Category Archives: Lifelong learning

The concept of lifelong learning is essential to the competitiveness of the knowledge economy. It applies to all levels of education and training and concerns all stages of life, as well as the different forms of apprenticeship. Lifelong learning aims to provide citizens with tools for personal development, social integration and participation in the knowledge economy. The Comenius (for schools), Erasmus (for higher education), Leonardo da Vinci (for vocational training and education) and Grundtvig (for adult education) programmes, now united under the umbrella of the Lifelong Learning Programme, contribute to achieving these objectives.

Action Plan on Adult learning – It's never too late to learn

Action Plan on Adult learning – It’s never too late to learn

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Action Plan on Adult learning – It’s never too late to learn


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Education training youth sport > Lifelong learning

Action Plan on Adult learning – It’s never too late to learn

Document or Iniciative

Communication from the Commission of 27 September 2007 presenting the Action Plan on Adult learning – It is always a good time to learn [COM(2007) 558 final – Not published in the Official Journal].


Adult learning opportunities are not keeping pace with the needs of individuals and society. Investing in lifelong learning is essential, but the benchmark indicator for adult participation (age 25 to 64) in lifelong learning is stagnating rather than increasing in the European Union (EU).

The Action Plan aims to make lifelong learning a reality, with emphasis on the adult learning sector.

Adult learning concerns underqualified people or those whose professional skills are obsolete. This Action Plan aims to make it possible for them to acquire key competences at all stages in their lives.

In order to develop this Action Plan, the Communication draws on the results of a wide-ranging consultation organised in the first half of 2007 with the Member States, representatives of the Ministries of Education and Employment, social partners and NGOs involved in adult learning.

Implementation of the Action Plan

The method is based on the Open Method of Coordination (OMC), which offers a non-binding intergovernmental framework for exchange and concerted action. This method, which is appropriate for adult learning, entails identifying, disseminating and making use of most good practices established by the Member States by integrating them into the ” Education and Training 2010 ” work programme and the Lifelong Learning Programme.

With the indispensable support of the Member States, the specific actions contained in the Action Plan involve:

  • analysing the reforms conducted in the Member States in all sectors of education and training and their effects on adult learning. The Commission intends to obtain national reports as of 2008 on these reforms. The results of these analyses will make it possible to conduct a thorough assessment of good practices and steer the lifelong learning programme and the resulting initiatives of the EU;
  • improving the quality of services in the adult learning sector. In order to encourage participation in adult learning, the Commission is focusing on the quality of staff (teachers, training instructors, career guidance personnel, advisers, managers and administrative staff). On the basis of the good practices identified and disseminated within the Member States, the Commission plans to develop a summary of key competences by 2009 for all adult learning professionals;
  • ensuring the efficiency and visibility of adult learning, i.e. encouraging the individuals concerned to participate more in adult learning by increasing the possibilities for them to gain a higher qualification. As of 2008, the Commission will draw on the results of a research inventory of national good practices and the results of the Community Lifelong Learning Programme, in particular those of the Grundvig Programme. A call for proposals for pilot projects to increase the visibility and efficiency of adult learning will be launched in 2009;
  • speeding up the process of implementing the European Qualifications Framework. This instrument ensures the validity and recognition of the results of learning by laying emphasis on the skills acquired outside the formal education system;
  • improving the monitoring of the sector. The Commission considers it urgent to establish a common understanding of adult learning in order to improve data comparison. Core data are required in order to organise regular monitoring (every two years) of the sector. This Action Plan involves working with the Member States to produce coherent terminology and creating a glossary of core data to be collected as of 2009 in Member States wishing to contribute to the development of the Action Plan.

By the end of 2007, a working group will be set up to help the Commission and the Member States develop actions and projects on the basis of the Action Plan. A conference will be organised in the second half of 2009 in order to make an initial assessment of implementation.


The Commission bases its approach on the main challenges identified in the Communication on Adult learning – “It is never too late to learn”.

The Joint Employment Report 2006/2007 observes that a substantial improvement in adult participation in lifelong learning has not yet been achieved.

By enhancing the employability and adaptability of workers, lifelong learning has become an indissociable element of support for European competitiveness.

European survey on language competences

European survey on language competences

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about European survey on language competences


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Education training youth sport > Lifelong learning

European survey on language competences

Document or Iniciative

Communication from the Commission to the Council of 13 April 2007 entitled “Framework for the European survey on language competences” [COM (2007) 184 final – Not published in the Official Journal].


The aim of the European survey on language competences is to lay the foundations for a future European Indicator of Language Competence. This indicator will provide a means of measuring and improving foreign language learning in the European Union (EU).

The European Indicator of Language Competence will make it possible to identify best teaching and learning practices. It will also allow assessment of the progress made towards the objectives of the framework Strategy for Multilingualism on European Union citizens’ access to multilingualism and of ensuring that at least two foreign languages are learnt from an early age.

The survey will be based on the scientific standards for sampling that are recognised and implemented at international level in order to ensure the reliability and comparability of the data obtained.

Language proficiency

This survey will focus on testing three language skills, namely reading, listening and writing. Instruments for testing oral communication skills will be set up at a later stage.

These skills will be tested in the official languages of the Union that are the most widely taught as first and second foreign language. These languages are English, French, German, Spanish and Italian. However, Member States wishing to test competence in other languages will be able to use this instrument to do so.

This survey will also take into account factors other than education that might impact on pupils’ language competences.

Framework for testing and testing instruments

The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) will serve as a basis for testing young people’s language skills.

This tool was designed by the Council of Europe to promote and facilitate language learning. The Member States conform to the CEFR and most of them have already used the reference framework during previous language proficiency tests.

The CEFR provides several scales indicating the level of language proficiency reached. However, this framework will have to be adapted to language learning at school level, as it would take a long time for pupils to progress from one level to the next and be too expensive to test.

With respect to the target population, the survey will be aimed at young people in education between the ages of 14 and 16, learning the languages tested by this survey.

With regard to the testing instruments, the States taking part in the survey will have a choice between computer-based tests using open-source software or traditional tests based on paper. Nevertheless, even if computer-based tests have a clear advantage over paper tests, particularly in terms of costs, questions linked to software compatibility and computer and typing skills will have to be taken into account.

Implementation of the survey

As regards the financing, the Lifelong Learning Programme (2007-2013), will cover the international costs of the survey (development and coordination of the pilot tests and full tests, analysis of the results). The Member States will be in charge of organising the language proficiency tests in their territory (management of structures, training of examiners, material costs, etc.). However, the implementation of similar tests in the past and the existing organisational structures will enable Member States to achieve economies of scale.

The Member States must have the organisational structures necessary for the implementation of the survey. Those that have already participated in similar international surveys will be able to use their experience as a basis for planning the national organisational structures.

The Commission, for its part, will take the measures necessary for the implementation of the survey in close coordination with the Advisory Board on the European Indicator of Language Competence, comprising national experts and the Member States.

The preparation of the survey and the implementation of the pilot tests are planned for 2008. The implementation of full tests in the Member States is planned for the first half of 2010.


