MEPs urge EU Member States to ensure that higher education institutions are better funded, that people from all social backgrounds can study at them, and that more students can study abroad, in a resolution passed on Friday. University courses need to be constantly adapted to labour market needs in order to make Europe's higher education more competitive, they add.
In the debate preceding the vote, rapporteur László Tőkés (EPP, RO), stressed the importance of higher education in achieving the aims of the the EU's 2020 strategy, expressing the hope that modern education would help to ensure that "our young people can have a bright future".
Mobilising means for infrastructure, staff and modernising courses
To help universities and other institutions to contribute to competitiveness in Europe, Parliament asks national, regional and local authorities to ensure that their funding is adequate.
MEPs deplore the cuts made by some Member States in education budgets, and remind them of their duty to ensure that at least 2% of GDP is invested in the education sector.
Spending on university infrastructure and teaching staff could be co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund or the European Social Fund, MEPs suggest.
A new instrument to fund masters-levle mobility
Grants and other financial aid for university-level mobility programmes can help to improve employability and growth in Europe, say MEPs. Parliament fully supports the Commission initiative to create a system of loans for students wishing to take a master's degree abroad.
Mobility and adaptation to the labour market
Student mobility, mutual recognition of diplomas and qualifications earned abroad, and joint university study or research programmes are essential to high-quality teaching, MEPs say.
If the EU is to meet its target of ensuring that 35% of all workers are highly qualified by 2020, its higher education system must meet the challenge of adapting its courses and working methods to the needs both of the labour market and of an increasingly diverse student population.
The resolution was adopted with 464 votes in favour, 34 against and 33 abstentions.