy, will serve as the policy framework guiding the design of the next generation of EU education programmes post-2013. This may entail some level of financial commitment in the longer run.
Continued high-level endorsement of student mobility should be considered welcome news to the European higher education community. Yet, many of the suggested ‘innovations’ for mobility spelled out in Youth on the Move seem to merely nip at the heels of larger concerns related to internationalisation. Perhaps more interesting to watch will be developments in 2011. At that time, the Commission plans to present the results of a feasibility study on an alternative global ranking system that aspires to take “into account the diversity of higher education institutions” beyond research performance; it will also unveil an “EU internationalisation strategy”.