Universities can lead debate on the European Education Area
By Jan Palmowski
The Bologna process has brought far-reaching structural reforms to Europe’s universities, but its original aim to develop ‘European dimensions’ in higher education, including curriculum development, is still unrealised.
Research and education commissioner Mariya Gabriel has proposed addressing this gap by establishing a European Education Area by 2025—for members of the EU and Erasmus+, if not all countries in the European Higher Education Area.
A key driver for the EEA is the need to improve attainment across the EU, as differences fuel social inequality. Digital competences are more important than ever, not only in a rapidly changing job market, but also for personal wellbeing and the sustainability of our democracies. Europeans need to be mobile and multilingual to take opportunities to live and work across borders.
Importantly, the EEA articulates a core ambition for excellence in teaching and learning. It notes that as higher education participation grows globally, Europe must be attractive to internationally mobile students.
The EEA addresses all levels of education. But whereas the EU has largely left schooling to the member states, it has carved out leadership in higher education.
Building on its remit to support student mobility under Erasmus+, the Commission recently encouraged new models of university collaboration and course development through networks of institutions created bottom-up through the European Universities Initiative. With the EEA, the Commission seeks to build on this, while also increasing its ambition in areas of pedagogy.
For instance, the EEA emphasises the role of education, including higher education, in implementing the Green Deal. Environmental sustainability should be taught in all disciplines, instilling knowledge and abilities and empowering people to act.