Today, the Commission presented three initiatives to promote transnational cooperation between higher education institutions, with the ultimate goal of creating a European degree. Obtaining a voluntary European degree will benefit students and the higher education community by strengthening learning mobility within the EU and enhancing students’ transversal skills. It will help meet labor market demand and make graduates more attractive to future employers, while attracting students from around the world and boosting European competitiveness.

All three initiatives face legal and administrative barriers to create competitive joint degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate or doctoral level. The proposals are based on the institutional autonomy and academic freedom of universities. They fully respect the competences of the Member States and regional governments in the field of higher education.

“Education is a key building block of the European way of life us and a promise to our younger generations. Our universities provide graduates with strategic skills for their future and serve as beacons of a European mark of academic excellence. A European degree is the next step and will enable our universities to work together for the benefit of students, teachers, employers and Europe’s competitiveness” said the vice-president of the Commission, Margaritis Schinas. He also emphasized that the European degree is addressed to all educational institutions, state and non-state as long as they meet the criteria required.

Today’s bundle includes communication on a draft strategy for a European degree and two draft Council recommendations to support the higher education sector: the one for the improving quality assurance procedures and the automatic recognition of qualifications in higher education and the other to make academic careers more attractive and sustainable.

Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Iliana Ivanova noted that “our vision is to make European higher education even more competitive and interconnected – and to secure Europe’s place in the global race for talent.”

Plan for a European degree

The European degree plan presented today paves the way for a new kind of joint programmewhich will be implemented on a voluntary basis at national, regional or institutional level and will be based on a common set of criteria agreed at European level.

Such a European degree would reduce bureaucracy and allow higher education institutions from different countries to collaborate seamlessly across borders and draw up joint programs.

The Communication proposes a specific course of cooperation between EU Member States and the higher education sector towards the creation of a European degree that will be automatically recognized across the EU. Given the diversity of European higher education systems across Europe, the Commission proposes a step-by-step approach for Member States towards a European degree, with two possible entry points:

Preparatory European label: a signal would provide a strong European signal. It will be awarded to joint degree programs that meet the proposed European criteria: students receive a European degree certificate together with their joint degree.

A European diploma: this new type of qualification will be based on common criteria and based on national legislation. It will be awarded either jointly by several universities in different countries or, possibly, by a European legal entity set up by such universities: students receive an automatically recognized “European degree”.

The Commission will facilitate and support the Member States in the work for obtaining a European degree through a series of concrete actions, including a policy workshop on European degrees which will be supported by the Erasmus+ programmewhich will be established in 2025, with the aim of involving Member States and the higher education community in the development of guidelines for obtaining a European degree.

In 2025, the Commission plans to launch “plans for the course of European degrees” under the Erasmus+ program to provide financial incentives to Member States, together with accreditation and quality assurance bodies, universities, students, economic and social partners, to participate in the journey towards a European degree.

Simpler and better quality assurance and automatic recognition of university degrees

The Commission’s proposal for a Council Recommendation on a European Safeguard System and recognition of quality in higher education calls on Member States and higher education institutions to simplify and improve their quality assurance procedures and practices. These conditions are essential for accountability and trust – and for improving university performance. Member States are invited to take measures that will allow higher education institutions to more quickly adapt the programs offered to social needs.

This recommendation will approve innovative pedagogic offerings and will ensure that higher education institutions can create transnational programs that are guaranteed and automatically recognized across the EU. The European qualification will depend on strong quality assurance and automatic recognition.

Equal valuation of the different roles of the academic staff

The proposed Council Recommendation on attractive and sustainable careers in higher education aims to give staff involved in cross-border work in education and innovative teaching methods the recognition and reward they deserve. Dmakes recommendations to ensure that national higher education systems address unequal recognition of the different roles that staff undertake beyond research, such as teaching and investing in mainstreaming sustainable development. It also encourages Member States to promote transnational educational activities.

Next steps

The package will be discussed with the Council of the EU and key stakeholders in the higher education sector in the coming months. The Commission calls on the Council, Member States, universities, students and economic and social partners to work together to implement the European Diploma.