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Higher education in the EU: Approaches, issues and trends

The aim of this publication is to describe the main policy approaches and discuss key issues and recent trends in higher education across the European Union (EU). Through targeted comparisons of the main elements of the policy in the EU and the United States, the paper also focuses on achievements and challenges within this domain, against the background of the current economic and financial crisis.

Higher education policies in the EU are essentially decided and implemented by individual EU countries which are free, for instance, to choose the content of teaching and the organisation of their educational systems. However, this competence has to be exercised in respect of EU law and principles, such as, for example, equal treatment, meaning that EU Member States cannot charge higher tuition fees for non-national EU students.

One of the elements accounting for the global attraction of EU universities resides in the relatively lower tuition fees compared to American universities. Even though the economic downturn has led many EU countries to reduce investment in education, and search for more efficient ways of deploying available financial resources, the relative importance of public funding still remains quite high, and an elaborate system of grants, loans, and scholarships  mitigate the impact of higher tuition fees on family budgets.

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Monica Dimitriu
29 September 2015

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