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Commission recommends tuition fees to beat crisis

Europe’s governments should introduce tuition fees to create extra funding for their embattled universities, the European Commission has said as part of a plan to tighten control on national budgets and policies.

The Commission says member states should “[review] the quality and funding of the universities and [consider] measures such as the introduction of tuition fees for tertiary education, accompanied by student loan and scholarship schemes, or alternative sources of funding, including the use of public funds to leverage private investment”.

In addition, the Commission says member states should promote vocational training and generally adapt education systems to the labour market’s skills demand. “For instance, the number of [information technology] graduates has not increased since 2008 and if this persists, the EU may lack 700,000 IT professionals by 2015,” the Commission’s Annual Growth Survey 2012 says.

The survey, adopted on 23 November, defines what the Commission believes must be the EU’s priorities for the coming 12 months in terms of economic policies and reforms to boost growth and employment.

The Commission says member states must give priority to public spending on education, research, innovation and energy, while “ensuring the efficiency of such spending”.

The Commission also urges ministers to reach a political agreement on the unitary patent by the end of the year, and adopt regulations for its implementation after the European Parliament’s vote in February next year.

The Annual Growth Survey was presented as part of a policy package that aims to give the Commission more control on member states’ budget and economics policies.

“Under the new rules, the Commission will have greater surveillance powers so that we do not face again the situation where failings in one country endanger the stability of the euro area as a whole,” the Commission’s president José Manuel Barroso told the press in Brussels on 23 November.

In the coming months, ministers will discuss the Commission’s recommendations and adopt policy guidance for national reforms. The Commission will then issue country-specific recommendations by June 2012.