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European Commission

Press release

Brussels, 22 October 2014

EU high level group calls for targeted funding to boost use of new technologies in higher education

The European Union's High-Level Group on the Modernisation of Higher Education publishes its report today on 'new modes of learning and teaching in universities'. The group, chaired by former President of Ireland Mary McAleese, makes 15 recommendations (Annex 1) highlighting the need for better targeting of resources to promote the development and use of more flexible digital learning and teaching methods in higher education.

Androulla Vassiliou, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, welcomed the group's report today. "Europe is facing the challenge of coping with greater numbers of students, greater diversity among them, and the need to improve the quality of learning and teaching. Mary McAleese's group has identified realistic and practical steps that can be taken by the EU and national authorities to make better use of new technologies in learning and teaching to respond to those needs. I am especially pleased that the new Erasmus+ programme, which I launched in January, will be able to support the implementation of recommendations by the group."

Mary McAleese, who outlined the report's findings at a meeting with Commissioner Vassiliou today, added: "I have been impressed by the excellent examples of good practice presented to us in our work. These examples showed how important it is to have not only dedicated individuals in higher education institutions, but also committed and visionary governments supporting them if we are to maximise the potential of these new modes of learning and teaching. Although Europe is starting to make progress, it is still lagging behind the US in using new technologies in our universities and colleges. We should capitalise on the strengths we have, such as the wide use of ECTS1 credits to ensure that digital learning in Europe is recognised, accredited and quality assured."

Educational resources from around the globe are becoming more freely accessible and increasingly interactive, moving beyond the simple, online lecture. Digital learning and teaching can be better tailored to the needs of individual students and advances in learning analytics allow professors to give quicker feedback on students' performance and to identify areas where more support is needed.

Digitally based teaching methods are starting to be integrated both on-campus and online as many European higher education institutions are using the new opportunities technology offers. But too often developments rely on a few enthusiastic staff members and there is no coherent strategic uptake within the institutions or across countries.

Based on a thorough analysis of the current situation and of good practices across the EU and beyond, the high level group has identified pathways to support the introduction of new technology-based education. While accepting that higher education institutions themselves are the main actors in delivering changes, the group has underlined the responsibility of public authorities to create an environment which is conducive to change.


The high-level group was launched in 2012 to tackle the most pressing issues in higher education in Europe. In its first year the group developed recommendations targeted at higher education institutions, Member States and the European Commission for improving the quality of teaching and learning in European higher education.

For more information

Report on 'new modes of learning and teaching in universities'

Report on Improving the Quality of Teaching and Learning in Europe's Higher Education Institutions

The agenda for modernisation of higher education

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: Recommendations

  • The European Commission should support Member States in developing and implementing comprehensive national frameworks for diversifying provision and integrating new modes of learning and teaching across the higher education system. It should promote mutual learning on key aspects including skills development, infrastructures, legal frameworks, quality assurance, and funding, in particular by exploiting the potential of the Erasmus+ programme.

  • The European Commission should prioritise support to higher education institutions under the Erasmus+ programme to enhance digital capacity and mainstream new modes of learning and teaching within the institution. Erasmus+ funding should also be made available to promote experimental partnering with specialist service providers.

  • The integration of digital technologies and pedagogies should form an integral element of higher education institutions’ strategies for teaching and learning. Clear goals and objectives should be defined and necessary organisational support structures (such as the European Academy for Teaching and Learning) established to drive implementation.

  • National authorities should facilitate the development of a national competency framework for digital skills. This should be integrated into national professional development frameworks for higher education teachers.

  • All staff teaching in higher education institutions should receive training in relevant digital technologies and pedagogies as part of initial training and continuous professional development.

  • National funding frameworks should create incentives, especially in the context of new forms of performance-based funding, for higher education institutions to open up education, to develop more flexible modes of delivery and to diversify their student population.

  • National authorities should introduce dedicated funding to support efforts to integrate new modes of learning and teaching across higher education provision. Funding should encourage collaborative responses to infrastructural needs, pedagogical training and programme delivery.

