Member of the European Commission for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth
Education is the best investment
European Voice EU Studies Fair/Brussels
9 February 2013
I'm delighted to be with you for the 2013 EU Studies Fair. I would like to thank European Voice for organising the event. It is now the fourteenth year that it has done so. Mr Taylor, Mr King and your team, congratulations for the excellent job.
I am sure everyone is eager to visit the stands, including our own European Commission stand where you can find out more about Erasmus, Erasmus Mundus and the Marie Curie Actions. But please allow me to say a few words about what the EU is doing for education and about the new programme we are launching next year.
Let me first of all address the students among us. I know that you are here today in order to make important decisions about your future studies. I welcome your interest in acquiring a postgraduate education. It is the best investment you can make in yourselves.
A specialised degree has never been as important as now. The crisis has proven this – the highly skilled have done much better on the job market.
That is no simple feat when one out of five under the age of 25 is unemployed in Europe – in some countries like Spain or Greece over half of young people cannot find work.
However, your decision as to the course of study you will follow is very important because, despite high unemployment across Europe, we still have two million unfilled vacancies where we cannot find people with the right skills.
Last November, I presented EU Education Ministers with a strategy on Rethinking Education and stressed the urgency of reforming and modernising our systems.
We have to ensure that, from primary to higher education, we deliver excellent quality across Europe and that our students learn skills that are relevant to the needs of the real world: that includes transversal skills, the capacity to think critically, take initiatives, be entrepreneurial, solve problems and work as a team. This is more important than ever today, knowing that many people will pursue different career paths during their working lives.
That is why I have recently set up a High Level Group for the modernisation of higher education. Over the next three years, experts will be looking at how best to achieve quality and excellence in teaching and to adapt learning to the digital age, increasing the use of ICT and Open Educational Resources.
Also, this year, I am preparing a strategy on the internationalisation of higher education. And I will be proposing ways to open up education to take advantage of new technologies. We are also working with universities in Europe to develop a new ranking system, which will be published for the first time in 2014. It will enable students to compare universities, for example, on the quality of their teaching.
We will also continue to directly support the study of the EU, mainly through our Jean Monnet programme which reaches over 70 countries in the world. Thanks to this, there are teaching modules and research activities on the integration of Europe that bring together 1 500 professors and reach 500 000 students every year.
From 2014, we will extend the Jean Monnet programme to subjects where European issues do not traditionally form part of the curriculum. We could fund, for example, modules and courses dealing with European rules and policy for the energy market or EU public procurement rules for future engineers and architects.
For this, I have requested a significant increase in the budget for our new Erasmus for All programme. A big focus will be on increasing student mobility. We will also be introducing a new student loan guarantee facility for students doing a full Masters' course abroad.
Accessible, quality education is what Erasmus for All is about. Over the years, we have achieved a lot with our European education and training programmes. We want to build on this success to create new opportunities.
This morning is a wonderful opportunity to discover ways in which you can shape your future for the better. I wish you all an enjoyable day and a successful event.