The action plan ” Promoting language learning and linguistic diversity ” commits the Commission to developing a language competence indicator as part of the process of ” Education and Training 2010 “.


Improving the quality of teacher education

Improving the quality of teacher education

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Improving the quality of teacher education


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Education training youth sport > Lifelong learning

Improving the quality of teacher education

Document or Iniciative

Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament of 3 August 2007 ‘Improving the Quality of Teacher Education’ [COM(2007) 392 final – Not published in the Official Journal].


The quality of teaching is a key factor in the achievement of the Lisbon objectives for social cohesion, growth and economic competitiveness.

The teaching workforce must be capable of providing high quality teaching in order to enable EU citizens to acquire the knowledge and skills which they will need in their personal and professional lives.

Necessary skills

Existing investment in the continuing training and development of the teaching workforce is not sufficient. There is no Member State in which the minimum duration of training exceeds five days per year. Although participation in continuing training is compulsory for teachers in 11 Member States, teachers’ rate of participation in such training is too low to achieve a continuous level of development among teachers.

The teacher training systems currently in place in the Member States do not promote the acquisition of the new teaching skills which have been made necessary by the changes in education and in society in general.

Although teachers are required to impart basic knowledge, they are also called upon to ensure, among other things, that:

  • each learner’s specific needs are taken into account;
  • pupils become autonomous lifelong learners;
  • all young people acquire key skills;
  • teaching is adapted to a multicultural environment;
  • new technologies are used.

Joint action framework

The teaching profession has characteristics in common across the EU. It is therefore possible to arrive at a shared vision of the kinds of skills which teachers require, and to do so on the basis of certain principles.

The Commission is therefore proposing to the Member States a package of guidelines with a view to developing measures which seek to:

  • ensure that the arrangements in place for initial and continuing teacher training are well coordinated within a coherent system which receives sufficient resources;
  • ensure that teachers have the full range of subject knowledge, attitudes and pedagogic skills to be able to help young people to reach their full potential;
  • promote the status and recognition of the teaching profession;
  • create teacher training programmes at Master’s and doctorate level (and at Bachelor’s level);
  • encourage the practice of reflection and research by those in the profession;
  • investigate whether the level of qualifications and degree of practical experience required by a teaching post should be increased.

The Commission plans to take the following steps in order to support the Member States in their efforts to reform their teacher training systems:

  • ensure that its action programmes support the Member States in their efforts to improve the organisation and content of the teacher training system;
  • develop indicators in this field;
  • help to create and disseminate new knowledge in the teaching sector and in teacher education.

The Commission plans to measure the improvement in the quality of teacher education as part of the work programme ‘Education and Training 2010’.


The programme ‘Lifelong Learning (2007-2013)’ promotes teacher mobility (Socrates and Leonardo da Vinci programmes) and helps to establish cooperation projects between teacher training establishments.


Action plan for mobility

Action plan for mobility

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Action plan for mobility


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Education training youth sport > Lifelong learning

Action plan for mobility

Document or Iniciative

Resolution of the Council and the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States, meeting within the Council, of 14 December 2000, concerning an action plan for mobility, [Official Journal C 371 of 23.12.2000].


The construction of a genuine European area of knowledge is a priority for the Community both for cultural and economic reasons. The mobility of citizens, notably as regards education and training, encourages the sharing of cultures and promotes the concept of European citizenship as well as that of a political Europe. Besides, in an internationalised economy, the ability to educate oneself and work in a multilingual environment is essential to the competitiveness of the European economy.

The Community’s Socrates, Leonardo da Vinci and Youth programmes represent appreciable progress, which must however be taken further via the joint efforts of the Community and the Member States. These efforts should lead to an increase in the number of people choosing mobility and remove the remaining obstacles.

Three major objectives:

The plan has three major objectives:

  • define and democratise mobility in Europe;
  • promote appropriate forms of funding;
  • increase mobility and improve the conditions for it.

Accompanying measures

The Resolution is conceived as a “toolbox” of 42 measures divided into four chapters designed to identify and deal with the remaining obstacles to mobility. The measures are classified under specific objectives within each chapter.

Measures relating to the general objective

These consist of two measures to support the general objective of adopting a European mobility strategy:

  • establish a common definition of the concept of mobility and the target groups concerned: age, circuit, geographical scope, length of stay;
  • democratise access to mobility measures.

Chapter I: Promote mobility through measures in the field of training and information

Train “human resources” for mobility:

  • prepare those involved in implementing mobility: teachers, the administrative staff concerned, etc. (the “mobility organisers”);
  • develop exchanges and mobility between the mobility organisers;
  • encourage educational establishments to devote more resources to mobility.

Develop multilingualism:

Promote training in the relevant foreign language and culture, before and during the mobility periods;

  • give language teachers the opportunity to go on long-term training placements abroad;
  • ensure exchange of good language teaching practice;
  • adopt common indicators to evaluate the language skills of trainees;
  • make a commitment on the quality of language teaching following up the Council Resolution of 31 March 1995 on improving and diversifying language learning and teaching.

Make it easier to find information on mobility:

  • create a mobility portal site providing access to the various European sources of information;
  • put in place ad hoc forums in educational establishments to ensure exchanges between mobility organisers and potential beneficiaries.

Draw up a mobility chart:

  • define a methodology enabling the various players to compile reliable statistics on mobility and make as full as possible an inventory of the exchanges;
  • improve awareness of the different mobility programmes (bilateral and multilateral) by assembling them in a database;
  • ensure better advertising of posts by using networks such as EURES.

Chapter II: Measures promoting the financing of mobility

Look into the financing of mobility: towards financial partnerships

  • strengthen coordination between the various players, for example by means of a framework for partnerships, and make best use of financing;
  • study possible ways of making better use or increasing mobility budgets;
  • encourage public sector participation by examining for example the possibility of loans at preferential rates for those intending to take a period of mobility;
  • encourage multiple partnerships, e.g. with the private sector, social partners, etc. to become involved in financing mobility;
  • look ahead and study ways of redeploying the mobility appropriations at national level and within future Community programmes.

Democratise mobility by making it financially and socially accessible for all:

  • launch an information campaign on the mobility assistance available and how to apply for it and on the social conditions of mobility at the time of going abroad and during the period spent there;
  • ensure retention of social benefits for people who take mobility and regularly review any problems that persist;
  • study the possibility of offering young people opting for mobility the same preferential tariffs as young people in the host country, regularly review any problems that persist and take suitable steps to remedy them.

Chapter III: Increasing and improving mobility

Introduce new forms of mobility:

  • organise more mobility circuits, for example more European universities for all citizens receiving training, including the mobility organisers;
  • encourage virtual mobility by making academic and vocational training modules available on the Internet;
  • develop bilateral or multilateral exchange circuits, in particular mobility partnerships between universities.

Improve reception facilities for people opting for mobility:

  • adopt a quality charter covering reception facilities for trainees who are foreign nationals providing in particular for equal reception facilities;
  • provide on-line information on the reception facilities for people opting for mobility.

