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European Commission

Press release

Brussels, 18 June 2013

EU high level group: train the professors to teach

The EU high-level group on modernisation of higher education publishes its first report today on improving the quality of teaching and learning in universities. The group, chaired by former President of Ireland Mary McAleese, makes 16 recommendations (see Annex 1) which include a call for mandatory certified training for professors and other higher education teaching staff, more focus on helping students to develop entrepreneurial and innovative skills, and the creation of a European Academy of Teaching and Learning.

Androulla Vassiliou, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, said: "My goal in setting up the group was to encourage new thinking and ideas. Its recommendations are timely, practical and do not necessarily require large amounts of additional expenditure. Quality teaching in our higher education and training systems is crucial for ensuring that students are equipped with the right blend of skills for their future personal and professional development. The Commission will do all it can to support the implementation of these recommendations."

Mary McAleese, chair of the group, added: "Quality teaching and learning depends on dedicated individuals and dedicated institutions, supported by policies that put teaching and learning at the centre. Higher education teaching staff have to be given the training and support they need to do an excellent job. Our report shows how this can be done."

The group, which was set up by Commission Vassiliou last September, has consulted widely with stakeholders as part of its work. It found that many higher education institutes place insufficient emphasis on teaching in comparison with research, even though both are core missions of higher education. "This needs rebalancing. The role of teaching in defining academic merit needs a stronger emphasis and recognition, especially in career terms," said the Commissioner. "I very much welcome the proposal that all teachers in higher education should be taught how to teach."

Next steps

The high level group will now begin work on the second part of its mission, focused on how to maximise the impact of new methods of delivering quality higher education, such as massive open online courses ('MOOCs'), which enable people to access higher education from their homes. Partners in 11 countries recently launched the first pan-European MOOCs with the support of the European Commission (IP/13/349). The high-level group's next report is due to be published in June 2014.


The work of the high level group is part of the Commission's strategy to support the modernisation of higher education in the Member States. A lot of progress has already been made in this area. The Bologna Process, for instance, has made it easier for students to study aboard and have their qualifications recognised throughout Europe. A new multidimensional university ranking system, initiated by the Commission and due to publish its first findings early next year, will facilitate comparisons between universities so that students are able to make a more informed choice about where to study.

The European Agenda for the modernisation of higher education, endorsed by Education Ministers on 28-29 November 2011, identifies areas where EU countries need to do more to achieve their shared objectives and sets out how the European Union can support their modernisation policies. Priorities include improving the quality and relevance of higher education, so curricula meet the needs of students, employers and the careers of the future, as well as increasing the number of graduates. It promotes stronger cooperation between universities, businesses and research. The Agenda is a part of the Commission's wider Europe 2020 strategy to promote growth and jobs, in which education plays a key role.

Erasmus for All, the new programme for education, training, youth and sport, due for launch in January, will support policy reform in Member States, with a focus on strengthening the evidence base for policy making and exchange of good practices. The programme is expected to have a budget of around €14.5 billion for 2014-2020 - 40% more than the current programmes – and will provide grants for 4 million people to gain international experience and skills through study, training or volunteering abroad.

For more information

The agenda for modernisation of higher education

The report is available:


European Commission: Education and training

Androulla Vassiliou's website

Follow Androulla Vassiliou on Twitter @VassiliouEU

Contacts :

Dennis Abbott (+32 2 295 92 58); Twitter: @DennisAbbott

Dina Avraam (+32 2 295 96 67)

Annex 1:

High Level Group on the Modernisation of Higher Education

Recommendations for improving quality in teaching and learning

In its report, the High Level Group has mapped out pathways for improving quality in teaching and learning. Bearing in mind the different starting points of higher education institutions and countries, we have tried to offer a wide array of instruments, tools, and practical examples to show how different – and often quite straightforward – approaches can work. To come back to our starting point: teaching matters. Teaching matters as much as research matters. We must put the quality of teaching and learning centre-stage.

To this end we recommend:

Recommendation 1

Public authorities responsible for higher education should ensure the existence of a sustainable, well-funded framework to support higher education institutions' efforts to improve the quality of teaching and learning.

Recommendation 2

Every institution should develop and implement a strategy for the support and on-going improvement of the quality of teaching and learning, devoting the necessary level of human and financial resources to the task, and integrating this priority in its overall mission, giving teaching due parity with research.

