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13.4.1.  The foundations of EU's education and training policies

    Article 165 of the Treaty on the functioning of the EU (ex-Article 149 TEC) states that the Union contributes to the development of quality education by encouraging cooperation between Member States and, if necessary, by supporting and supplementing their action, while fully respecting the responsibility of the Member States for the content of teaching and the organisation of education systems and their cultural and linguistic diversity. Union action is aimed at:

    * developing the European dimension in education, particularly through the teaching and dissemination of the languages of the Member States,

    * encouraging mobility of students and teachers, by encouraging inter alia, the academic recognition of diplomas and periods of study,

    * promoting cooperation between educational establishments,

    * developing exchanges of information and experience on issues common to the education systems of the Member States,

    * encouraging the development of youth exchanges and of exchanges of socio-educational instructors, and encouraging the participation of young people in democratic life in Europe,

    * encouraging the development of distance education,

    * developing the European dimension in sport, by promoting fairness and openness in sporting competitions and cooperation between bodies responsible for sports, and by protecting the physical and moral integrity of sportsmen and sportswomen, especially the youngest sportsmen and sportswomen.

    According to Article 166 of the TFEU (ex Article 150 TEC), the Union shall implement a vocational training policy which shall support and supplement the action of the Member States, while fully respecting the responsibility of the Member States for the content and organisation of vocational training. Union action shall aim to:

    * facilitate adaptation to industrial changes, in particular through vocational training and retraining,

    * improve initial and continuing vocational training in order to facilitate vocational integration and reintegration into the labour market,

    * facilitate access to vocational training and encourage mobility of instructors and trainees and particularly young people,

    * stimulate cooperation on training between educational or training establishments and firms,

    * develop exchanges of information and experience on issues common to the training systems of the Member States.

    In order to contribute to the achievement of the objectives referred to in Articles 165 and 166 (TFEU) the European Parliament and the Council, acting in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure, after consulting the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, may adopt incentive measures, excluding any harmonisation of the laws and regulations of the Member States. The Council, on a proposal from the Commission, may adopt recommendations. An Internet portal brings together the measures taken by the European Union to promote language learning and linguistic diversity. The Commission promotes a framework strategy for multilingualism. It is evident that the EU not only respects the cultural diversity of its Member States but also encourages it [see section 10.3].

    Underlying the common education policy is the collection and dissemination of information on the programmes and projects of the various higher education establishments in the Member States. An Education Information Network in the European Union, under the name of EURYDICE, is available to users with responsibilities in the field of education, such as the European institutions, national authorities and officials responsible for higher education in the Member States [Council Resolution and Council Conclusions]. The Eurydice network is the chief instrument for providing information on national and European structures, systems and developments in the field of education. The network assists the drawing up of comparative analyses, reports and surveys on common priority topics determined inter alia in the Education Committee and in the Advisory Committee on Vocational Training [Decision 2004/223]. Α common framework for the systematic production of European statistics in the field of education and lifelong learning is the basis for political decisions in this field [Regulation 452/2008, last amended by Regulation 1175/2014 and Regulation 912/2013].

    An organ of the common policy on professional training is the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (CEDEFOP), located in Thessaloniki [Regulation 337/75]. Cedefop's programme of work focuses on two priority areas, namely qualifications and vocational training systems. The former is essentially concerned with the transparency of qualifications and new occupations at European level and the impact of new forms of work organisation and qualifications on training systems. The latter is concerned with strategies for the optimum combination of types and phases of training with a view to achieving a lifelong learning process and with improved teacher training.

    In the framework of the Lisbon strategy (2001-2010), the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) was established, in 2008 in Budapest, to contribute to the development of the Union’s and the Member States’ innovation capacity, by involving higher education, research and innovation activities at the highest standards [Regulation 294/2008, last amended by Regulation 1292/2013]. Following the example of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the EIT aims at the transfer of the outcome of its higher education, research and innovation activities to the business context and their commercial application, as well as at the support of the creation of start-ups, spin-offs and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The EIT operates primarily through excellence-driven, autonomous partnerships of higher education institutions, research organisations, companies and other stakeholders in the form of sustainable and long-term self-supporting strategic networks in the innovation process. These partnerships are selected by the Governing Board of the EIT on the basis of a transparent and excellence-based process and designated as Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs). Actually, the EIT is financed through the research and innovation programme 'Horizon 2020' [see section 18.2.5] and its Strategic Innovation Agenda (SIA) covers the period from 2014 to 2020 [Decision 1312/2013].