Simplify the mobility calendar:

  • ensure wide dissemination of information on university calendars and school years;
  • draft a “European academic calendar” showing the core periods of term time and in appropriate cases concentrate mobility training modules in those periods;
  • study the possibility of dividing the university year into semesters and of enrolling and paying fees by semester.

Proper status for people opting for mobility:

  • declare that mobility is a priority at all levels and an important component of instruction;
  • create a European card for young people opting for mobility;
  • give teachers the opportunity to take all or part of their initial or continuing training in another Member State;
  • examine the possibility of extending the current higher education post of associate member to other levels.

Chapter IV: Gaining more from periods of mobility

Increase cross-over opportunities by developing the system of recognition and equivalence of diplomas and training:

  • encourage all universities to generalise systems of diploma equivalence such as the ECTS;
  • generalise academic and vocational diploma supplements to make them recognisable in all Member States;

Recognise the experience gained:

  • certify skills acquired during the period of mobility in the field of languages, for example by issuing a certificate;
  • generalise Europass-training;
  • take into account voluntary work in the Member State of origin.

Gain more from periods of mobility:

  • examine the desirability and possibility of providing professional incentives for mobility for teaching staff;
  • devise a methodology for measuring the professional impact of periods of mobility.

Priority activities

The resolution emphasises certain priority actions:

  • developing multilingualism;
  • establishment of a portal giving access to the different European sources of information on mobility;
  • recognition of periods of mobility in diploma courses;
  • training the teachers and administrative staff involved to become true mobility organisers able to provide advice and guidance and draft mobility projects;
  • definition and adoption of a quality charter on reception facilities for foreign nationals on training courses;
  • drawing up of an inventory of existing mobility circuits and good practices, exchanges of students, trainees and trainers;
  • creating linkage between mobility funding from the different players involved.

Implementation and evaluation

This plan will be implemented by the Commission and the Member States within the limits of their respective powers. With a view to creating a Europe of innovation and knowledge, the Social Agenda approved by the Nice European Council confirmed this commitment by inviting Member States to reinforce their internal coordination to implement the 42 concrete measures and to examine progress achieved every two years.

With an eye to economy and efficiency, this evaluation of progress in the field of mobility will be integrated in the follow-up mechanism provided for in the ” Recommendation on mobility within the Community for students, persons undergoing training, young volunteers, teachers and trainers”.


The Resolution follows up the conclusions of the extraordinary European Council in Lisbon of 23 and 24 March 2000 which recognised the urgency of removing obstacles to the mobility of citizens within the European Union in order to create a genuine European area of knowledge. Numerous obstacles still exist, viz. unequal access to information, financial obstacles, administrative difficulties associated with social protection, etc. In this context the European Council invited the Council and the Commission to define the means for fostering the mobility of students, teachers, training and research staff. Hence this plan addresses these categories and suggests possible measures in this area, to be selected by the Member States and the Commission.

This Resolution supplements existing initiatives laying down the appropriate legal framework for promoting mobility and in particular the instrument provided for in the proposal for a ” Recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council on mobility within the Community for students, persons undergoing training, young volunteers, teachers and trainers”, currently being negotiated.

Following the Communication on the New European Labour Markets, which launched the debate on mobility at the Stockholm European Council of March 2001, the Commission instructed a high level task force to produce a report [PDF ] which forms the basis of this Action Plan. The Action Plan calls for Member States, enterprises and workers themselves to be more responsive to the new requirements of the labour market and also sets the European governments a concrete short-term objective, namely the creation of an EU health insurance card.

The 2005 proposal to recommend that Member States adopt a Charter for Mobility is targeted at the organisations responsible for mobility. It comprises ten guidelines.

Related Acts

Proposal for a Recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 September 2005 on transnational mobility within the Community for education and training purposes: European Quality Charter for Mobility [COM(2005) 450 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Decision No 2241/2004/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 December 2004 on a single Community framework for the transparency of qualifications and competences (Europass)

Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 13 February 2002 – Commission’s Action Plan for skills and mobility [COM(2002) 72 final – not published in the Official Journal].

on mobility within the Community for students, persons undergoing training, young volunteers, teachers and trainers [Official Journal L 215 of 9 August 2001].

Green Paper of 2 October 1996: Education, Training and Research: The Obstacles to Transnational Mobility [COM(1996) 0462 final – not published in the Official Journal].

Council Resolution on eLearning

Council Resolution on eLearning

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Council Resolution on eLearning


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Education training youth sport > Lifelong learning

Council Resolution on eLearning

Document or Iniciative

Council Resolution of 13 July 2001 on eLearning [Official Journal C 204 of 20.07.2001].


The Stockholm European Council (23-24 March 2001) reaffirmed that improving basic skills, particularly information technology (IT) skills, is a top priority for the European Union (EU).

Actions required of EU countries and the Commission

The resolution calls on EU countries to:

  • continue their efforts concerning the effective integration of information and communication technologies (ICT) in education and training systems and the initial and in-service training of teachers and trainers;
  • capitalise on the potential of the Internet, multimedia and virtual lifelong learning environments;
  • speed up the integration of ICT and the revision of school and higher education curricula;
  • encourage those in charge of schools to integrate and manage ICT effectively;
  • ensure more rapid provision of equipment and of a quality infrastructure for education and training;
  • encourage the development of high-quality digital teaching and learning materials to ensure the quality of resources available online;
  • take advantage of the opportunities offered by ICT for facilitating access to cultural resources, such as libraries, museums and archives;
  • support the development and adaptation of innovative teaching that incorporates the use of technologies;
  • take advantage of the communication potential offered by ICT to foster European awareness;
  • support virtual forums for cooperation and exchange of information;
  • capitalise on the experience gained from initiatives such as European School Net and European Network of Teacher Education Policies;
  • foster the European dimension of the joint development of higher education curricula;
  • enhance research in eLearning;
  • promote partnerships between the public and private sectors;
  • monitor and analyse the process of integration and the use of ICT in teaching.

This resolution also invites the Commission to:

  • pay particular attention to the implementation of the eLearning action plan and to the concrete future objectives of education and training systems;
  • support existing European portals in order to promote collaboration and exchange of experiences in the area of eLearning and pedagogical development;
  • implement support actions at European level to ensure that experiences are shared, to establish cross-border links and to encourage information and communication measures;
  • consider together with EU countries whether the eSchola initiative could develop into an ongoing activity;
  • support the testing of new learning environments and approaches;
  • undertake strategic studies on innovative approaches in education;
  • intensify research, experimentation and evaluation relating to the pedagogical, socio-economic and technological dimensions of ICT;
  • support the development of European multilingual educational resources, platforms and services;
  • report to the Council on the results of these activities no later than December 2002. An interim report shall also be presented to the Council in November 2001.


