The ET 2020 Working Group on the Modernisation of Higher Education was launched in February 2016 and runs until June 2018. It builds on the achievements of the 2014-2015 Working Group on the Modernisation of Higher Education. Key messages from the 2014-2015 group can be found in the Highlights from the Working Groups.


The Working Group's mandate is to support Member State reforms to maximise the potential of higher education systems to provide high quality higher education; prepare graduates for changing labour markets and changing societies; and to increase Europe's innovation capacity and contribution to growth and jobs.

The members of the Working Group are:

  • Experts from national administrations – most of them from national education ministries – from EU Member States, candidate countries and EFTA countries;
  • Key European stakeholder representatives, social partners (business and trade unions) and civil society organisations working in education.


The goal of the Working Group is to follow up on and review the priorities identified in the 2011 "Modernisation Agenda" and the 2017 renewed EU agenda for higher education.

Some specific topics addressed by the group are:

  • Relevance: strengthening societal and labour market relevance at all levels of higher education;
  • Innovation: within a broad concept of innovation, building partnerships through interdisciplinary and intersectoral approaches, enhancing regional development and the knowledge triangle through closer links between higher education, research and innovation, optimising opportunities offered through open and digital education;
  • Inclusion: supporting the social engagement of higher education institutions, improving the transition from secondary to higher education, promoting intercultural and civic competences of students, promoting a diverse student body including by tackling gender gaps, and integrating newly arrived migrants;
  • Teaching: promoting quality teaching and pedagogical training and ensuring that teaching is seen as comparable to research in academic careers;
  • Internationalisation: promoting internationalisation, recognition and mobility (including through joint programmes, cross-border higher education, internationalising curricula, etc.) to enhance quality and innovation potential;
  • Sustainable investment and governance; focusing on effectiveness by examining performance-based funding and system governance and leadership – ensuring higher education systems are structured, governed and funded in a sustainable , future-oriented way.
  • Quality - continuous quality enhancement and a genuine quality culture must be the responsibility of the academic environment as a whole, including the leadership of institutions. The WG will look into existing good practice and will in particular focus on how governments can encourage and incentivise institutions to improve their quality culture.


Regular meetings are organised either in Brussels or in the Member States with "peer learning" activities on topics agreed by the group.

The outcomes from the PLAs in the Member States feed directly into the bi-annual meetings of the Directors General for Higher Education, and the Commission's ongoing policy work, such as the recent update of the "Modernisation Agenda" and the "Key Competences Framework for lifelong learning" as part of the Commission's follow-up to the ten actions under the New Skills Agenda for Europe.

In addition, these events provide the Members with a forum to exchange good practices on national practices in modernising higher education. These are collected in an on-line compendium to facilitate peer learning, and to stimulate future peer counselling activity:

The Commission has also adopted the Communication on a renewed EU agenda for higher education (COM(2017) 247 of 30.5.2017):

The Communication and draft Council Recommendation reflect the results of the activities in the ET2020 Working Group on Higher Education and its predecessors since 2012. The outcomes of discussions in PLAs, WG meetings and regular meetings of Directors General for Higher Education were channelled into the Communication and accompanying Staff Working Document (SWD(2017) 164 of 30.5.2017).

In the meetings under the Estonian presidency (second half of 2017), initial discussions took place on the topics to be followed up by the WG in the period June 2018 – December 2019. This will be reflected in the new mandate and work programme of the WG, to be adopted under the Bulgarian Presidency (first half of 2018).

Upcoming meetings

  • 16-17 November 2017 (Oslo) – peer learning activity on enhancing the quality culture in higher education institutions: government incentives and the role of HEI leadership
  • 30 November - 1 December 2017 (Brussels) – plenary meeting.

If you have any questions on the Working Group, please send an email to the group coordinators.