Cross-border legislation ‘will future-proof European universities’

Brussels officials say their new European universities strategy, including cooperation on higher education laws, will improve student mobility and academic cooperation

January 18, 2022
European Commission in Brussels
Source: iStock

The European Union has unveiled long-awaited plans for a European degree and cross-border legislation for higher education.

Announcing a new European strategy for universities on 18 January, Mariya Gabriel, the European commissioner for research and education, explained that the plans would help to create “modern transnational campuses” and would provide students with “easy access to mobility abroad to allow for a truly European study path and experience”.

Under the proposals, the EU will also expand the number of European university alliances to 60 by mid-2024, with the associations covering more than 500 universities.

Some 41 university clusters – first proposed by France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, in September 2017 to encourage student mobility and academic collaboration – have so far been established by the EU, with another €272 million (£231 million) up for grabs in the next round of funding for 2021 to 2027.

The integration of teaching across borders and the creation of joint degrees between universities have, however, been hampered by legal and regulatory red tape within different EU countries, with legislation prohibiting some universities from sharing responsibilities for assessment or standards with other international institutions.

To address this, the EU has put forward a proposal that recommends that member states provide the legal statute for alliances of higher education institutions.

To achieve a European Education Area by 2025, the European Commission has invited its “council, member states and universities to discuss on this policy agenda and work jointly towards future-proof universities”, it said. In effect, it will require national parliaments to consider how they might change rules around university governance to allow more cross-border collaboration.

The European universities strategy also proposed that member states work towards a joint European degree and scale up the European Student Card initiative, which should be available to all mobile students by the end of 2022, and to all students by mid-2024.

Margaritis Schinas, the vice-president of the European Commission, claimed that the new proposals would “take transnational cooperation in higher education to a new level” and lead to “shared values, more mobility, broader scope and synergies to build a genuinely European dimension in our higher education”.

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