The institutions’ interest in new technologies indicates that the importance of these technologies is increasing. Since the Lisbon European Council (23-24 March 2000), which set the strategic goal of creating a competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy and specific objectives relating to ICT and education, several initiatives have been taken: the 2001 employment guidelines, the resolution relating to educational multimedia software, the communication on eLearning and the eLearning action plan. More recently, the Stockholm Council (23-24 March 2001) reaffirmed that improving basic skills, particularly IT skills, is a top priority for the EU.

Related Acts

Decision No 2318/2003/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 December 2003 adopting a multiannual programme (2004 to 2006) for the effective integration of information and communication technologies (ICT) in education and training systems in Europe (eLearning Programme) [Official Journal L 345 of 31.12.2003].

European area of lifelong learning

European area of lifelong learning

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about European area of lifelong learning


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Education training youth sport > Lifelong learning

European area of lifelong learning

Document or Iniciative

Communication from the Commission of 21 November 2001 on making a European area of lifelong learning a reality [COM(2001) 678 final – Not published in the Official Journal].


Europe’s future depends on the extent to which its citizens can face economic and social challenges. A European area of lifelong learning will empower citizens to move freely between learning settings, jobs, regions and countries in pursuit of learning. Hence, lifelong learning focuses on learning from pre-school education until after retirement (“from the cradle to the grave”) and covers all forms of education (formal, informal or non-formal).

In the context of the strategic objective set out by the Lisbon European Council in March 2000, to enable the European Union (EU) to become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge economy in the world, the guiding principle of the integrated policy cooperation framework “Education and Training 2010” is lifelong learning, in synergy with the relevant elements of youth, employment, social inclusion and research policies. The new integrated guidelines adopted in 2005 in connection with the Lisbon Strategy also include the objective of lifelong learning.

The central role of the learner, the importance of equal opportunities, quality and relevance of learning possibilities must be at the centre of the strategies to make lifelong learning a reality in Europe.

Components of a lifelong learning strategy

Successive European Councils after Feira in 2000 have emphasised the need to implement coherent and comprehensive strategies. The Member States have undertaken to have such strategies in place by 2006.

This communication sets out the building blocks of such strategies, in order to assist Member States and the other actors concerned. The transformation of traditional systems is the first step towards allowing everyone access to lifelong learning. Other building blocks have been identified in the light of the need to:

  • develop partnerships at all levels of public administration (national, regional and local), as well as between suppliers of educational services (schools, universities, etc.) and civil society in the broad sense (businesses, social partners, local associations, etc.);
  • identify the needs of the learner and labour market in the context of the knowledge society (including for example the new information technologies);
  • identify adequate resources by encouraging an increase in public and private investment and new investment models;
  • make learning more accessible, notably by multiplying local learning centres at the workplace and by facilitating learning on the job. Specific efforts are needed for persons who are disadvantaged, including the disabled, minorities and the rural community;
  • create a learning culture to motivate (potential) learners, to increase levels of participation and to demonstrate the need for learning at all ages;
  • put in place evaluation and quality control mechanisms. By the beginning of 2003, the Commission was to launch a prize for firms that invest in lifelong learning, in order to award and draw attention to good practices in this area.

Priorities for action of a lifelong learning strategy

As emphasised in the communication, in order to achieve a European area of lifelong learning, it is essential to:

  • value learning. This means valuing formal diplomas and certificates, as well as non-formal and informal learning, so that all forms of learning can be recognised. This includes improving the transparency and coherence of national learning systems, preparing transnational mechanisms for accumulating qualifications for 2003, defining a common system for presenting qualifications (inspired by the European curriculum vitae) by the end of 2002 and creating diplomas and certificates that pertain to European training on a voluntary basis;
  • strengthen information, guidance and counselling services at European level. In 2002, the Commission was to launch an Internet portal on learning opportunities at European level and a European guidance forum to promote exchanges of information;
  • invest more time in learning. The Commission is inviting the European Investment Bank to support learning, preferably by creating local training centres, requesting the European investment fund to support risk capital in this area, suggesting that Member States make greater use of the European Social Fund, and committing itself to presenting a survey of tax incentives in the Member States;
  • bring learning opportunities closer to learners. This will be possible by developing local knowledge acquisition centres and by encouraging learning on the job;
  • provide everybody with basic skills;
  • support research into innovative pedagogy for teachers, instructors and mediators, while taking account of the growing role of information and communication technologies.

The Commission, European Parliament and other European institutions, Member States, EEA countries (European Economic Area), candidate countries, social partners, NGOs (non-governmental organisations) and international organisations are called upon to collaborate with a view to driving forward lifelong learning. To this end, the Commission communication proposes the creation of a database of good practices, information and experience in this area, as well as the establishment of a high level group consisting of representatives of the ministries responsible for lifelong learning, with a view to following up coordination between decision-making levels (Community, national, regional and local).

Implementation will be ensured by programmes, instruments, networks and a limited number of indicators.

A contribution on the subject was presented to the Barcelona Council in March 2002. In 2003, the Commission produced a report on progress in Member States and at Community level in the field of lifelong learning. It was then decided that the achievements to date would be followed up in the two-yearly report on implementation of the “Education and Training 2010” programme.


The Feira European Council in June 2000 asked the Commission and Member States to identify a coherent strategy to enable all Europeans to access lifelong learning. The Memorandum on lifelong learning launched a wide-ranging consultation at European level. This communication is the result of this debate, which in 2000/2001 involved approximately 12 000 persons in Member States, EEA countries, candidate countries, Community institutions, social partners’ organisations and NGOs.

Related Acts

of the Council and of the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States, meeting within the Council of 21 November 2008 on better integrating lifelong guidance into lifelong learning strategies [Official Journal C 319 of 13.12.2008].
This resolution emphasises the need to strengthen the implementation of an active guidance policy within the framework of national lifelong learning strategies. It sets out four priority areas for lifelong guidance, which aim to enhance:

  • the acquisition of empowering career management skills;
  • access to guidance services, in particular for people from disadvantaged groups;
  • the quality of guidance services;
  • coordination and cooperation among all relevant stakeholders at all possible levels.

With a view to improving the provision of lifelong guidance, exchanges of information on national policies and practices must be organised, along with proper monitoring and evaluation of their implementation. In addition, cooperation must be further encouraged at national, European and international levels. To that end, the Lifelong Learning Programme, the European Structural Funds, the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (Cedefop) and the European Training Foundation may be employed.

of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 December 2006 on [Official Journal L 394 of 30.12.2006].

This recommendation puts forward a reference tool identifying the key competences for lifelong learning.

Decision No 1720/2006/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 November 2006 establishing an action programme in the field of lifelong learning [Official Journal L 327 of 24.11.2006].

of 27 June 2002 on lifelong learning [Official Journal C 163 of 9.7.2002].

The Council welcomes the Commission communication of November 2001 on “Making a European area of lifelong learning a reality”. It also welcomes the fact that this communication established lifelong learning as one of the guiding principles for education and training.

