EU commissioner's £9.5bn aim

January 21, 2005

Jan Figel, the new European education commissioner, faces his first test after failing to secure agreement on a near-300 per cent rise in the European Union education budget at a summit.

He said: "We need more and better investment in education." The European Commission wants to spend more than €13.6 billion (£9.5 billion) over seven years on its programmes, including student exchange initiative Erasmus.

New elements may include a European Accreditation Agency. "We need to measure quality," Mr Figel said. "An independent agency, with a framework of instruments, would provide credibility and control."

The Slovak EU Commissioner does not have much power in a field guarded by national governments. "Competence lies with the member states. But the European dimension is increasingly important for education," he said.

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