In November, the European Commission proposed an overall budget of 80 billion Euros for Horizon 2020, and 19 billion Euros for Erasmus for All, which represents a significant increase on the current programmes in these policy areas. Over the next six months, European Ministers will carry out a series of discussions on the EU budget for 2014-2020 and the distribution of funds across the different policy fields. Member states (Council of the EU) and the European Parliament will have to come to an agreement on the Erasmus for All and Horizon 2020 programmes before 2014.
European universities have a clear stake in the future funding and structure of the education and research programmes. EUA has therefore already responded to the public consultations held during the development of Horizon 2020 and Erasmus for All. In this context, last week’s EUA council meeting was an important opportunity for EUA to provide further feedback on these proposals.
Commissioners Androulla Vassiliou (Education, Culture, Multilingualism, Youth and Sport) and Máire Geoghegan-Quinn (Research, Innovation and Science) both highlighted EUA’s input to the development of both programmes and reiterated the EC’s commitment to increasing investment in education, research and innovation.
One of the key issues stressed in both programmes is the commitment to improving mobility of students, staff and researchers in the European higher education and research areas. Commissioner Vassiliou explained that around 65% of the Erasmus for All budget proposal had been allocated for learning mobility. While EUA strongly supports the focus on and increased funding for mobility in Erasmus for All, it also believes there is a need to improve the quality of mobility and make it more ‘accessible’ – particularly for European countries with lower income levels and by improving transferability of national grants and loan schemes in the EU.
Another common issue underlined in the programmes was the promotion of excellence in both research and teaching. The Commissioner for Research said she was confident universities would grasp the opportunities to tackle societal challenges in ground-breaking and multidisciplinary ways and that the development of the European Research Area would be a means to generating excellence and growth.
While referring to the results of the consultation of the European Research Area, she underlined the importance of doctoral candidates as the lifeblood of research, making reference to EUA’s DOC-CAREERS II project and EUA’s Salzburg Principles which had helped inspire the new pilot initiatives “industrial doctorates” and “innovative doctoral programmes’’. She indicated that she would like to develop a new partnership approach with stakeholders such as EUA on research careers and mobility, with a particular focus on recruitment practices, and to establish an ERA “roadmap” on these issues with achievable goals.
Both EUA’s President and Vice-President (Professors Jean-Marc Rapp and David Drewry) welcomed the Commission’s efforts to increase funding and to pursue simplification of the funding and participation rules. Speaking about the pursuit of research excellence in universities, Professor Drewry also outlined that it would be important for Europe in the years to come to develop research capacity in areas of strength across Europe’s universities.
Following its meeting with the Commissioners, EUA Council has agreed to draw up a statement for national governments outlining the importance, from the university perspective, of EU investment in research, innovation and education.