Twinning between secondary schools

Twinning between secondary schools

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Twinning between secondary schools


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Education training youth sport > Lifelong learning

Twinning between secondary schools

Document or Iniciative

Report from the Commission to the Council on using the internet to develop twinning between European secondary schools [COM (2002) 283(01) – Not published in the Official Journal]



This report is in response to the request of the Barcelona European Council of March 2002 to “undertake a feasibility study to identify options for helping secondary schools to establish or enhance an internet twinning link with a partner school elsewhere in Europe”.

The objective is to encourage all secondary schools (approximately 150 000 in Europe) to set up internet twinning links in order to develop joint educational projects by the end of 2006. This objective is in line with the process mapped out by the Lisbon European Council in March 2000 and later developed by the Stockholm and Barcelona European Councils, and it is intended to intensify and improve the use of the new technologies in order to develop a digital culture and achieve education systems’ future aims.

Internet twinning

In order make Europe the most competitive economy in the world, information and communication technologies (ICT) play an important role. The Lisbon Council had already asked Member States to ensure that all schools in the EU had Internet access by 2001. The Barcelona European Council also called on them to ensure that by 2003 the ratio of Internet-connected PCs to pupils was brought down to one for every fifteen pupils.

While traditional twinning had a secure reference base in the Socrates Programme, internet twinning is more closely linked to the eLearning and Netdays initiatives.

The internet twinning links, which are set to grow between pupils, teachers and schools, will in the near future help to strengthen ties between schools in order to promote exchanges of information or documentation and set up projects.


This report highlights several elements which are essential in ensuring that the internet twinning project gets off to a good start and functions smoothly:

  • setting up facilities and equipment in secondary schools;
  • training teachers and teacher-trainers by incorporating not only the multilingual and multicultural dimensions but also the importance of multimedia tools in educational projects;
  • setting up specialised services or structures to assist in the search for partners within the European Union, provide online assistance and follow up projects;
  • finding topics designed to bring people together, such as language learning, intercultural dialogue and European citizenship;
  • staging publicity events and demonstrations at European level, such as Netd@ys and eSchola.

Pending approval by the Seville European Council, a support framework for internet twinning will be set up at European level under the eLearning programme.

Related Acts

Council Resolution of 13 July 2001 on eLearning[Official Journal C 204 of 20.07.2001]

Communication from the Commission of 24 May 2000, eLearning – Designing tomorrow’s education[COM(2000) 318 final – Not published in the Official Journal]

Report of 27 January 2000 from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament: ” Designing tomorrow’s education – Promoting innovation with new technologies

Indicators on the quality of school education

Indicators on the quality of school education

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Indicators on the quality of school education


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Education training youth sport > Lifelong learning

Indicators on the quality of school education

Document or Iniciative

European Report of May 2000 on the Quality of School Education: Sixteen Quality Indicators. Report based on the work of the Working Committee on Quality Indicators [Not published in the Official Journal].


This report on the quality of school education was drawn up by experts from the Education Ministries of the 26 countries that took part in the Working Committee on Quality Indicators.

Challenges to the quality of education in Europe

The indicators and benchmarks used in the report have identified the five challenges below:

  • the knowledge challenge;
  • the challenge of decentralisation;
  • the resource challenge;
  • the challenge of social inclusion;
  • the challenge of data and comparability.

In the European Union as a whole, the principal challenge continues to be that of providing all Europeans with a high level of school education.

The four major areas under evaluation

The Working Committee proposes limiting the number of indicators to sixteen, relating to the following four areas:

  • attainment in the areas of mathematics, reading, science, information and communication technologies (ICT), foreign languages, learning to learn, and civics;
  • success and transition: this indicator identifies pupils’ ability to complete their studies by examining dropout rates, completion of upper secondary education and participation in higher education;
  • monitoring of school education: this indicator determines the level of participation of the various stakeholders in school systems through evaluation and steering of school education and evaluation of parental participation;
  • resources and structures: this indicator focuses on educational expenditure per student, education and training of teachers, rate of participation in pre-primary education and the number of students per computer.

This report analyses the data available for each indicator (represented by graphs and tables) and identifies the aspects common to the various Member States, opens the debate by asking fundamental questions and lists examples of best practice.



A solid grounding in mathematics, which helps provide analytical skills, logic skills and numerical reasoning, is at the core of any curriculum. However, according to the data available, considerable differences remain in terms of the priorities given in school curricula to geometry rather than algebra, for example.

The principal challenges in relation to mathematics are to develop a teaching method which ensures that pupils have a positive attitude towards mathematics, encourage pupils to develop and maintain their knowledge in this area, and define, if possible, the common skills and competences which European citizens should possess.

Examples of best practice include initiatives in: Cyprus, which has introduced mathematics competitions for pupils of all ages; France, which has set up a national ‘observatory’ for mathematics teaching; and Germany, which has developed materials for mathematics teachers.


The ability to read and understand texts is a basic requirement for learning and for individuals’ personal development and social integration. The report shows that the home environment and some individual students’ characteristics, such as gender, are important factors.

No conclusions have been reached concerning how to improve access to books in secondary schools, libraries and bookshops, how to encourage parents to participate in their children’s learning process, and how to make reading more attractive to young people (advertising, television, CD-ROMs, for example).

Examples of national initiatives include Germany, where national daily newspapers were delivered to pupils for free and the content systematically dealt with by teachers in class; also interesting is a Swedish initiative which encouraged parents of children aged 10 to 12 to spend half an hour per day reading a good book with them.


Science gives pupils the tools to analyse, to investigate their environment and to experiment, skills that are essential for technological progress. The report highlights significant differences between countries in terms of scientific knowledge and the importance of factors such as motivation, gender, methodological practices, the status of scientific studies and jobs.

The report calls for debate on how all students can be encouraged to develop sufficient interest in science and how to promote learning via more efficient methods related to practical experiments.

Examples of best practice highlighted by the report include the initiative “Schola ludus” from the Slovak Republic, which aims to promote science education by means of interactive exhibitions touring the country, and the European initiative entitled “Women in Science”, which illustrates the history of science through the achievements of women.

Information and communication technologies (ICT)

The role of information and communication technologies in everyday life is becoming increasingly important, as they allow us to develop new approaches to learning, life, work, consumption and leisure.

Despite the disparities in the role of ICT in school curricula (in some countries they are regarded as tools and in others as separate subjects), most countries plan to increase the use of ICT.

No conclusions have been reached in terms of how to encourage the use of ICT by all, including the most disadvantaged and vulnerable sections of the population, and how to encourage the training of teachers from all subject areas in the necessary skills.

The example set by Iceland, where all senior pupils are provided with their own laptops, is an objective that all European countries should achieve. At European level, the eEurope and eLearning initiatives support the use of ICT.

Foreign languages

Proficiency in several Community languages has become a prerequisite if citizens of the European Union are to benefit from the professional and personal opportunities open to them in the single market.

