What's New in Brussels?


At the end of January the ACA „What’s New in Brussels“ conference focusing on higher education took place.

The conference attracted over 100 participants from 20 countries. Almost 40 experts from European institutions, national Erasmus+ agencies, higher education institutions and other relevant stakeholders took part in expert panels and workshops.

News: Higher education package and Erasmus+ mid-term evaluation

The plenary parts of the conference focused on evaluating the current situation and introducing the next expected initiatives, strategic documents and topics in the field of higher education. In the second quarter of this year, the European Commission is expected to publish the so-called "higher education package". It will contain three main documents - the Communication of the European Commission on the European Joint Degree (this document will be based primarily on the results of pilot projects that address this topic, see also in the article), the proposal for a Council Recommendation on attractive and sustainable academic careers and the proposal for Council Recommendation on a European framework for quality assurance and recognition. The experts also discussed the proposal for Council recommendation „Europe on the move“, which the Commission has already published and which focuses on promoting mobility at all levels of education.

Another topic of the conference was the currently ongoing mid-term evaluation of the Erasmus+ programe. At the moment, the Commission is collecting feedback from individual Member States and at the EU level. Throughout this year, all initiatives and inputs will be gradually processed, while the final evaluation report is expected at the end of the year. During the conference, individual evaluation reports from, for example from the European University Association (EUA), the Erasmus Student Network or the ECIU alliance (European Consortium of Innovative Universities) were presented.

Education, research and innovation and responsible internationalization

The conference also focused on synergies of higher education with the field of research and innovation. The panelists discussed the possibilities for higher education institutions within the European Research Area, specifically the ERA 13 action, as well as the promotion of further synergies between the Erasmus+ and Horizon Europe programmes. The discussion also touched on the recently published proposal for Council Reccomendation on enhancing research security. This topic is closely related to the topic of responsible internationalization, which is why the final lecture and panel focused on this issue. Tommy Shih from Lund University spoke about the need to maintain a balance between security and maintaining openness for international cooperation of higher education institutions. He also emphasized how important is the role played in this process by ministries and other national authorities, the institutions themselves, as well as the individuals affected by the everyday decisions.

European universities, European Joint Degree, BIPs and other trends in the internationalization of HEIs

In addition to the plenary parts, the conference also featured 6 parallel thematic discussions on various topics. As part of the discussion on the monitoring of the European Universities, Tine Delva from the European Commission presented the currently developed monitoring framework based on 5 key areas - governance and cooperation within the European University Alliances, joint provision of education and mobility, society and economy, research and innovation and impact on the wider higher education ecosystem. Other experts then confirmed the need and usefulness of such a framework and also mentioned the necessity of cooperation at all levels (European, national and institutional) for the further development of the European Universities Initiative.

The conference participants also learned about the updates concerning the European joint degree and the legal status for university alliances. Yann-Maël Bideau from the European Commission presented the known results and outputs of the pilot projects on these topics, which started last year and will end this spring. According to the information so far, all pilot projects are successful and bring key information and recommendations in both areas. Bideau also stressed that any further steps need to be rigorously discussed and coordinated with national ministries given the full autonomy of member states in the field of education.

Other parallel discussions focused on the blended intensive programs (BIP) within the Erasmus+, inclusion in the field of higher education or "lump sums" and financial simplification of the Erasmus+. As part of the discussion on the topic of Erasmus+ international mobility, Yvona Vyhnánková, Erasmus+ institutional coordinator at the Palacký University in Olomouc, spoke as one of the experts and presented the UPOL strategy in the field of international mobility.

More information can be found on the ACA website.