On 11 July, the European Commission launched the Communication “European higher education in the world”, which outlines a strategy for the internationalisation of European higher education.
EUA welcomes the Communication as it places emphasis on the broad range of issues that are important for the internationalisation of European higher education. The document, which references the EC’s recent Communications “Modernising Europe’s Higher Education Systems” and “Rethinking Education”, places specific emphasis on how member states and higher education institutions can develop strategic international partnerships to tackle global challenges more effectively.
Among the key priorities outlined is the development of comprehensive internationalisation strategies at national and institutional level. The Commission states that such strategies should cover the following areas:
- The promotion of international mobility of students and staff (for example through enhanced services for mobility, tools for recognition of studies, better visa procedures for foreign students and emphasis on two-way mobility – into and out of Europe).
- The promotion of “internationalisation at home” and digital learning (including language learning, using ICT to internationalise curricula).
- The strengthening of strategic cooperation, partnerships and capacity building (with emphasis on joint and double degrees, partnerships with business and also international development cooperation partnerships).
The EC aims to contribute to the realisation of this strategy through stronger policy support and financial incentives for internationalisation strategies in particular through the future EU programme for education that will be called Erasmus+ (formerly called Erasmus for All). It said the programme, which still needs to be formally approved at the EU level, would integrate external funding instruments and put an end to the fragmentation of the various existing external higher education programmes. It would also link these closer to intra-European cooperation, as the EC said it would provide increased support for mobility to and from non-EU countries through Erasmus+ and the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions (under Horizon 2020). The Commission also outlines measures in the areas of quality/transparency, cooperation and policy dialogue.
EUA has proactively contributed to the consultation process of the strategy, for example by feeding in the results of membership surveys. Its 2013 survey on internationalisation, which highlights the strong interest of European universities to further develop and implement internationalisation strategies, is cited in the Communication. It demonstrated that 99% of institutions surveyed either have an internationalisation strategy in place (56%), intend to develop one (13%), or have considered internationalisation in other strategies (30%). Most institutions felt there would be an added value to an EU strategy for internationalisation, particularly in terms of enhanced funding for mobility and cooperation and in drawing attention to the issue at national and university leadership level. The survey results also pointed to the growing interest in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), as 88% of respondents stated they would like more information on the possibilities for such courses. EUA welcomes further opportunities to enhance the quality and accessibility of learning through digital means, and looks forward to a forthcoming Communication from the EC in autumn this year.
The Communication also stresses the role of university partnerships in the context of development cooperation, which has been advocated by EUA for several years. It refers directly to the EUA White Paper “Africa-Europe Higher Education Cooperation for Development: Meeting regional and global challenges” (2010),* which stresses the importance of mutually beneficial higher education and research partnerships.
EUA welcomes the important emphasis that the communication places on these and other points, as it demonstrates that European internationalisation is not just about competition and attracting top talent, but also about being a global partner.
* The White Paper is the outcome of the project “Access to Success: Fostering Trust and Exchange between Europe and Africa” (co-funded by the Erasmus Mundus programme 2008-2010).