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© European Union, 2019

Europe needs a stronger education and a greater contribution from universities and higher education institutions to address the major challenges, starting with digital transformation. The entire higher education sector can help the European Union become more digital and more inclusive.

As skills needs are rapidly evolving in Europe, the higher education sector has to adapt. The green and digital transitions require future-proof education, research and innovation, in close cooperation with the related industries and stakeholders. In doing so, the significant disparities in digital skills across the EU must be overcome, and higher education institutions have to play a key role in this process.

For this reason, the EU launched two initiatives that go in this direction: a European Strategy for Universities and a Commission proposal for a Council Recommendation on building bridges for effective European higher education cooperation.

In launching these two initiatives, Margaritis Schinas, Vice-President for Promoting the European Way of Life, said: “European Universities of excellence and inclusiveness are both a condition and a foundation for our European Way of Life. With our proposals today, we seek to take transnational cooperation in Higher Education to a new level. Shared values, more mobility, broader scope and synergies to build a genuinely European dimension in our Higher Education.”

Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel, added: “Today's proposals will benefit the entire higher education sector, first and foremost our students. They need modern transnational campuses with easy access to mobility abroad to allow for a truly European study path and experience. We stand ready to join forces with the Member States and higher education institutions across Europe. The European Universities alliances are paving the way; by mid-2024 the European budget will support up to 60 European Universities Alliances with more than 500 universities across Europe.”


The European strategy for universities

The Digital Decade sets ambitious targets, aiming at 80% of people with at least basic digital skills and 20 million ICT specialists employed by 2030.

This strategy aims to support the European higher education institutions (over 5,000 in Europe) to help reach these ambitious goals. How? The strategy empowers universities in Europe to take on the actions needed to thrive in the digital transformation and to contribute to Europe's resilience and recovery. Universities should become the key actors of change in the twin green and digital transition


Building bridges for effective European higher education cooperation

The proposal for a Council Recommendation will make possible for European higher education institutions to cooperate closer. They should able to offer joint transnational educational programmes and joint degrees. In particular, the Commission encourages Member States to support the provision of high-quality life-long learning opportunities for everyone to facilitate upskilling and reskilling, with a focus on the most in-demand areas.

The Commission has previously set up a structured dialogue with Member States on digital education and skills to agree jointly on the key enabling factors to make digital education and training effective and inclusive. Universities play a key role in strengthening a digitally skilled workforce that will be able to take on the challenges of the digital transition. Specialised education offer in digital areas, such as AI, cybersecurity or cloud computing, are crucial in this respect.

How to achieve these objectives?

The European Commission foresees various actions to achieve these activities:

  • Through the Digital Europe Programme, the Commission will provide support to specialised education and training programmes in cutting-edge digital technologies and for multi-disciplinary courses in artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, microelectronics and high performance computing.
  • The Commission calls also on Member States: to support the development of digital skills of students of all ages, staff and researchers, the digital capacity of universities, as well as the key role of universities for innovation and new digital technologies, and universities to lead in digital transition


As next steps, the proposal for a Council Recommendation will be discussed with Member States. Once adopted by the Council, the Commission will support Member States and relevant partners in implementing this Council Recommendation. Check out the news on the Digital Skills and Jobs Platform to stay updated on this and other initiatives.


© European Union, 2019

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