Recommendation 3

Higher education institutions should encourage, welcome, and take account of student feed-back which could detect problems in the teaching and learning environment early on and lead to faster, more effective improvements.

Recommendation 4

All staff teaching in higher education institutions in 2020 should have received certified pedagogical training. Continuous professional education as teachers should become a requirement for teachers in the higher education sector.

Recommendation 5

Academic staff entrance, progression and promotion decisions should take account of an assessment of teaching competence alongside other factors.

Recommendation 6

Heads of institutions and institutional leaders should recognise and reward (e.g. through fellowships or awards) higher education teachers who make a significant contribution to improving the quality of teaching and learning, whether through their practice, or through their research into teaching and learning.

Recommendation 7

Curricula should be developed and monitored through dialogue and partnerships among teaching staff, students, graduates and labour market actors, drawing on new methods of teaching and learning, so that students acquire relevant skills that enhance their employability.

Recommendation 8

Student performance in learning activities should be assessed against clear and agreed learning outcomes, developed in partnership by all faculty members involved in their delivery.

Recommendation 9

Higher education institutions and national policy-makers in partnership with students should establish counselling, guidance, mentoring and tracking systems to support students into higher education, and on their way to graduation and beyond.

Recommendation 10

Higher education institutions should introduce and promote cross-, trans- and inter-disciplinary approaches to teaching, learning and assessment, helping students develop their breadth of understanding and entrepreneurial and innovative mindsets.

Recommendation 11

Higher education institutions – facilitated by public administrations and the EU – should support their teachers so they develop the skills for online and other forms of teaching and learning opened up by the digital era,, and should exploit the opportunities presented by technology to improve the quality of teaching and learning.

Recommendation 12

Higher education institutions should develop and implement holistic internationalisation strategies as an integral part of their overall mission and functions. Increased mobility of students and staff, international dimension of curricula, international experience of faculty, with a sufficient command of English and a second foreign language and intercultural competences, transnational delivery of courses and degrees, and international alliances should become indispensable components of higher education in Europe and beyond.

Recommendation 13

The European Union should support the implementation of these recommendations, in particular through promoting:

  • innovative teaching and learning methodologies and pedagogical approaches;

  • guidance, counselling and coaching methods;

  • improved programme design, taking account of the latest research on human learning;

  • the professionalization and development of teachers, trainers and staff;

  • mobility and exchanges of academic staff for long term teaching assignments; and

  • systematic and regular data collection on issues affecting the quality of teaching and learning.

Recommendation 14

The European Union should support the establishment of a European Academy for Teaching and Learning led by stakeholders, and inspired by the good practices reflected in this report.

Recommendation 15

Researchers supported by the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions and who are intending a career in academia should be given the opportunity to gain professional teaching qualifications and be supported in teaching activities alongside their research.

Recommendation 16

Member States, in partnership with the regions, are encouraged to prioritise, in their Partnership Agreements under the Structural Funds, initiatives to support the development of pedagogical skills, the design and implementation programmes relevant to social and labour market needs, and the strengthening of partnerships between higher education, business and the research sector.

Annex 2: Members of the High Level Group on the Modernisation of Higher Education

Mary McAleese (Chair)

Mary McAleese was President of Ireland from 1997–2011. She graduated in law from Queen's University, Belfast, in 1973 and was called to the Northern Ireland Bar in 1974. In 1975, she was appointed Reid Professor of criminal law, criminology and penology at Trinity College Dublin and in 1987, she returned to Queen's to become director of the institute of professional legal studies. In 1994, she became the first female pro-vice chancellor of the Queen's University.

Agneta Bladh

Dr Bladh chairs the governing board of the Jönköping School of Health Sciences and Stockholm University library board. She is also a member of Uppsala University governing board, the board of Oslo and Akershus College of Applied Science (Norway) and a board preparing the merger between two universities in Norway. Dr Bladh is a member of the Danish Accreditation Council and the advisory board of the Swedish Higher Education Authority. Dr Bladh was rector of the University of Kalmar, Sweden, from February 2004 to December 2009. From 1998 to 2004, she served as state secretary at the Swedish Ministry of Education and Science, responsible for higher education and research, and from 1995 to 1998, was director general at the National Agency for Higher Education. Agneta Bladh holds a PhD in political science from Stockholm University (1988).

