The international higher education landscape is changing dramatically in shape and size, with greater competition from countries such as China and India. This calls for an overhaul in the way Europe’s 4.000 universities operate – not only internationally, but also in how they deliver education to European students in their home countries. This is the opinion of the European Commission in its new strategy, ‘European higher education in the world’.
With these increasing mobility flows, the transparency and recognition of learning acquired elsewhere is a key priority. The European Commission stresses that national governments should make it easier and more attractive for non-EU national students and researchers to enter and stay in the EU for periods exceeding 90 days.
Lack of ties with global partners
The Commission’s strategy referred to a study by the Dutch Government, showing the positive economic impact on host countries by international students. “If only a modest 2.5% of international graduates remained to work in the country, this would result in positive long-term effects on the public finances, over and above the recouped investment”, that study concluded.
Androulla Vassiliou, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, urged universities to think global. “They must act strategically to capitalise on Europe’s reputation for top quality higher education. They need to promote international mobility of students and staff, provide world-class innovative curricula, as well as excellence in teaching and research. While many European universities have good links inside the EU, many lack a clear strategy for strengthening ties with non-European partners. This urgently needs to change”.
There are more than 19 million students in European Union universities and other higher education institutions. The European Commission underlines that universities must promote an international outlook among the 85% of students who are not mobile themselves, so that they too acquire the international skills required in a globalised world. This means universities need to develop international curricula, promote language skills and expand digital learning.
Overall, the number of higher education students in the world is expected to quadruple, from around 100 million in 2000 to 400 million in 2030, with particularly strong growth in Asia and Latin America, predicts the European Commission. Europe currently attracts around 45% of all international students, but its competitors are rapidly increasing their investment in higher education: Australia, New Zealand and Russia. The largest providers of internationally mobile students are China, India and South Korea.
100.000 more exchanges
Erasmus+, the new EU programme for education, training, youth and sport, will allocate more than €400 million a year to support international student exchanges and increased cooperation between European universities and their partners worldwide.
The new Erasmus+ programme, to be launched in January 2014, will for the first time mainstream opportunities for students from beyond Europe’s borders to spend part of their degree studies at a European university, or vice versa. 135 000 student and staff exchanges between the EU and the rest of the world will be funded – 100 000 more than under the existing Erasmus Mundus programme, in addition to 3 million student and staff exchanges within the EU.