January 26, 2009
The Czechs are at the helm! This month has seen Prime Minister M. Topolánek and co. take over the Presidency of the EU from the French under the banner of a ‘Europe without barriers’. At a meeting in Prague on 6th January, the Prime Minister and his deputy launched the official work programme for the next six months, highlighting their priorities as the three ‘E’s’: Economy, Energy and Europe in the world. While it is sad, but unsurprising, that education is not one of the three priority ‘E’s, this Presidency like any other will be steering Europe’s education policy over the coming months. So what lies in store for higher education under the Czechs? Will it be ‘more of the same’ or might there be a shift in emphasis? Time to take a look at what is being promised on paper…
In short, the work programme has three education components:
1. Updated Strategic Framework for European Cooperation in Education and Training beyond 2010.
The emphasis of the Czech Presidency is going to be on the ‘big picture’ of higher education, with a focus on negotiating the future strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training beyond 2010. Following on from the Commission’s Communication and the Education and Training 2010 Work Programme, the new strategic framework will seek to set the long-term objectives of European cooperation on education over the next decade. The Presidency will be developing the key messages on education to present to the European Council meeting in May which will be mandated to approve the new strategic framework. Reference is also made in the work programme to debates on topical issues, including support for mobility, and to the implementation of ‘common tools’ such as the European Credit System for Vocational Education and Training (ECVET) and the European Quality Assurance Reference Framework for Vocational Education and Training (EQARF).
2. Partnership between the Field of Education and Employers: Openness of Schools to New Challenges.
The Presidency will stress the need for a culture of openness among educational institutions, and the need for greater cooperation between them and employers and regions, in order to implement what is referred to as the ‘knowledge triangle’. There will be close cooperation between the Presidency and the Commission on the latter’s initiative to increase cooperation between universities and the business sector.
3. Development of Higher Education – Quality and Openness (The Bologna Process).
In terms of what is one of ESU’s top priorities for the coming months, the Czech Presidency says it will ‘engage’ in evaluating the implementation of the priorities of the Bologna Process set for 2007 – 2009, and in preparing the interim report on the overall progress made between 1999-2009. It will also play a role in gathering the supporting documentation needed to define the future of higher education beyond 2010, and will coordinate the Bologna Follow-Up Group (BFUG) in the build up to the Spring Ministerial Conference in Leuven/Louvain-la-Neuve.