According to the data available, there seems to be a relationship between a country’s official language and the ability of its young people to speak another language: in countries which do not have a dominant language (such as Denmark or Sweden), people are more highly motivated to learn another language than in countries which have a dominant language (such as France or Spain). Social and cultural factors are also important.
The key issues continue to be to promote young people’s interest in language learning and to develop methods to help increase students’ self-confidence when speaking a language other than their mother tongue. In Belgium, the Ministry of Education offers courses in eighteen languages, both European and non-European. At EU level, the aim of the European Label is to stimulate interest in language learning by highlighting innovative projects.

Learning to learn

The skill of lifelong learning guarantees success in the world of work and in society. Effective learners know how to learn and have a repertoire of tools and strategies to serve that purpose.

As yet there are no data available for the whole of Europe, although some Member States have already developed methods to help understand success and failure in school. The challenge is to ensure that skills in learning to learn become a policy priority, with a view to adapting school curricula and promoting in-service training for teachers.


Preparing young people for citizenship also involves giving them a civil culture based not only on the principles of democracy, equality and freedom but also on the recognition of rights and duties. The report has in particular identified the difficulty of promoting social and cultural diversity and the need to make teachers more aware of the importance of their role in students’ development as citizens.

In Greece, elected senior pupils from secondary schools meet every year in the House of Parliament and discuss matters of current importance. In Italy, all secondary schools have a Statute of students’ rights and duties.

School dropout rates

Those who drop out of the school system often have neither basic skills nor vocational training and will face problems in finding a job. Reluctance to embark on a strategy of lifelong learning puts these people at risk of long-term unemployment.

The report emphasises that the significant differences between countries are related not only to differences between education systems but also to socio-economic disparities. In Germany, for example, a dual system whereby pupils undertake an apprenticeship within an enterprise as well as part-time vocational training allows them to obtain a vocational qualification. On the other hand, dropout rates might be linked to economic factors such as high unemployment rates, or disparities between urban and rural economies.

In March 2000, the Lisbon European Council set a target to halve by 2010 the number of 18 to 24 year olds with only lower-secondary level education. In the Netherlands, early school-leaving is curbed by cooperation between schools at regional level; in Germany, placements are offered by industry partners.

Completion of upper secondary education

Rates of completion of upper secondary education are important indications of successful education systems. The report highlights the fact that a pupil’s success cannot be considered in isolation from the rest of the young person’s school career nor from the country’s economic situation.

The principal challenges are to increase young people’s motivation and give them a better understanding of the connection between theoretical learning and practical activity, and to encourage pupils to take a greater interest in lifelong learning.

Participation in higher education

The opportunities offered by higher education are constantly growing. It is essential, however, to predict trends in demand in the light of the development of new technologies, employment trends, etc.

The report indicates the differences between education systems, particularly in relation to curricula (some subjects are taught at secondary level in certain countries and at tertiary level in others) and the existence of vocational training (young people go into higher education because of a lack of opportunities to take up vocational training). A saturated labour market often encourages those who are having problems finding work to go into higher education. A high rate of enrolment will lead to a highly-qualified workforce, which will make it even more difficult for those without a higher education qualification to find work in certain sectors.

High enrolment rates spread across a wide age range will also have a significant impact on the proportion of the population that is unavailable for work at any one time. The report also notes that the rate of participation in higher education is generally higher among girls than among boys.

According to the report, the aspects to be examined include: the male/female ratio in certain subject areas, the extent to which the choice of higher education is a response to the labour market, the relationship between participation rates among older age groups and the productivity of the labour market, etc.

Evaluation and steering of school education

Through evaluation and steering, schools can measure themselves against other comparable institutions. All countries are seeking the best way in which to report school performance, and to this end they are using internal or external evaluation or a system which combines both.

In Austria, a website has been set up for schools to allow them to access information, ideas and procedural proposals for the development of curricula. This report is in turn an important contribution at European level to improving evaluation systems in Europe.

Parental participation

The participation of parents in their children’s education plays an important part in improving the running of the school and in the quality of the children’s education. The report stresses that parents may participate on a voluntary basis through direct involvement in educational activities or via advisory bodies, voluntary associations or after-school clubs.

This indicator raises important fundamental questions concerning the role and influence of parents in terms of the added-value they can bring to the process and in what respects parents’ contributions are most relevant and useful.

Of the many examples of best practice, it is in particular worth noting that of Germany, where seminars are organised for parents in order to inform them of new developments in learning and teaching.

Education and training of teachers

Teachers are experiencing an unprecedented transition in their role and status: they require further training in the use of new technological tools in ICT and must deal with ever-changing needs and expectations. In European countries, there is an urgent need for high-quality initial training, supported by good induction and continuing professional development.

The report underlines the fact that, although data are available on initial teacher training (see the EURYDICE network), it is more difficult to locate data on in-service training. This indicator distinguishes between general or subject-based education and training, which is geared towards the teaching of subjects, and pedagogical and practical training, which are related to the teaching profession.

Although significant differences exist, the report opens a discussion on measures to be taken to ensure that teachers update their knowledge and on how to reward and retain particularly effective teachers.

Participation in pre-primary education

Pre-primary education plays an important part in children’s emotional and cognitive development, facilitates the transition from playful learning to formal learning and contributes to children’s success at school.
Pre-primary education, which concerns children of at least three years of age, must be provided by adequately trained staff.

Number of students per computer

Everyone needs to be able to learn to use computers effectively, and schools must be able to provide a sufficient number of computers. On the other hand, as technology changes rapidly, it is sometimes preferable to provide schools with fewer computers but to provide replacements as these models become obsolete. Faced with the necessity of providing expensive equipment to a large number of schools, some education systems turn to partnerships with the private sector. The main challenge is to ensure that the schools’ and partners’ investment in providing computers is economically viable.

Educational expenditure per student

The share of total financial resources devoted to education is a key decision for national governments. It is an investment with long-term returns and makes a significant impact on key sectors such as social cohesion, international competition and sustainable growth.

The report underlines the fact that differences in economic prosperity are an important factor. In Scotland, local authorities fund school rebuilding programmes through public-private partnerships. The challenges that education systems in Europe will have to face include effective distribution of the budget among the different local and regional levels, and facilitating private-sector participation in education without jeopardising the integrity of the education system.


At the conference held in Prague in June 1998, the Education Ministers of the European Union and the candidate countries proposed setting up a working group made up of national experts, with the aim of identifying a series of indicators or benchmarks to facilitate the evaluation of education systems at national level.

The experts submitted their report to the Education Ministers of the European Union and the candidate countries at a meeting held in Bucharest in June 2000.

Based on a Commission proposal and on contributions from the Member States, on 12 February 2001 the Council adopted the report on the concrete future objectives of education and training systems. This was the first document outlining a comprehensive and consistent approach to national policies on education, based on three objectives:

  • improving the quality and effectiveness of education and training systems in the EU;
  • facilitating the access of all to “lifelong” education and training;
  • opening up education and training systems to the wider world.

Following the approval of the report on the concrete future objectives of education and training systems, the Commission prepared a work programme including some 29 indicators for the field of education and training in general.

Related Acts

on the follow-up of the objectives of Education and training systems in Europe [Official Journal C 142 of 14.06.2002].

