By Martin Banks. The commission has launched a new high level group on the modernisation of higher education with seven leading academic and business figures.
The group will address this issue as part of a comprehensive three-year review of the sector across the EU. In its first year, the group will focus on how best to achieve excellence in teaching, and next year on how to adapt learning in the digital age.
With rising youth unemployment rates - the recent EU youth report points out that unemployment among 15-24-year-olds has risen by 50 per cent since the onset of the crisis - higher education is a key focus for the commission.
This has been further emphasised by a recent OECD report which highlights the current challenges faced in education, identifying the ageing teaching force and the low proportion of men enrolling in higher education as likely causes of problems in Europe in the near future.
More than half of today's jobs require some technology skills and that number will increase to 90 per cent by 2015.
In an attempt to address these issues, the group will focus on creating stronger links between higher education and the labour market.
It will be chaired by former Irish president Mary McAleese, her first public assignment since her term of office ended last year.
Speaking in Brussels on Tuesday, she said, "The group, I think, as a group would probably never have come together if we didn't feel we could have some impact and hope to have an impact."
The group was launched by EU education commissioner Androulla Vassiliou, who said its aim is to develop proposals to modernise Europe's higher education system.
Vassliou said excellence in teaching was a precondition for innovation, jobs and growth.
"Everybody remembers a teacher who inspired or motivated them," the commissioner said.
"I want to ensure that every student, regardless of where they live or study in Europe, will benefit from excellent teaching."
Jan Muehlfeit, chairman of Microsoft Europe, will be one of eight members of the board, including the chair.
While the group draws on experts from a variety of fields, he is the only industry representative.
He said, "Education is critical for the social and economic development of every nation. Young people in particular disproportionately suffer during a financial downturn, due to a lack of job opportunities and budget cuts in the education sector.
"Our first priority is to evaluate and disseminate how improving teaching excellence at the European level can directly contribute to economic growth and increased youth employability.
"I believe that ensuring a solid foundation of technology skills is one way Europe can stay competitive, lower youth unemployment and prepare the students of today for the jobs of tomorrow."