    The eLearning initiative, launched in the framework of the Lisbon strategy, is designed to make good the shortcomings in Europe in the use of new information and communications technologies, thereby accelerating the pace of change in education and training systems, equipping all schools in the Union, training the population at all levels and networking of schools (European Schoolnet) [COM/2000/318].

    The Flagship initiative "Youth on the move" of the ''Europe 2020'' strategy [see section 7.3] aims to enhance the performance and international attractiveness of Europe's higher education institutions and raise the overall quality of all levels of education and training in the EU, combining both excellence and equity, by promoting student mobility and trainees' mobility, and improve the employment situation of young people [COM/2010/2020].

    A Council decision seeks to promote mobility and flexibility in Europe's labour market, by improving transparency and facilitating the mutual recognition of diplomas, qualifications and competences within a single EU-level framework known as "Europass" [Decision 2241/2004], taking the form of a structured, personalised portfolio incorporating a set of pre-existing documents with separate characteristics: "Europass-CV", "Europass-Mobility" (for periods of learning in other countries), "Europass-Diploma supplement" (for higher education), "Europass-Certificate supplement" (for vocational training), "Europass-Language passport" (for linguistic skills).

    Amongst European actions in the university field one must include the Convention setting up the European University Institute in Florence [Convention]. The Institute specialises in research in four areas, viz.: history and civilisation, economics, law and political and social sciences. The task of the Institute is to contribute to the development of the cultural and scientific heritage of Europe, as a whole and in its constituent parts. The Institute runs interdisciplinary research programmes on the main issues European society has to address, especially those involving European integration. Its research work has to cover the great movements and institutions, which characterise the history and development of Europe. The Commission contributes financially towards the Institute's scientific and research activities, namely the research library and European library (Eurolib programme). In addition, the Commission covers the cost concerning the historical archives of the European Union, which are managed by the Institute.

    A Council Resolution advocated that Union languages be taught at an early stage in order to promote European multilingualism while preserving cultural diversity. A Council Recommendation urged the Member States to establish transparent systems of quality assessment and quality assurance in higher education by promoting cooperation between them and, if necessary, by supporting their action, with due regard for the autonomy and independence of the competent authorities. Following this Recommendation, the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA) was established in 2000 and has a growing membership of quality assurance or accreditation agencies in all Member States. Another recommendation calls on the Member States to encourage all higher education institutions active within their territory to introduce or develop rigorous internal quality assurance systems and to give them freedom to choose one agency among any of the agencies registered in a "European Register of Quality Assurance Agencies" (European Register) [Recommendation 2006/143]. Other recommendations have established a European Credit System for Vocational Education and Training (ECVET) and a European Quality Assurance Reference Framework for Vocational Education and Training.

    The European Training Foundation (ETF), established in Turin, contributes to improving ''human capital development'', defined as work which contributes to the lifelong development of individuals' skills and competences through the improvement of vocational education and training systems, in countries eligible for support by the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) [see sections 12.3.4 and 25.2], by the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument [see section 25.4] and in other countries designated by decision of its Governing Board [Regulation 1339/2008].

    The Community/Union has concluded agreements for cooperation in the fields of higher education and vocational training with the United States [Agreement and Decision 2006/910] and Canada [Agreement and Decision 2006/964]. These cooperation programmes seek to encourage, on the one hand, exchanges of knowledge, students and staff and, on the other, interaction between higher education establishments, training providers and undertakings in the EU, the USA and Canada.

    Sporting activities are covered in a declaration to the final act of the Amsterdam Treaty, which contains two essential principles: that sport has a role in forging identity, which amounts to saying that national identities in this field should be respected; and that sports associations should be listened to by the bodies of the European Union when important questions affecting sport are at issue, which gives them a consultative function in these matters [see section 6.4.1]. A Commission White paper aims to encourage debate on specific problems, to enhance the visibility of sport in EU policy-making and to raise public awareness on the needs and specificities of the sector [COM/2007/391].

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