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European Parliament wants investments in higher education to be priority

BRUSSELS – On 12 May 2011, the European Parliament adopted its report on the Europe 2020 flagship initiative ‘Youth on the Move‘. Many of the additional priorities which were suggested by the European Students’ Union (ESU) were adopted in the report. The report calls upon member states and the European Commission to give priority to financing of higher education, and stresses that no more cuts should be done in education budgets.

Bert Vandenkendelaere, ESU Chairperson: ”This shows that ESU is being recognised as an important stakeholder in higher education policies. We warmly welcome the EP report and urge the EU member states and Commission to turn the call into reality”

Minimum 2% of GDP for higher education
The Youth on the Move initiative focuses on education and learning mobility which was launched by the EC in September 2010 has since then been topic of discussion in the EU institutions. ESU has issued several statements and produced detailed and timely input to the policies which students would like to see more of in Europe. Vandenkendelaere:  “We are pleased to see that a range of our suggestions have been adopted by a massive majority in the European Parliament.”

The EP report stresses that the cuts in education budgets are ‘problematic’, and that ‘increased fees in higher education is leading to a widening social gap’. After pointing out that ‘investing in education is without doubt essential for sustainable growth and development’, the Parliament call for a total investment of at least 2% of a country’s GDP in higher education. Today the level average level in the EU is only 1,28% of the GDP.

Similar to what ESU has been advocating for the last year, the Parliament is now calling on the Commission to propose a Multiannual Financial Framework, which increases progressively investments in mobility programmes, such as Erasmus and Erasmus Mundus.

Inclusion of education stakeholders
Looking at the European higher education reforms and the Bologna Process, the EP, stresses the importance of beginning a new, more constructive dialogue between all stakeholders within the Bologna Process. It suggests concretely that the EU institutions should set up a strong structured dialogue in the field of education to fully involve youth and stakeholders organisations in having a stronger role in the decision-making process.

Modernisation Agenda
The Parliament gives multiple important recommendations feeding directly into the final stage of preparing the Commission’s proposals for a Multiannual Financial Framework and a new Modernisation Agenda for Higher Education. Exactly in line with what the National Unions of Students in Europe have demanded in a Joint Statement this spring (see here) the Parliament calls for renewed priorities in the Modernisation Agenda, such as the Social Dimension, promoting Student Centered Learning and supporting Member States in their efforts to reach the 40% attainment benchmark.

On the other hand the report suggests to scrap the global university ranking system, that is under development in the EU. It recommends to replace it with a information-based system which is useful for students. The Parliament also underscore the fact that a system of grants providing access to higher education is important for avoiding replication of inequalities. This is in line with ESU’s criticism of the Commission plans to set up a European loan facility.

The full report can be read here:


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