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Helping people aim higher

The proportion of highly skilled jobs in the economy is growing and Europe needs more people with tertiary-level education. The ESF is funding innovative improvements to tertiary-level teaching, supporting partnerships with industry, and opening participation to people who are under-represented in higher education.

A better supply of highly educated people is vital for the economic well-being of Europe as a whole. It is the graduates from universities and other tertiary-level education institutions who will largely provide the management skills, the scientific and artistic talent, and the engineering know-how to take Europe forward into the growing digital economy.

  • Therefore, the ESF is strongly supporting wider access to universities and colleges and also activities to improve their quality. Students from under-represented and vulnerable groups, such as ethnic minorities, are helped to move into tertiary education, as are adult learners.
  • Tertiary-education institutions are also helped to develop new and innovative curricula and teaching methods – such as IT based learning. These contribute to more open educational resources, supporting lifelong-learning opportunities for workers and job-seekers who need to upgrade their skills.
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  • Partnerships and networking between universities and vocational training colleges and local and regional employers is supported, both to introduce students to potential employers as well as to give business a voice in the academic world and ensure that graduate qualifications are relevant to the jobs and career paths that are available.  
  • ESF projects are offering students courses in entrepreneurship, problem-solving and creative skills that complement their chosen studies and fit them better for the world of work. University research departments are getting funding to take on more postgraduates and are supported to build trans-European networks with other research groups.

Overall, wider access to tertiary education and the universities and colleges that provide it is an ESF priority. Wider access means encouraging women into the technical subjects where they are under-represented – for example, by promoting networking and inviting prominent women academics who can act as role models. And helping disadvantaged groups participate, with initiatives to encourage immigrants, disabled people and young Roma to take on the challenge of higher education and develop their talents.