How does the Commission engage with other countries in this field?
The EU has established a number of fora for dialogue on higher education policy with countries and regions outside of the EU.
These talks bring together senior officials and experts from the EU and from the specific country or region, and often include conferences, seminars, and studies on specific topics.
Policy dialogue should pave the way for increased cooperation and mobility between the EU and partner countries or regions. Country and regional factsheets show how the Erasmus+ programme is funding mobility and cooperation between Europe and other parts of the world.
The Eastern Partnership is a joint policy initiative that aims to deepen and strengthen relations between the European Union (EU), its Member States and six Eastern partner countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Republic of Moldova and Ukraine.
Policy issues are discussed in four thematic platforms:
- Strengthening institutions and good governance
- Economic development and market opportunities
- Connectivity, energy efficiency, environment and climate change
- Mobility and people-to-people contacts
Education, youth and culture are addressed in Platform 4, which also covers policy dialogues on migration, mobility, integrated border management, and research and innovation.
The Panel on Education, Culture and Youth was endorsed by the Eastern Partnership Summit in 2017. The Panel focuses on the implementation of deliverables 18 and 19 in the framework of the Youth and Education Package, leading the discussion on education, the culture and creative sectors, young people's skills, entrepreneurship and employability.
The Panel promotes the modernisation, internationalisation and digitalisation (e-learning) of education and training systems. It also works on the broader recognition of non-formal education, and supports the development of the cultural and creative sectors in Eastern partner countries.
Strong priority is given to:
- supporting and empowering the young generation by contributing to the establishment of inclusive and evidence-based youth policy
- peer learning dialogue on policies and institutions to support youth education, training, and the transition to work
As part of the framework of a strengthened European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) from the 2011 Communication and of the 2016 ENP review, the European Commission is committed to:
- supporting the modernisation of higher education systems
- increasing the support for teaching and learning mobility for students, teachers, university staff and young people from Southern Mediterranean countries
EU cooperation tools
The Commission promotes objectives for higher education, vocational education, training and youth through a number of international cooperation programmes and initiatives, including:
- The Erasmus+ programme in the fields of higher education and youth
- the Marie Skłodowska Curie Actions to support the mobility of researchers
- the European Training Foundation to facilitate the reform of vocational education and training systems
The EU's initiative for cooperation in education with Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Kosovo*, Montenegro and Serbia was launched in 2012.
Annual Ministerial meetings are organised to identify common priorities, discuss the latest policy and reform measures, and to decide on topics for regional cooperation and EU assistance.
The 9th Ministerial Meeting of the Western Balkans Platform on Education and Training will be organised online together with the Research and Innovation Platform on 2 December 2020. The main goal of this year’s joint Ministerial Platform will be to discuss and agree on the text of the new Western Balkans Agenda on Innovation, Research, Education, Culture, Youth and Sport.
The Ministerial Platform encourages regional cooperation and communication, including pooling resources and sharing best practices with other Western Balkan states, EU institutions and Member States. It also provides follow-up in terms of joint projects, studies and events.
The long-term goal of this dialogue is to assist the Western Balkans with their reform efforts, and prepare them for their responsibilities as future EU Member States – including full participation in the EU's education programmes.
* This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo Declaration of Independence.
‘Investing in Youth for Accelerated Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Development’ was the overarching theme of the 2017 African Union-EU Summit. Demographic growth, migration, youth, employment and skills were at the centre of the discussions.
Heads of State from both continents confirmed their commitment to invest in young people, education and skills. The EU is already delivering on this commitment with the adoption of a €400 million Pan-African programme for 2018-2020.
Involving 107 universities across 41 African countries, regional bodies and students, the Africa-EU Strategic Partnership is a wonderful example of the collaborative relationship between the EU and African Union. The dialogue resulted in the following initiatives:
- Tuning Africa - a collaborative process that reviews competences and skills required for a given discipline. The process revises study programmes, so that students can acquire competences fostering success on the labour market.
- The Harmonisation of African Higher Education Quality Assurance and Accreditation (HAQAA) supports the Pan African Quality Assurance and Accreditation Framework. In particular, the HAQAA aims to develop pan-African standards and guidelines for quality assurance in higher education, capacity building in national and regional higher education organisations, and improving institutional evaluation.
These two initiatives have been renewed under the current framework with two new flagship initiatives to begin in 2019. The EU will support an 'African Students and Alumni Association' aiming to ensure that the insights of young people are fed into educational processes, policies and innovative practices. Further EU funding has been allocated for a pilot mobility initiative between African and European VET providers and institutes. The initiative’s aims are to enhance the professional development of VET teachers and managers, thereby expanding the skills of students.
Africa is also participating actively in the Erasmus+ programme and support to African researchers is being provided through the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions. The Intra-Africa Academic Mobility Programme funds partnerships and mobility between universities within Africa.
The EU and Brazil have concluded a Joint Declaration on Cooperation in Education and Training. The Commission and the Brazilian authorities for education and training have completed two policy dialogues at government level, as well as a symposium.
The Strategic Partnership Agreement between the EU and Japan includes a number of policy dialogues to further strengthen the close ties between the EU and Japan. One of these is the EU-Japan Policy Dialogue on education, culture and sport.