Council conclusions of 14 February 2002 on the follow-up to the Report on the concrete future objectives of education and training systems in view of the preparation of a joint Council/Commission report to be presented to the Spring 2002 European Council [EN] [Official Journal C 58 of 05.03.2002].

of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 February 2001 on European cooperation in quality evaluation in school education [Official Journal L 60 of 01.03.2001].

Council Recommendation (EC) No 561/98 of 24 September 1998 on European cooperation in quality assurance in higher education[Official Journal L 270 of 07.10.1998].

The role of universities in the Europe of knowledge

The role of universities in the Europe of knowledge

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about The role of universities in the Europe of knowledge


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Education training youth sport > Lifelong learning

The role of universities in the Europe of knowledge

Document or Iniciative

Communication from the Commission of 5 February 2003 – The role of the universities in the Europe of knowledge [COM(2003) 58 final – Not published in the Official Journal].


Given their central role, the creation of a Europe of knowledge is for the universities a source of opportunity, but also of major challenges. Indeed universities go about their business in an increasingly globalised environment which is constantly changing and is characterised by increasing competition to attract and retain outstanding talent, and by the emergence of new requirements for which they have to cater. Yet European universities generally have less to offer and lower financial resources than their equivalents in the other developed countries, particularly the USA. Are they in a position to compete with the best universities in the world and provide a sustainable level of excellence? This question is particularly topical as enlargement draws nearer, considering the frequently difficult circumstances of universities in the accession countries as regards human and financial resources.

The European university landscape

European universities are characterised by a high degree of heterogeneity, which is reflected in organisation, governance and operating conditions, including the status and conditions of employment and recruitment of teaching staff and researchers.

There are some 3 300 higher education establishments in the European Union and approximately 4 000 in Europe as a whole, including the other countries of western Europe and the candidate countries. They take in an increasing number of students, over 12.5 million in 2000, compared with fewer than 9 million ten years previously. They employ 34 % of the total number of researchers in Europe, with significant variations from one Member State to another (26 % in Germany, 55 % in Spain and over 70 % in Greece).

The European Union produces slightly more science and technology graduates than the USA, while having fewer researchers than the other major technological powers. This apparent paradox is explained by the fact that fewer research posts are open to science graduates in Europe, particularly in the private sector: only 50 % of European researchers work in the business sector, compared with 83 % of American researchers and 66 % of Japanese researchers. Despite this, the universities are responsible for 80 % of the fundamental research carried out in Europe.

Universities and the European dimension

Universities are essentially organised at national and regional levels and seem to have difficulty in finding a truly European dimension. Student mobility, for instance, is still marginal in Europe. In 2000, a mere 2.3 % of European students were pursuing their studies in another European country. However, the EU funds a variety of initiatives to promote research, education and training at both European and international levels.

In the area of research, European universities receive around one third of the funding available under the fifth (1998-2002) and sixth (2002-2006) framework programmes for technological research and development, and particularly the support actions for research training and mobility (Marie Curie actions). As far as education and training are concerned, universities are very much involved in all the actions of the SOCRATES programme, particularly the ERASMUS action. The LEONARDO programme supports projects on mobility between universities and the business sector, involving 40 000 people between 1995 and 1999. Universities are also involved in the eEurope initiative and its eEurope 2005 Action Plan, which encourages all universities to develop online access (“virtual campus”) for students and researchers.

This cooperation also extends to other regions of the world. Most of the Community research Framework Programme is open to every country in the world and in particular provides support for cooperation with the countries in the Mediterranean region, Russia and the Newly Independent States, as well as developing countries. Through the TEMPUS programme the EU supports university cooperation with the countries of the former Soviet Union, south-east Europe and, since its extension in 2002, the Mediterranean region. There are also initiatives covering relations with other geographical areas, e.g. ALFA and Asia-Link.

Universities and new European challenges

Universities are facing an imperative need to adapt and adjust to a whole series of profound changes:

  • Increased demand for higher education. The low birth rate in Europe coincides with an increased demand for higher education, which is expected to continue in the years ahead, firstly because of the policy adopted by certain governments of increasing the number of students in higher education and also because new needs are emerging in relation to lifelong learning.
  • The internationalisation of education and research. European universities are attracting fewer students and in particular fewer researchers from other countries than their American counterparts. The former in 2000 attracted some 450 000 students from other countries, while the latter attracted over 540 000, mostly from Asia. However, the USA in proportion attracts many more students from other countries at advanced levels in engineering, mathematics and informatics, and are successful in keeping more people with doctorate qualifications: some 50 % of Europeans who obtained their qualifications in the USA stay there for several years, and many of them remain permanently. European universities in fact offer researchers and students a less attractive environment. This is partly due to the fact that they often do not have the necessary critical mass, which prompts them to opt for collaborative approaches, e.g. creation of networks, joint courses or diplomas. But other factors, outside the university, also play an important role, e.g. the rigidities of the labour market or a lower level of entrepreneurship entailing fewer employment opportunities in innovative sectors.
  • To develop effective and close cooperation between universities and industry. Cooperation between universities and industry needs to be intensified by gearing it more effectively towards innovation, new business start-ups and, more generally, the transfer and dissemination of knowledge.
  • The proliferation of places where knowledge is produced. The increasing tendency of the business sector to subcontract research activities to the best universities mean that universities have to operate in an increasingly competitive environment.
  • The reorganisation of knowledge. This is to be seen in the increasing diversification and specialisation of knowledge, and the emergence of research and teaching specialities which are increasingly specific and at the cutting edge. It is also seen in the fact that the academic world has an urgent need to adapt to the interdisciplinary character of the fields opened up by society’s major problems, such as sustainable development, the new medical scourges and risk management. Yet the activities of the universities, particularly when it comes to teaching, tend to remain organised within the traditional disciplinary framework.
  • The emergence of new expectations. Universities must cater for new needs in education and training which stem from the knowledge-based economy and society. These include an increasing need for scientific and technical education, horizontal skills, and opportunities for lifelong learning, which require greater permeability between the components and the levels of the education and training systems.

