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“Strong coordination” from European Commission needed to advance European Degree, says higher education consortium

ED-AFFICHE, a leading higher education consortium piloting the European Degree, is calling on the European Commission to take a proactive role in coordinating collaboration between all major actors across the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) to make the European Degree a reality. The call comes in response to the European Commission’s new Higher Education Package including a blueprint for a European Degree, which was unveiled on 27 March.

In consultation with higher education ministries, quality assurance agencies, students and employers, the consortium has spent the past year co-developing a vision for the European Degree and identifying concrete steps towards its realisation as an instrument to overcome existing legislative and administrative obstacles to developing transnational joint degrees in Europe. Now, the consortium calls on the European Commission to develop processes to support the continuation and scaling up of the close collaboration initiated under ED-AFFICHE and all European Degree pilot experimentation projects.

The European Commission’s blueprint for a European Degree proposes several actions for supporting Member States and the wider EHEA, including a policy lab ‘to develop detailed guidelines and action plans for the implementation of a European degree’; an annual forum for monitoring progress; and new support from Erasmus+ for Member States and HEIs to work on realising the European Degree.

While these steps demonstrate the European Commission’s commitment to facilitating the path towards a European Degree, significant questions remain over how the Commission will take up and support the collaboration and dialogue among key stakeholders already established by pilot experimentation projects like ED-AFFICHE. It is also unclear how the knowledge and expertise gained through these projects will be utilised and implemented moving forward.

Kurt Willems, Professor in Education Law at KU Leuven and ED-AFFICHE coordinator, stressed the importance of a common European Degree:

“Whatever the European Degree will be, it must be meaningful and it must be ambitious. This means strong coordination from the European Commission is needed – to ensure cooperation between Member States, to develop accompanying funding instruments, to build on existing tools such as the Bologna Process and European Approach, and to secure impact beyond EU Member States to all EHEA countries and beyond.”

Marko Joas, Professor of Public Administration and Vice-rector at Åbo Akademi University, highlights the need for clear common European solutions:

“A pan-European degree will not weaken existing national degrees, but will further simplify and strengthen European university cooperation, an objective that favours Europe’s sustainability and competitiveness in an increasingly unstable global reality.”

As the European Degree pilot projects end, ED-AFFICHE urges the European Commission to take advantage of the project’s achievements as a basis for scaling up and deepening collaboration between key actors to make the European Degree a reality for Europe’s students.

Next steps for the European Degree

The European Commission blueprint on a European Degree proposes two entry points: a joint European Degree Label; or a European Degree qualification awarded either jointly by several universities from different countries, or by a European legal entity established by such universities.

To ensure the European Degree has real impact, ED-AFFICHE strongly recommends the European Commission take the following actions:

  • Integrate the European Degree with established quality assurance mechanisms already in place through the Bologna Process and European Approach, to ensure the initiative actively supports and enhances existing frameworks and therefore fostering coherence and effectiveness.
  • Develop funding mechanisms directly linked to the European Degree, building on the commitment to dedicate Erasmus+ support as included in the blueprint. These mechanisms should prioritise inclusivity, bolster recognition, and promote the advancement of high-quality programmes.
  • Establish and continuously update a database of legal obstacles to developing joint programmes within the EU and EHEA, as initiated under ED-AFFICHE.
  • Develop a dedicated strategy to enhance the visibility of programmes that receive the label.

ED-AFFICHE is a consortium of 51 higher education institutions (HEIs) from six European Universities alliances (Una Europa, 4EU+, CHARM-EU, EC2U, EU-CONEXUS, Unite!). Åbo Akademi University is a member of the European University alliance CHARM-EU.