European universities need to think global

The international higher education landscape is changing dramatically in shape and size, with greater competition from countries such as China and India. This calls for an overhaul in the way Europe's 4 000 universities operate - not only internationally, but also in how they deliver education to European students in their home countries.

Today, the European Commission launches a new strategy, 'European higher education in the world' aiming to ensure European graduates gain the international skills they need to work anywhere in the world and that Europe remains the most attractive destination for international students. Erasmus+, the new EU programme for education, training, youth and sport, will allocate more than €400 million a year to support international student exchanges and increased cooperation between European universities and their partners worldwide.

There are more than 19 million students in European Union universities and other higher education institutions. The Commission underlines that universities must also promote an international outlook among the 85% of students who are not mobile, so that they too acquire the international skills required in a globalised world. This means universities need to develop international curricula, promote language skills and expand digital learning.

Overall, the number of higher education students in the world is expected to quadruple, from around 100 million in 2000 to 400 million in 2030, with particularly strong growth in Asia and Latin America. Europe currently attracts around 45% of all international students, but its competitors are rapidly increasing their investment in higher education. The largest providers of internationally mobile students are China, India and South Korea.

The new Erasmus+ programme, to be launched in January 2014, will for the first time mainstream opportunities for students from beyond Europe's borders to spend part of their degree studies at a European university, or vice versa. 135 000 student and staff exchanges between the EU and the rest of the world will be funded - 100 000 more than under the existing Erasmus Mundus programme, in addition to 3 million student and staff exchanges within the EU.

Picture below: Androulla Vassiliou, the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth

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