Major topics in higher education at the EU level

Education is a strategic sector for any country, ensuring sustained development over the years when it is well-organized, supported by the state, and serves as one of the social elevators. In this respect, the European Union takes a leading approach and stands at the forefront of addressing both immediate challenges and long-term strategic goals.

Today, education is becoming increasingly accessible and serves as a marker of success for those countries that have best practices in integrating education into the foundation of socio-economic development. This blog post focuses on major topics in higher education at the EU level.

Indeed, the world is changing, and with it, the approach to education is evolving. Just two years ago, artificial intelligence was mentioned by only a few, and today it is being used by nearly everyone. Let’s explore the key themes currently on the agenda in the EU and what they all mean.

The most critical themes today are digital transformation, funding and financial sustainability, academic mobility, and  environment sustainability.

Digital transformation

The unexpected and rapid development of digitalization and the transition to online mode began during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced institutions to adopt fast and integrated online learning methods. This aspect is no longer about the transition to a distance learning format, but about maintaining the quality of education in any conditions. European universities are actively using artificial intelligence, virtual interactive platforms for the best combination of online and offline learning. The Digital Europe Programme 2021 – 2027 has 7,4 billion of budget to to accelerate the economic recovery and shape the digital transformation of Europe’s society and economy.

Funding and financial sustainability

Funding remains a critical concern for higher education institutions in the EU. With economic fluctuations impacting government budgets, universities often face uncertainties regarding public funding. This has led to an increased emphasis on diversifying income sources, including private funding, partnerships with industry, and alumni donations. Additionally, the EU has been proactive in supporting higher education through programs like Horizon Europe, which offers substantial research funding. Institutions must navigate these funding landscapes adeptly while ensuring that financial pressures do not compromise educational quality or accessibility.

Academic mobility

The European Union (EU) has been successful in promoting student and academic staff mobility in higher education, particularly through programs such as Erasmus+. These initiatives play a crucial role in fostering cross-cultural understanding and cooperation, while also facilitating the personal and professional growth of individuals. However, with the UK’s exit from the EU, the future of these programs in the country is uncertain, potentially leading to changes in mobility patterns. Additionally, the current geopolitical landscape, including relationships with non-EU nations, has an impact on collaboration opportunities, highlighting the need for adaptable strategies in international cooperation and exchange.

Environment sustainability

Sustainability is a cornerstone of institutional missions across the EU. Universities are not only teaching about sustainable development but are also striving to become exemplars in minimizing environmental impacts. This includes adopting green technologies, enhancing energy efficiency, and promoting sustainable campus initiatives. Moreover, there is a growing recognition of the universities’ roles in addressing social challenges, from inequality and inclusion to supporting local communities.

Summarizing, the European Union pays great attention to education within its territories and contributes by helping students from other countries around the world access high-quality higher education, which is a strategic decision for sustainable economic development. The most important topics today are digital transformation, financial sustainability, academic mobility, and environmental sustainability. These themes shape the present and the future of the world, and by taking actions today, the EU is shaping the future of at least 500 million people.

Artem MelnikovMember of EÜL's international working group