The first edition of this policy dialogue was held in Budapest in July 2018, resulting in two deliverables: an agreement to launch a co-funded call for joint EU-Japan masters programmes using the Erasmus Mundus model. Three joint programmes were selected in summer 2019.
The Japanese Ministry for Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) organised the second meeting of the EU-Japan Policy Dialogue on education, culture and sport on 10 May 2021 in an online format.
The meeting involved European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel, and Mr Koichi Hagiuda, Japanese Minister for Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT).
It allowed the EU to outline current priorities for policies and initiatives in education, culture and sport, and to hear from Japan on theirs.
This meeting paid particular attention to measures for COVID-19 resilience and recovery in these three hard-hit sectors.
Cooperation with Japan under EU programmes to date, primarily Erasmus+, are well acknowledged and both sides reached an agreement on new cooperation for the mobility of researchers.
Over the last decade, the EU and China have been closely cooperating in the areas of education and training, culture, multilingualism and youth.
This cooperation has consisted of regular policy dialogues at government level, as well as concrete outputs in terms of joint projects and events.
Since 2012, all of these activities have been integrated under the EU-China High Level People-to-People Dialogue (HPPD) – the third pillar of EU-China relations.
This complements the other two pillars: the High Level Economic and Trade Dialogue, and the High-Level Strategic Dialogue.
HPPD meetings take place roughly every other year and are hosted alternately by the EU and China. DG EAC organised the fifth meeting of the EU-China High-Level People-to-People Dialogue (HPPD) on 9 and 10 November 2020. The previous meeting was in Shanghai in 2017.
The HPPD is the overarching mechanism that accommodates all EU-China joint initiatives in the field of people-to-people exchanges. These initiatives stem from the conclusions of leaders' dialogues and senior officials' meetings, in which long-term objectives are set, best practices are exchanged and areas for future cooperation are explored.
The HPPD aims to build mutual trust and to consolidate intercultural understanding between the EU and China.
The EU and India co-operate on a range of education matters, including:
- the modernisation of higher education
- academic excellence
- faculty and student mobility
- vocational education and training
- lifelong learning
- quality and equity in education
- the recognition of qualifications
At the 2008 EU-India summit, the EU and India announced their intention to promote dialogue and cooperation in the field of education and culture. Areas identified include: vocational training, technical education, the recognition of qualifications, the modernisation of higher education (with emphasis on quality, transparency and partnership), and the promotion of languages.
Since 2010, the European Commission and the relevant Mexican authorities for education and training have had two policy dialogues at government level.
The purpose of these dialogues was to discuss topics of common interest at senior level and, thereby, exchange best practices and identify concrete areas for future cooperation. From a longer-term perspective, the dialogue aims to encourage cooperation in the area of higher education, and mobility between the EU and Mexico.
In their Joint Declaration of May 2012, the EU and the Republic of South Africa acknowledged the crucial contribution of education and training to the development of knowledge-based societies and economies, as well as the key role education and training play in boosting growth and jobs.
Since this point, four EU-South Africa Senior Officials' meetings have focussed on sharing best practices on topics ranging from the internationalisation of higher education, innovation and the modernisation of (higher education) teaching and research.
The strategic dialogue has been the occasion to discuss topics of common interest, to exchange best practices, review cooperation in the programmes and to identify concrete areas of mutual interest for the following period.
The EU and the Republic of Korea (ROK) cooperate, particularly in the field of higher education, recognising its crucial contribution to developing a globally competitive, knowledge-based economy, and boosting economic growth and employment.
To date, cooperation and student-staff exchange programmes have been successful. However, further scope for interaction has been identified. The EU and ROK, therefore, announced their intention to strengthen cooperation by promoting policy dialogue and joint cooperation projects in higher education at the 2013 EU-ROK Summit.
The first policy dialogue discussed practical methods to strengthen cooperation in higher education through the exchange of best practices, policy review and knowledge building. The second dialogue was held in South Korea in the final quarter of 2018.
Cooperation with the United States of America is supported through EU programmes for academic cooperation, open to worldwide participation and supported by complementary initiatives – including a bilateral branch of the Fulbright Programme for cooperation with the EU.
Administered by the Commission for Educational Exchange between the United States and Belgium, the Fulbright-Schuman Programme is jointly financed by the U.S. State Department and the Directorate-General for Education and Culture (DG EAC) of the European Commission. Since 1991, the joint programme funds graduate and postgraduate study, research and lecture proposals in the field of US-EU relations, EU policy, or EU institutions for interested American and EU citizens.
EU-US Young Leaders Seminar
The EU-US Young Leaders Seminar is a platform to promote people-to-people contact between the EU and the United States resulting from cooperation between the Commission and the U.S. Department of State. The first edition of this seminar brought together fifty young leaders from the United States and Europe, and focussed on the challenges and opportunities presented by the economic, educational, and cultural integration of migrants and refugees. The second seminar brought together a similar group to discuss the future of work, focussing on the role of technology, the skills of the future workforce and the social implications of the changing work environment.
Modernisation of higher education: a comparative Tuning study for the EU and the USA
As part of the Bologna Process for the reform of higher education, European Ministers agreed that higher education institutions should redefine their degree programmes in output-based terms, and make these programmes more student-centred to best prepare graduates for their future role in society. A project – Tuning Educational Structures in Europe – was established to develop the instruments to enable students to be better prepared for entry onto the labour market, with similar methodology being used increasingly worldwide.