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Education, training and youth

Each EU country makes its own education policy, but the EU supports them in setting joint goals and sharing good practice. The EU's future economic success depends on having a highly educated population, so we can compete effectively in a globalised knowledge-based economy.
The EU also funds programmes to help people study, train, do a work placement or volunteer abroad, as well as promoting language learning and e-learning.

Education exchanges for students and teachers

For 2007-13, the EU has allocated almost €13 billion to lifelong learning and worldwide exchanges. The main programmes are:

  • Leonardo da Vinci: vocational training, particularly placements for young apprentices and trainees in businesses outside their own country, and cooperation projects linking vocational training institutes and businesses.
  • Erasmus study abroad: since 1987 2.5 million students and university staff have been on an Erasmus placement. Erasmus Mundus caters for post-graduate students and academics from all over the world wanting to obtain a Masters or PhD from European universities.
  • Grundtvig: adult education programmes, particularly trans-national partnerships and networks.
  • Comenius cooperation between schools and their teachers, plus pupil exchanges at secondary school level and school partnerships over the internet (eTwinning).
  • Marie Curie Actions: professional training and international opportunities for researchers, from post-graduate level on.
Group of apprentices © Carofoto

EU-wide recognition of vocational qualifications is a priority.

Many of these schemes programmes are also open to students, teachers and educational establishments in non-EU countries – particularly those bordering the EU or planning to join. The EU also promotes exchanges and courses in European integration with some 80 countries around the world.

Europass: make your qualifications and skills better understood

Europass documents help people present their skills and qualifications in a standard format that makes it easier for employers to understand qualifications from other countries, and for workers to apply for jobs abroad. The documents include:

Statue of Erasmus © Erasmus University Rotterdam

The EU's scheme for studying abroad is named after Erasmus, a 16th century scholar.

Qualifications – ensuring comparability and facilitating recognition

In addition to the Europass documents, the common European Qualifications Framework (EQF) makes national qualification systems more comparable. Every new qualification issued in the EU now has a reference to one of the eight EQF reference levels.

Vocational education and training

33 European countries (including all EU countries) are discussing vocational and educational training through the ‘Copenhagen Process’, including a European credit system and quality-assurance network.

Higher education

The EU is working with 20 other countries to create the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) through the 'Bologna process', which promotes mutual recognition of periods of study, comparable qualifications and uniform quality standards.

Knowledge and innovation communities

The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) helps translate research results into commercial applications by bringing together universities, research organisations, companies and foundations. Its priorities include climate change, renewable sources of energy and the next generation of information and communication technologies. In 2008-13 it received EU funding worth €309m.

Opportunities for young people

The Youth on the Move initiative seeks to improve young people’s education and employability by:

  • making education and training more relevant
  • encouraging more young people to take advantage of EU grants to study or train in another country
  • encouraging EU countries to simplify the transition from education to work.

The EU Youth Strategy (2009) seeks equal opportunities for young people in education and on the job market and encourages young people to be active citizens and participate in society.

Youth in Action promotes active involvement in the community and supports projects giving young people a greater sense of EU citizenship – for example, by volunteering in another country via the European Voluntary Service. Between 2007-13, the EU will have invested nearly €900m in these activities.





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