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EU consults on plans for joint European degrees

Consultations also launched on linked issues of quality assurance and attractive careers in higher education

The EU is seeking feedback on its plans to facilitate joint European degrees, as well as on the linked issues of quality assurance and attractive careers in higher education.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has said that joint European degrees are an EU priority for 2024, and they are included in the Commission’s programme of work for the coming year.

The desire for a joint European degree stems from universities facing long-standing obstacles in delivering joint programmes with institutions in different member states, caused by a lack of coherence between national higher education systems.

According to a Commission document released on 9 January, problems with cross-border programmes could be overcome by setting up a common set of European criteria for joint degrees.

Member states and their universities would then be able to voluntarily award joint European degrees based on the criteria alongside their national degrees, the document says.

On 9 January, the Commission launched a consultation on a blueprint for joint European degrees, as well as on plans around quality assurance and attractive higher education careers. It said quality assurance and careers were “two key building blocks” of making the joint European degree a reality.

Proposals under consultation

The Commission is proposing that the Council of the EU member state governments adopt recommendations on a European Quality Assurance and Recognition System in higher education and on attractive and sustainable careers in higher education.

Its consultation document says that the way quality assurance is regulated in many member states “hinders deep transnational cooperation to develop joint degree programmes and other joint educational activities”.

It adds that one of the main reasons why universities do not automatically recognise qualifications or learning periods abroad is a lack of trust in the quality assurance processes of other institutions.

The document says high-quality academic staff are “indispensable” for deeper transnational cooperation. It explains that building joint degree programmes requires a lot of effort from academics, but these efforts are not properly recognised in career development and promotion.

The Commission is seeking feedback on all three areas until 6 February and would like input from across the higher education sector.