Policy dialogue with specific regions and countries around the world

Through policy dialogue, the EU exchanges best practice, increases cooperation and, in some cases, supports the partner country or region in their efforts to reform higher education.

What is it?

The EU has established a number of dialogue fora on higher education policy with countries and regions outside of the EU.

These talks bring together senior officials from the EU and from the specific country/region, and experts on the area concerned. The talks often go hand-in-hand with conferences, seminars, and studies on specific topics.

Why is it needed?

Through policy dialogue, the EU exchanges best practice, increases cooperation and, in some cases, supports the partner country or region in their efforts to reform higher education.

In broader terms, policy dialogue should pave the way for increased cooperation and mobility between the EU and partner countries/regions.

Partner regions

Find out more about Erasmus+ and international cooperation. Country and regional factsheets show how Erasmus+ is funding mobility and cooperation between Europe and other parts of the world.

Policy context

The Eastern Partnership is a joint policy initiative that aims to deepen and strengthen relations between the European Union (EU), its Member States and six Eastern partner countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Republic of Moldova and Ukraine.

Policy issues are discussed in four thematic platforms:

  • Strengthening institutions and good governance;
  • Economic development and market opportunities;
  • Connectivity, energy efficiency, environment and climate change;
  • Mobility and people-to-people contacts.

Policy Dialogue

Education, youth and culture are addressed in Platform 4, which also covers policy dialogues on migration, mobility, integrated border management and research and innovation.

The Panel on Education, Culture and Youth was endorsed by the Eastern Partnership Summit in 2017. The Panel focuses on the implementation of deliverables 18 and 19 in the framework of the Youth and Education Package, leading the discussion on education, culture and creative sectors, young people's skills, entrepreneurship and employability.

The Panel promotes modernisation, internationalisation and digitalisation (e-learning) of education and training systems. It also works on broader recognition of non-formal education, and supports the development of cultural and creative sectors in Eastern partner countries.

Strong priority is given to:

  • support and empower the young generation by contributing to the establishment of inclusive and evidence-based youth policy; and
  • by peer learning dialogue on policies and institutions to support youth education, training, and transition to work.

Policy context

Policy context In the framework of a strengthened European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) from the 2011 Communication and of the 2016 ENP review, the European Commission is committed to:

  • support the modernisation of higher education systems
  • increase the support to teaching and learning mobility for students, teachers, university staff and young people from Southern Mediterranean countries

EU cooperation tools

In terms of higher education, vocational education, training, and youth, the Commission supports these objectives through different international cooperation programmes and initiatives, including:

Policy context

Launched in 2012, this is the EU's initiative for cooperation in education with Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia.

Annual Ministerial meetings are organised which identify common priorities, discuss the latest policy and reform measures, and decide on topics for regional cooperation with EU assistance.

The 7th Meeting of the Western Balkans Platform took place in Brussels in June 2018.

Although the countries in the region are committed to voluntarily converge with EU and international standards, the implementation of new policies and reforms is difficult. Each country is at a different stage of convergence with EU standards and therefore requires assistance.

The Western Balkans Platform on Education and Training encourages regional cooperation and communication, sharing of good practices in the region and the EU and pooling of resources. It also provides follow-up in terms of joint projects, studies and events.

The longer term perspective of the policy dialogue is to assist the Western Balkans with their reform efforts and prepare them for EU Membership responsibilities including full participation in the EU's education programmes.

Policy context

"Investing in Youth for Accelerated Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Development" was the overarching theme of the African Union-EU Summit in Abidjan on 29-30 November 2017 where demographic growth, migration, youth, employment and skills were at the centre of the discussions.

Heads of State of both continents confirmed their commitment to invest in young people, education and skills in the next period. And the European Union is already delivering on this commitment with the adoption of a 400m EUR Pan-African programme for 2018-2020.

Two interlinked initiatives under the Africa-EU Strategic Partnership, which together involve 107 universities across 41 African countries, regional bodies and students, are examples of the excellent collaboration of the EU and the African Union in the field of higher education:

  • Tuning Africa is a collaborative process reviewing the competences and skills that are required for a given discipline and revising study programmes so that students acquire competences that are more relevant for the labour market.
  • HAQAA is supporting the Pan African Quality Assurance and Accreditation Framework and in particular the development of continent standards and guidelines for quality assurance in higher education, capacity building in the regional and national bodies in charge of higher education and building up expertise in the field of institutional evaluation and quality.

These two initiatives are due to continue and two new flagships will begin also in 2019. The EU will support an 'African Students and Alumni Association', ensuring that the insights of young people are fed into educational processes, policies and innovative practices. EU funding will also help improve the professional development of VET teachers and managers, the skills of students and the quality of teaching and learning through a pilot mobility initiative for VET staff and students between African and European VET providers and institutes.

Africa is also participating actively in the Erasmus+ programme and support to African researchers is being provided under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions. The Intra-Africa Academic Mobility Programme funds partnerships and mobility between universities within Africa.

