Accessibility Tools

In parallel to well-established European collaboration in higher education within the Bologna Process and the European Higher Education Area, the European Union is working towards creating a European Education Area (EEA). Unlike the Bologna Process, the EEA is limited to EU member states and covers all different levels and sectors of education to support lifelong learning.

In September 2020, the European Commission published a Communication on achieving the European Education Area by 2025. It outlines the next steps in this process and covers six dimensions: quality of education and training, inclusion and gender equality, green and digital transitions, teachers and trainers, higher education and the geopolitical dimension.

Achieving the European Education Area by 2025

The Communication mentions concrete actions such as the European Universities Initiative; European graduate tracking, recognition of qualifications and study periods abroad; and a European approach for micro-credentials, which are considered as instrumental to implement the European Education Area. Other key actions related to higher education include the European Student Card Initiative, the University Transformation Agenda, exploring the feasibility of a European degree, a European statute for university alliances, supporting attractive and sustainable careers in higher education, and a strengthened European recognition and quality assurance system. The European Commission’s Communication on a European Strategy for Universities, published in January 2022, reiterates its commitment to these concrete actions, and places them as elements for a new framework for enhancing European cooperation.     

The Erasmus+ programme has provided support to the development of the European Education Area and its related initiatives over the past few years.

The European Universities Initiative aims to strengthen strategic and in-depth transnational collaboration through the development of alliances involving universities from several European countries. To date, more than 300 of EUA’s member universities are part of the currently 50 alliances (involving more than 430 higher education institutions) supported by the Erasmus+ programme and for parts of them also by the Horizon Europe programme.

EUA supports the European Universities Initiative and advocates for a balanced and focused approach in its roll-out. Since 2018, the Association is part of the European Commission’s stakeholder consultation group that accompanies the development of the initiative and closely follows the policy discussions.

In April 2020, EUA published a position on the future of the European Universities Initiative developed jointly with its national university associations. It is underpinned by evidence from the sector collected in early 2020 through a survey of 219 higher education institutions from 34 systems across Europe.

Read EUA’s full position on the future of the EUI

EUA also sees the initiative as an opportunity to go further with the implementation of higher education reforms at national level trying to overcome obstacles and ease transnational cooperation for all universities in its diverse forms beyond alliances. As such, the Association’s work on the EUI and system level reforms brings together evidence collected at national and institutional level. Moreover, it shows that universities engaging in alliances are facing challenges with regard to purpose and alignment of expectations; governance; funding and implementation.

EUA’s briefing on the EUI and system level reforms

EUA continues to advocate for addressing those challenges jointly at European, national/regional and institutional levels.

In 2012, EUA’s TrackIt study showed the importance of graduate tracking at both national and institutional level. In addition, the Eurograduate pilot demonstrated the feasibility of such a European survey.

A European Commission expert group (2018-2020) mapped the diverse national approaches of collecting administrative and survey data on graduates across Europe. Based on the work of this group, the European Commission has launched a phased introduction of a European graduate tracking system, including all EU member states by 2030. The tracking system will be based on a mix of administrative data available at national levels and data collected through a European survey (similar to Eurograduate).

EUA continues to monitor implementation of the European system as member of the European Network of Graduate Tracking.

As part of its efforts to promote lifelong learning, and to respond to the demands for more flexible formats of certified learning for the purposes of up-skilling and re-skilling Europe’s labour force, in July 2022 the Council of the European Union adopted a Recommendation on a European approach to micro-credentials for lifelong learning and employability. The Recommendation seeks to support the development, implementation and recognition of micro-credentials across institutions, businesses, sectors and borders.

Micro-credentials certify the learning outcomes of short-term learning experiences and offer a flexible, targeted way to help people develop and demonstrate the knowledge, skills and competences they need for their personal and professional development. The final aim of the EU recommendation is to support the building of trust in micro-credentials across Europe for their wider use, portability and recognition.

EUA was involved in the consultation group which prepared the Recommendation, including by providing an analysis of the current state of affairs of micro-credentials and their quality assurance in the Microbol project. Since 2021, the Association has also been a member of specific Bologna Process thematic peer groups which look into micro-credentials from the point of view of their quality assurance (IMINQA project) and recognition (TPG LRC CORE project).

More related content

Follow EUA