MEPs wants to ensure European education remains in a class of its own. ©BELGA/Monkey/R.Thomas 

Only 200 out of the EU's 4,000 higher education institutions rank among the top 500 of the world. In order to improve this figure and help maintain Europe's global competitiveness, MEPs adopted a report in plenary on 20 April to urge member states and higher education institutions to modernise higher education by widening access, promoting mobility and encouraging universities to cooperate with local businesses and public bodies.

About the report

The report by Romanian Christian-Democrat László Tökés is a  reaction to the European Commission's communication on the challenges facing higher education in Europe and discusses steps to improve the quality of higher education. Although higher education is the responsibility of member states, EU initiatives can help to complement and coordinate their efforts.

Widening access

In order to meet future skills demands, more people will have to complete higher education. By 2020, 35% of all jobs will need highly skilled workers while today only 26% of the workforce has a high-level qualification.

In addition workers have to continuously update their skills and knowledge to keep up with rapid technological change and the resulting demand for new skills. The report also points out that higher education institutions have to adapt their curricula and teaching methods to meet the needs of new types of students, such as lifelong learners, adults and the elderly.

Increasing mobility

The report also calls on member states to cooperate more on establishing common core curricula and well-defined learning outcomes, as well as supporting language teaching. It also supports the Commission proposal for measures to improve recognition of studies abroad.

Engaging with companies

Higher education institutions should engage more with the business world, including small and medium-sized companies, and regional and local bodies, according to the report. It also points out that more than 21% of young people in the EU are unemployed. Therefore it urges higher education institutions to monitor labour market trends and welcomes Commission's commitment to improving the availability of data on graduates' employment.