Vincent Berger

Vincent Berger is president of the University Paris Diderot. From 1990 to 2001 he worked at the Laboratoire Central de Recherches for aerospace multinational Thales (ex Thomson CSF). In 2001 he joined the University Paris Diderot - Paris 7 as professor, and until 2006 was head of the quantum phenomena and materials laboratory. He received the Fabry-De Gramont award and the MIT Young Innovator award in 2002. He has published around 150 papers in international journals, and holds 16 patents. In 2012 he was nominated general rapporteur of the national assizes on higher education and research in France by Education Minister Genevieve Fioraso. 

Christian Bode

Christian Bode was secretary general of the German Academic Exchange Service for 20 years (1990-2010). Christian Bode was educated in law and received his PhD from the University of Bonn in 1971. Between 1972 and 1982 he held different senior positions in the federal Ministry of Education and Science. From 1982 to 1990 he was secretary general of the German Rectors' Conference. He was one of the founders of the Academic Cooperation Association in Brussels and served as its vice president several times.

Christian Bode has published widely on all aspects of higher education policy, with a focus on international cooperation between universities. He is a member of several administrative boards of universities in Germany and abroad (Munich, Berlin, Muscat, Shanghai) and professional societies.

Jan Muehlfeit

Jan Muehlfeit is chairman of Microsoft Corporation in Europe. Over nearly 20 years with Microsoft, he has served in various positions, in its Czech/Slovak subsidiary from 1993 to 2000 and responsible for central and eastern Europe in 2000-05. He served as vice president of Microsoft’s public sector team in 2005 and vice president of Corporate & Government Strategy in 2006, for Europe, Middle East and Africa. Mr Muehlfeit is a vice-chair of the Academy of Business in Society, board member of Junior Achievement, co-chairman of the European e-Skills Association and a member of the board of the student organisation AIESEC (Association Internationale des Etudiants en Sciences Economiques et Commerciales) and the advisory body of Ovum, a company that specialises in analysis and consulting on technology. He has served on various advisory boards for several European governments on information technology, national competitiveness and education. He also represents Microsoft on the Transatlantic Business Dialogue and is an advisor on different projects for the World Economic Forum, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and European Policy Centre.  He is also a board member of the Czech National Museum and member of the Leaders' Council of the International Business Leaders Forum. He graduated from the Czech Technical University and later completed executive development programs at Wharton, the London School of Economics and Harvard.

Tea Petrin

Tea Petrin is professor in the faculty of economics at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, where she is also the head of the entrepreneurship academic unit. She is a member of the university senate. Ms Petrin was a visiting professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and at the Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley. She was also a Fulbright professor at the Institute of International Studies at UC Berkeley and at the Centre for Industrial Competitiveness in the University of Massachusetts Lowell. She is a renowned expert in entrepreneurship and innovation policies, and regional development programmes. From 1999-2004, she was Slovenia's Minister of Economy. From 2004-2008, she was Slovenian ambassador to the Netherlands, and has been her country's representative on the European Small Business Council and a member of International Small Business Council. She is vice-president of the board of advisors of the Competitiveness Institute, a member of the academic advisory board of the European Forum of Entrepreneurship Research and a member of the board of the Academic Research Network. She chaired the cluster policy group at the European Commission's Directorate General for Enterprise and Industry (2009-2010), was a member of the synergies expert group at the European Commission's Directorate General for Research (2010-2011) and of the United Nations' committee for development policy for the period January 2013 – December 2015.

Alessandro Schiesaro

Alessandro Schiesaro is professor of Latin literature at the University of Rome-Sapienza and director of the Sapienza School of Advanced Studies. After studying in Pisa, Berkeley and Oxford, Alessandro Schiesaro lectured in the United States, including as professor of classics in Princeton, and in the United Kingdom as professor of Latin at King´s College London. Since 2008 he has chaired the technical secretariat of the Italian Ministry for Universities and Research.

Loukas Tsoukalis

Loukas Tsoukalis is Jean Monnet Professor of European integration at the University of Athens and visiting professor at the College of Europe in Bruges. He is president of the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy, and has been special adviser to the President of the European Commission. He has taught at the University of Oxford, London School of Economics, Sciences Po in Paris, and the European University Institute of Florence. He has written many books and articles on European integration and international political economy translated into several languages.

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