Policy dialogue

In 2009 the EU and Brazil concluded a Joint Declaration on Cooperation in Education and Training. Since 2011 the European Commission (EC) and the Brazilian authorities for education and training have had two policy dialogues at government level and a symposium.

Policy context

Over the last decade the EU and China have been closely cooperating in the areas of education & training, culture, multilingualism and youth. Cooperation consisted of regular policy dialogues at government level, as well as concrete outputs in terms of joint projects and events.

Since 2012 all these activities have been integrated under the EU-China High Level People-to-People Dialogue (HPPD), the third pillar of EU-China relations, complementing the other two pillars – the High Level Economic and Trade Dialogue and the High Level Strategic Dialogue.

The HPPD is the overarching mechanism which accommodates all EU-China joint initiatives in the field of people to people exchanges. These initiatives stem from the conclusions of leaders' dialogues and senior officials' meetings where long-term objectives are set, best practice is exchanged and areas for future cooperation are explored.

The HPPD should help build mutual trust and consolidate intercultural understanding between EU and China.

Policy context

The EU and India co-operate on a range of education matters, including:

  • modernisation of higher education;
  • academic excellence;
  • faculty and student mobility;
  • vocational education and training;
  • lifelong learning;
  • transparency;
  • quality and equity in education; and
  • recognition of qualifications.

At the 2008 EU-India summit the EU and India announced their intention to promote dialogue and cooperation in education and culture. In the field of education, areas identified for this purpose include vocational training, technical education, recognition of qualifications, the modernisation of higher education with emphasis on quality, transparency and partnership, and the promotion of languages.

Policy context

Since 2010, the European Commission and the Mexican authorities for education and training have had two policy dialogues at government level.

The purpose of these dialogues is to discuss topics of common interest at senior level, in order to exchange best practices and to identify concrete areas for future cooperation. In a longer term perspective, the dialogue aims to encourage more higher education cooperation and mobility between EU and Mexico.

Policy context

In their Joint Declaration of May 2012, the European Union and the Republic of South Africa acknowledge the crucial contribution of education and training to the development of knowledge-based societies and economies and the key role they play in boosting growth and jobs. The four EU-South Africa Senior Officials meetings held since then have focused on sharing practices on topics ranging from the internationalisation of higher education, modernisation and innovation of the teachers' and lecturers' profession.

The strategic dialogue has been the occasion to discuss topics of common interest, exchange best practices, review cooperation in the programmes and identify concrete areas of mutual interest for the following period.

Policy context

The European Union (EU) and the Republic of Korea (ROK) co-operate, particularly in the field of higher education, because both recognise the crucial contribution it makes to developing a globally competitive, knowledge-based economy and so boosting growth and jobs.

To date, cooperation and student and staff exchange programmes have been successful but scope for more interaction has been identified. At the 2013 EU-ROK Summit, the intention to strengthen cooperation by promoting policy dialogue and joint cooperation projects in higher education was therefore announced.

The first policy dialogue was held in Brussels on 15 March 2016 to discuss practical ways of strengthening cooperation in higher education and to engage in an exchange of best practice, policy review and knowledge building and sharing. The second dialogue will be held in South Korea in the last quarter of 2018.

Cooperation with the United States of America is supported through EU programmes for academic cooperation open worldwide and is supported by other complementary initiatives, including a bilateral branch of the Fulbright Programme for cooperation with the EU.


Fulbright-Schuman Programme

The Fulbright-Schuman Programme, administered by the Commission for Educational Exchange between the United States and Belgium, is jointly financed by the U.S. State Department and the Directorate-General for Education and Culture of the European Commission. Since 1991, the joint programme funds graduate and post-graduate study, research, and lecture proposals in the field of US-EU relations, EU policy, or EU institutions for interested American and EU citizens.

EU-US Young Leaders Seminar

The EU-US Young Leaders Seminar is a platform to promote people-to-people contacts between the EU and the United States resulting from the cooperation between the European Commission and the U.S. Department of State. The first edition of this seminar brought together fifty young leaders from the United States and Europe took place in 2017 (2-5 April, Brussels). It focused on the challenges and opportunities presented by the economic, educational, and cultural integration of migrants and refugees. The second seminar in 2018 (15-17 April, Brussels) brought together a similar group to discuss the future of work, focusing on the role of technology in the future of work, the skills of the future workforce, and the social implications of the changing work environment.

Modernisation of higher education: a comparative Tuning study for the EU and the USA

As part of the Bologna Process for reform of higher education, European Ministers agreed in 2003 that higher education institutions should re-define their degree programmes in output-based terms, and make these programmes more student-centred to prepare graduates best for their future role in society. A project - Tuning Educational Structures in Europe – was set to develop the instruments to enable this to take place. The same methodology has increasingly been used worldwide. There is a study available for the US, covering the period July 2013 to January 2016. An executive summary of the study is also available.