On 30 September 2020, the European Commission launched its vision for achieving a European Education Area (EEA) by 2025, proposing "new initiatives, more investment and stronger cooperation of Member States to help all Europeans, of all ages, benefit from the EU's rich education and training offer". The Communication outlines how "cooperation can further enrich the quality, inclusiveness and digital and green dimension of Member State education systems", and highlights the six dimensions underpinning the EEA: quality, inclusion and gender equality, green and digital transitions, teachers, higher education, a stronger Europe in the world.
Following the EC Communication on the European Education Area, on 9 December the ESN has released the reaction paper "The Future of the European Education Area: achieving high-quality education for future young Europeans".
The paper focuses on the Higher Education field by highlighting ESN’s vision and recommendations on how to achieve the European Education Area by 2025. ESN welcomes the Communication, and particularly the focus on enhancing the quality and inclusiveness of education as well as the central role given to the Erasmus+ Programme and to student mobility. However, the paper also challenges relevant actors "to ensure that the quality of the international connection and learning, the achievement of the same depth of learning, and the promotion of intercultural dialogue, remain at the heart of the Erasmus+ programme". Furthermore, the EEA "should be co-created together with students and other learners", and ESN calls on the European Commission and the Member States to include student representatives on the Steering Board of the European Education Area.
ESN's policy considerations address, among others, the following aspects:
- Several proposals are made to improve inclusiveness, accessibility, equality, and recognition (increasing the student grants to cover actual living costs in the host country; additional financing to ensure that no barriers are created at any point of the mobility period; a more flexible visa and resident permits requirement for Erasmus+ International Credit Mobility participants; allocation of adequate funding from other EU instruments to increase the student mobility opportunities between Erasmus+ programmes and partner countries; setting out targets for student mobility, including specific targets for students from disadvantaged backgrounds; ensuring that the integration of digital tools does not deprive opportunities to those whose needs differ).
- Mechanisms should be out in place for up-scaling the outcomes of the European Universities and ensuring that the entire HE sector can benefit from them. Student involvement should be further increased in the future.
- While welcoming the emphasis on the Green aspects of the various programmes, ESN expresses its concern about the mix-up between "virtual and blended mobility" and the green discussion and strongly believes that environmental aspects should not be seen as an excuse to use "virtual mobility" as an alternative to physical mobility. The paper points out that travel is only a small part of the overall environmental impact of education. Mobility programmes should rather be seen as an opportunity to educate on the importance of environmental sustainability, which should be embedded in the learning objectives in order to achieve longer lasting behavioural impact and wider spillover effect.
- ESN strongly supports that virtual learning should be used in addition to physical mobility, and remote learning should be an extra element that does not compromise any funding for future physical mobilities.
Read the full ESN's reaction paper here.