The group, chaired by former President of Ireland Mary McAleese, makes 16 recommendations which include a call for mandatory certified training for professors and other higher education teaching staff, more focus on helping students to develop entrepreneurial and innovative skills, and the creation of a European Academy of Teaching and Learning.
Androulla Vassiliou, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, said: "My goal in setting up the group was to encourage new thinking and ideas. Its recommendations are timely, practical and do not necessarily require large amounts of additional expenditure. Quality teaching in our higher education and training systems is crucial for ensuring that students are equipped with the right blend of skills for their future personal and professional development. The Commission will do all it can to support the implementation of these recommendations."
Mary McAleese, chair of the group, added: "Quality teaching and learning depends on dedicated individuals and dedicated institutions, supported by policies that put teaching and learning at the centre. Higher education teaching staff have to be given the training and support they need to do an excellent job. Our report shows how this can be done."
The group, which was set up by Commission Vassiliou last September, has consulted widely with stakeholders as part of its work. It found that many higher education institutes place insufficient emphasis on teaching in comparison with research, even though both are core missions of higher education. "This needs rebalancing. The role of teaching in defining academic merit needs a stronger emphasis and recognition, especially in career terms," said the Commissioner. "I very much welcome the proposal that all teachers in higher education should be taught how to teach."
The high level group will now begin work on the second part of its mission, focused on how to maximise the impact of new methods of delivering quality higher education, such as massive open online courses ('MOOCs'), which enable people to access higher education from their homes. Partners in 11 countries recently launched the first pan-European MOOCs with the support of the European Commission. The high-level group's next report is due to be published in June 2014.