Universities and new European challenges

Excellence in human resources depends largely on available financial resources, but is also affected by working conditions and career prospects. Generally speaking, career prospects in European universities, characterised by the multiplicity of configurations, are limited and shrouded in uncertainty. However, while there are many challenges, there is also a great deal at stake. This Communication focuses on three factors:

  • Ensuring that European universities have sufficient and sustainable resources. Traditionally, public funding is the main source of funding for research and education in European universities. Possible alternative sources are:

    1. private donations, as in the case of the United States;
    2. the sale of services (including research services and flexible lifelong learning possibilities), particularly to the business sector;
    3. contributions from students, in the form of tuition and enrolment fees. In Europe, these contributions are generally limited or even prohibited, in order to allow democratic access to higher education;
    4. application of the results of research and the creation of spin-off companies. Since the mid-1990s, the number of young technological (“spin-off”) companies created by universities has been on the rise in Europe. Their average density nevertheless is far smaller than it is around the American campuses. A major obstacle to better application of university research results is the way intellectual property issues are handled in Europe. In addition, European universities do not have well-developed structures for managing research results. They are less well developed, for instance, than those of public research bodies. Another contributory factor is the lack of familiarity of many university staff with the economic realities of research, particularly the managerial aspects and issues regarding intellectual property.
  • Increasing universities’ excellence in research and teaching. This Communication calls on European universities to identify the areas in which different universities have attained, or can reasonably be expected to attain, the excellence judged to be essential at European or at international level, in order to concentrate funding on them to support academic research. The concentration of research funding on a smaller number of areas and institutions will lead to increased specialisation of the universities, which will make it possible to obtain appropriate quality at national level in certain areas, while ensuring excellence at European level.
    In addition, to counter the current trend among European universities of recruiting people from the country or region in which they are established, or even within the institution itself, the Communication proposes to strengthen not only intra-European academic mobility, but also mobility between universities and industry, thus opening up new career opportunities for young researchers.
  • Opening up universities to the outside world and increasing their international attractiveness. For European universities, a broader international perspective means greater competition with universities on the other continents, particularly American universities, when it comes to attracting and retaining the best talent from all over the world. While European universities host almost as many foreign students as American universities, in proportion they attract fewer top-level students and a smaller proportion of researchers. All in all, the environment offered by the European universities is less attractive. Financial, material and working conditions are not as good, and arrangements with regard to visas and residence permits for students, teachers and researchers are inappropriate and poorly harmonised.
    The regions of the EU are therefore called upon to play an important part in strengthening European cohesion through the development of technology centres and science parks, the proliferation of regional cooperation structures between the business sector and the universities, the expansion of university regional development strategies and the regional networking of universities.

As the aim of this Communication is to start a debate on the role of universities, the Commission intends to review the contributions it has received by the end of May 2003.


In order for European universities to play a key role in achieving the strategic goal set at the Lisbon European Council, i.e. to make the European Union (EU) the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, this Communication is intended to start a debate on the role of European universities in the knowledge society and economy. While the birth and growth of the knowledge economy and society rely on the combination of four interdependent elements, i.e. the production of new knowledge, its transmission through education and training, its dissemination through the information and communication technologies and its use through new services or industrial processes, it is Europe’s universities which are the key players in this new process.

Related Acts

Recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 February 2006 on further European cooperation in quality assurance in higher education [Official Journal L 64 of 04.03.2006].

Communication from the Commission of 10 January 2003 – Investing efficiently in education and training : an imperative for Europe [COM(2002) 779 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Communication from the Commission of 20 April 2005 – Mobilising the brainpower of Europe : enabling universities to make their full contribution to the Lisbon Strategy [COM(2005) 152 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Council Recommendation (EC) No 561/98 of 24 September 1998 on European cooperation in quality assurance in higher education [Official Journal L 64 of 04.03.2006].

Action plan on language learning and linguistic diversity

Action plan on language learning and linguistic diversity

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Action plan on language learning and linguistic diversity


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Education training youth sport > Lifelong learning

Action plan on language learning and linguistic diversity

Document or Iniciative

Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 24 July 2003 – Promoting language learning and linguistic diversity: an action plan 2004-2006 [COM(2003) 449 final – Not published in the Official Journal].


In the European Union (EU) more than 500 million Europeans come from diverse ethnic, cultural and linguistic backgrounds and it is now more important than ever that citizens have the skills necessary to understand and communicate with their neighbours. All European citizens should be able to communicate in at least two languages other than their mother tongue.

Role of the European Union and the Member States

In accordance with the ‘principle of subsidiarity’ each EU Member State is fully responsible for organising its educational systems as well as the content of the programmes.

The Union’s role in this field is not to replace action by Member States, but to support and supplement it. However, the EU has put in place numerous actions designed to promote language education and learning under the framework of Community programmes, particularly in the areas of education, culture, the audiovisual sector, and the media.

Objectives and actions

The action plan identifies three broad areas for action and defines specific objectives for each of them.

The first area of action is life-long language learning. For this area the action plan identifies the following specific objectives:

  • learning a mother tongue plus two other languages from a very early age;
  • continuing language learning in secondary education and vocational training;
  • continuing language learning in higher education;
  • encouraging language learning among adults;
  • developing language learning for persons with special needs;
  • widening the range of languages offered in education.

The second area of action aims at improving language teaching, specifically through a more adaptable school structure. In this context, the action plan identifies the following specific objectives:

  • implementing global language learning policies in schools;
  • disseminating more widely the tools developed for teaching and learning languages;
  • improving the training for language teachers;
  • increasing the supply of language teachers;
  • training teachers so that they can teach their subjects in at least one other foreign language;
  • testing the language skills of citizens using a European Indicator of Language Competence and facilitating comparison between these skills.

The third area of action involves creating a language-friendly environment. To this end, the action plan identifies the following specific objectives:

  • promoting an inclusive approach to linguistic diversity;
  • creating language-friendly communities, through the use of sub-titles in cinemas, for example, or by capitalising on the skills of the many bilingual citizens;
  • improving the supply and take-up of language learning.

In order to achieve these objectives, the action plan proposes actions to be taken at European level for each of them, aimed at supplementing Member States’ initiatives. These actions will be carried out between 2004 and 2006.

The action plan also includes the creation of a framework for achieving these objectives through structures that enable better-informed decisions (a high-level group, undertaking studies, etc.), more effective sharing of information amongst practitioners, and clear procedures for the follow-up of the action plan.

Overall budget and monitoring of action plan

The overall budget for 2004-2006 is EUR 8 200 million to be shared between the Socrates, Leonardo da Vinci and MEDIA Plus programmes.

In 2007, Member States will present to the Commission a report on the implementation of the action plan.


The European Year of Languages organised in 2001 highlighted the many ways of promoting language learning and linguistic diversity. The action plan follows a request from the Council and is the result of in a wide public consultation involving the European institutions, relevant national ministries, a wide range of organisations representing civil society, and the general public.

Related Acts

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 18 September 2008 – Multilingualism: an asset for Europe and a shared commitment [COM(2008) 566 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Commission report of 25 September 2007 on the implementation of the Action Plan ‘Promoting language learning and linguistic diversity’ [COM(2007) 554 final – Not published in the Official Journal].
The Commission and the Member States have made substantial progress in implementing this Action Plan. Of the 47 actions, 41 will be completed by the end of 2007. On the basis of the national reports on the monitoring of the Action Plan, the Commission considers that it has influenced the national language policy reforms and made it possible to attach more political importance to promoting language learning, linguistic diversity and multilingualism in general. Seventeen actions aimed at improving the promotion of language learning have been implemented under several European programmes, mainly Socrates and Leonardo. This support will have a lasting effect, as the new generation of programmes for 2007-2013 puts the emphasis on promoting language learning and linguistic diversity. However, the report refers to the additional efforts that need to be made to implement the national reforms from the point of view of the quality of language teaching and teacher training in this field. Emphasis should also be placed on widening the range of languages taught.