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ECIU strives for an ambitious EU higher education package and an innovative future European Degree


February 19, 2024

ECIU strives for an ambitious EU higher education package and an innovative future European Degree


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The European Consortium of Innovative Universities (ECIU) welcomes the EU’s higher education package that is expected in April 2024 and that embodies the EU’s 2024 priority on higher education. ECIU advocates a package that responds to societal needs, which is an innovative approach to a European Degree and the realisation of the European Education Area. ECIU shared this view in three open consultations focusing on an innovative European Degree, sustainable academic careers and paving the way for new quality assurance policies in Europe.

European Degree

ECIU is part of the FOCI-project, piloting a European Degree and thereby directly influencing the concept of this new EU initiative. Although the FOCI-project runs until April 2024, the initial conclusion is that the scope of the European Degree needs to be expanded to include other models of higher education in addition to full programmes.

Other global regions are seriously looking at innovating within their models of higher education, to have truly flexible learning pathways, which both complement and are real alternatives to traditional modes without tension between these choices. A link to the micro-credential movement is crucial to enhance to societal relevance of the European Degree.  

A broader conceptualisation of what a European Degree encompasses, is now imperative and not a nice to have. The conceptualisation and assessed quality criteria for a European Degree must create bridges and leverages the micro-credential movement to demonstrate the complementarity between forms of learning opportunities as supported by the European Qualification Framework and other EHEA Tools.

When focusing on full programmes, it is crucial to go beyond joint degrees, and also take double degrees into account. Programmes do not need to be jointly designed and jointly delivered to still be European. Limiting ourselves only to joint degrees is a waste of the potential of a European Degree.

Finally, it is crucial to include informal and non-formal learning in a future European Degree, and novel ways of teaching and learning. Therefore, the validation of skills and competences should be the starting point. This approach is supported by the definition of ‘qualifications’ in the EQF: ‘the formal outcome of an assessment and validation process obtained when a competent body determines that an individual has achieved learning outcomes given a certain standard.’ More information about our position on the European Degree can be found in the ECIU University European Degree paper. Moreover, soon to be expected FOCI-results will be communicated via our webpage.

Attractive and sustainable careers in higher education

ECIU also provided input to the upcoming initiative on attractive and sustainable careers in higher education. Here, it is important to ensure links to the recent Council Recommendations on research careers. Secondly, flexible careers that go cross-sector must also be covered, to strengthen the link between higher education institutions and society. Lastly, the EU must focus on the challenges of transnational careers. ECIU is trying to overcome legal issues in transnational university collaboration in its currently ongoing Legal Status policy pilot the ESEU-project. HR is an important dimension, as unclarity on tax and social security in transnational careers bring many risks for both the employer and employee.

Quality Assurance and Recognition Systems

Finally, ECIU responded to the consultation on European Quality Assurance and Recognition System (new guidance). Quality assurance and recognition is key when innovating education. With several initiatives, ECIU is paving the way for new quality assurance and recognition policies in Europe. Building upon the ECIU University’s micro-credential journey, ECIU is rolling out centralized, tamper-proof micro-credentials to the ECIU University learners. E-sealed by the ECIU and issued using the EDC (European Digital Credentials) platform, micro-credentials offer students new opportunities to broaden their horizons and gain practical skills through real-life challenges. This is done in full alignment with the European approach to micro-credentials. Moreover, the integration of ECIU University activities into the existing quality assurance context of member universities is key. With the ECIU Recognition Accord, the foundation was laid for the joint acceptance and promotion of ECIU learning opportunities.

The EU is developing a European Quality Assurance and Recognition system for European University Alliances. Here, the EU should build on the work of the EuniQ project and be developed in co-creation with Alliances. Furthermore, following the outputs of the MICROBOL project, a dedicated and focused effort is required to promote harmonised national legislation and or guidelines in education and training, to remove system-level barriers for micro-credential implementation. More information on this aspect can be found in the ECIU micro-credentials paper.


ECIU is the leading international consortium of research intensive universities, with collective emphasis on innovation, creativity and societal impact, driving the development of a knowledge-based economy.