Relevant and high quality higher education

High quality and relevant higher education is able to equip students with the knowledge, skills and core transferable competences they need to succeed after graduation, within a high quality learning environment which recognises and supports good teaching.

What is it?

High quality and relevant higher education is able to equip students with the knowledge, skills and core transferable competences they need to succeed after graduation, within a high quality learning environment which recognises and supports good teaching.

A recent study by the European Commission concerning the relevance of higher education found that higher education is relevant if it contributes to all three objectives:

  • sustainable employment,
  • personal development and
  • active citizenship.

Why is it needed?

EU leaders have agreed a target that 40% of those aged 30-34 should have a higher education or equivalent qualification by 2020. While higher education graduates are more likely to find employment than people with lower levels of qualifications, higher education curricula are often slow to respond to changing needs in the wider economy, and fail to anticipate or help shape the careers of tomorrow.

Addressing Europe’s high-level skills needs requires action. First, more people need to be attracted to the fields of study that prepare students for jobs where shortages exist or are emerging. In many EU Member States there is unmet demand for graduates in science, technology, engineering, (arts) and maths (STE(A)M) fields, medical professions and teaching. Second, all students in advanced learning, irrespective of discipline, need to acquire advanced transversal skills and key competences that will allow them to thrive. High-level digital competences, numeracy, autonomy, critical thinking and a capacity for problem-solving are increasingly crucial attributes.

There is a strong need for flexible, innovative learning approaches and delivery methods to improve quality and relevance while expanding student numbers. One key way of achieving this, in line with the EU policy paper on Rethinking Education is to exploit the transformational benefits of ICTs and other new technologies to enrich teaching, improve learning experiences and support personalised learning.

What has been done so far?

The European Commission started a European initiative to track graduates to improve knowledge at national and EU level on how they progress in their careers or further education. This knowledge can support improvements in career guidance, programme design, institutional strategy and policy-making.

The Council Recommendation on tracking graduates (2017/C 423/01) initiated cross-country cooperation to improve national graduate tracking mechanisms. In order to take this work forward, the Commission set up an informal expert group.

The Commission launched a pilot European graduate survey which aims to collect comparative EU data on labour market relevance of studies, graduate skills, mobility flows, graduate values and citizenship and further study.

The Commission is also launching an up-scaled EU STE(A)M coalition bringing together different education sectors, business and public sector employers to promote the uptake of relevant STE(A)M subjects and modernise STE(A)M and other curricula.