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ESU demands education targets back in EU 2020 strategy

ESU demands that the proposed benchmark on raising the level of tertiary education to 40% is adopted in the EU 2020 strategy. On June 17, European heads of state meet to adopt a new European strategy for growth and jobs.

The statement below was adopted by ESU’s members at ESU’s 58th Board Meeting in Madrid, May 6-8.



As the EU leaders are committing to the EU 2020 vision in the June EU Summit;
The European Students’ Union (ESU), consisting of 45 national unions of students from 37 different countries and representing over 11 million students in higher education, asks the EU leaders to emphasize higher education as a public good and responsibility and prioritize access and success in education.

We demand that the proposed benchmarks on raising the level of tertiary education to 40 % and reducing the number of European citizens living below the poverty line by 25 % are adopted in the EU 2020 strategy. Although the European Students’ Union endorses the investment into Research and Development, a better employment rate and a greener society, it sees the plans of the EU leaders hardly feasible without clear commitment to reduce the share of early school leavers to under 10 %. The inclusion of benchmarks on 20 % mobility in higher education and enhancing Lifelong Learning are also crucial priorities.

The European Students´ Union stresses that ambitious targets of higher levels of participation in tertiary education should be supported by clear commitments to increasing public investments, raising the overall level of quality and improving the social dimension and equal access to higher education.  Higher education is a public good and a public responsibility and EU member states that are afraid to invest in higher education are not willing to invest in a better future and societal development for all European citizens.

After the financial crisis the quality and access to higher education has been seriously put at risk through cutbacks in public financing of higher education in a number of European countries. The result has been increased tuition fees and general cutbacks in the quality of studies and welfare services to students. We now see that the targets set by the Lisbon strategy failed to gain the necessary public support, and progress on benchmarks in education have not been achieved. The EU 2020 strategy, in this context must secure the inclusion of stakeholders, setting the right priorities and the commitment of governments. The repetitive emphasis on the modernization agenda of higher education and the narrow approach to quality and rankings of higher education institutions are contradictory to increasing access and social cohesion. We are further concerned that increased competition and commodification in higher education will damage the overall objective of raising the level of knowledge for all of Europe.

Moreover, it should be clear that the EU2020 strategy, when addressing education should avoid any contradictory stand with the Bologna Process and that it stays an independent process based on stakeholder involvement and social values.  Further confusion between the goals and tools of the two processes has to be prevented.

Therefore these 11 million students are demanding to prioritize the education and poverty targets in the EU 2020 strategy and treat them as a paramount part of the EU´s development.


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