  • National and regional authorities should utilise opportunities under the Structural Funds Programme to support the development of necessary supporting infrastructures, technologies and repositories.

  • Public authorities should develop guidelines for ensuring quality in open and online learning and to promote excellence in the use of ICT in higher education provision.

  • The European Commission should support cross-border initiatives to develop quality standards for open and online learning under the Erasmus+ programme.

  • Higher education institutions should ensure that quality assurance arrangements apply to all forms of credit awarding provision in the institution. Institutions should use the quality assurance system to monitor retention rates and inform the development of appropriate supports.

  • The European Commission and national authorities should encourage and incentivise higher education providers to award and recognise credits under the European Credit Tansfer and Accumulation System for all forms of online courses. The current revision of the ECTS Guide should incorporate these principles.

  • Governments and higher education institutions should work towards full open access of educational resources; in public tenders open licences should be a mandatory condition, so that content can be altered, reproduced and used elsewhere. In publicly (co-)funded educational resources – the drive should be to make materials as widely available as possible.

  • Member States should ensure that legal frameworks allow higher education institutions to collect and analyse learning data. The full and informed consent of students must be a requirement and the data should only be used for educational purposes.

  • Online platforms should inform users about their privacy and data protection policy in a clear and understandable way. Individuals should always have the choice to anonymise their data.

Annex 2: Members of the Group

Mary McAleese (Chair)

Mary McAleese was President of Ireland from 1997–2011. She graduated in Law from the Queen's University of 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 her Alma Mater, 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 of Belfast.

Agneta Bladh

Dr Bladh chairs the Governing Board of the Jönköping School of Health Sciences and Stockholm University Library Board. Former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Kalmar, she is 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 served as State Secretary at the Swedish Ministry of Education and Science and was responsible for higher education and research. Agneta Bladh holds a PhD in Political Science from Stockholm University (1988).

Vincent Berger

Since 2013, Vincent Berger has served as special advisor for higher education to President François Hollande. Previously, he was President of the University Paris Diderot. In 2001 he joined the University Paris Diderot as Professor, and until 2006 was head of the Quantum Phenomena and Materials laboratory at the University. He received the Fabry-De Gramont award and the MIT Young Innovator award in 2002. He was nominated in 2012 General Rapporteur of the National Assizes on higher education and research in France by the French Minister for Higher Education and Research.

Christian Bode

Christian Bode was Secretary General of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) 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 until 1990 he was Secretary General of the German Rectors` Conference.

Jan Muehlfeit

Jan Muehlfeit is Chairman Europe, Microsoft Corporation. ICT industry veteran, almost 19 years in Microsoft. He served as Vice President of Microsoft’s Public Sector team in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) in 2005, Vice President, EMEA Corporate & Government Strategy in 2006 and later Chairman Europe, Microsoft Corporation, Mr. Muehlfeit is a Vice-Chair of the Academy of Business in Society (ABiS), board member of JA, Co-Chairman of the European e-Skills Association and a member of the Board of AIESEC. He graduated from Czech Technical University and later on completed executive development programs at Wharton, LSE and Harvard.

Tea Petrin

Tea Petrin is Professor at the Faculty of Economics, University of Ljubljana, Head of the Entrepreneurship Academic Unit at the Faculty of Economics, and a member of the Senate at the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia. Ms Petrin was a visiting professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and at the Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley. She is a renowned expert in entrepreneurship and innovation policies, and regional development programmes. From 1999 to 2004, she was Minister of the Economy for Slovenia. She is a member of the UN Committee for the Development Policy, appointed by the UN Secretary General 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 of America, including as Professor of Classics in Princeton, and in the United Kingdom as Professor of Latin at King´s College London. Since 2008 he chairs the Technical Secretariat of the Italian Ministry for Universities and Research.

1 :

ECTS: European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System. An academic year typically consists of study leading to 60 ECTS credits.

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