BRUSSELS – The European Students’ Union (ESU) published today its position on the European Commisssion’s proposal for a European Area of Skills and Qualifications (EASQ), as part of a public consultation process. ESU welcomes this excellent idea that only risks failing if it encourages confusion. It should by no means create parallel structures to the ones that already exist in the European Higher Education Area, but rather serve as a tool box of existing measures. This position paper was originally sent to the European Commission on 15 April.
While ESU is generally positive about creating a cohesive platform for different skills and qualifications, it does have a few concerns about the proposal.
1. ESU has a critical approach on the discourse used by the European Union (EU) in relation to the definition of Europe/European and asks for differentiation between EU tools and European Higher Education Area (EHEA) tools in the evaluation and consultation on EASQ. The definition Europe/European refers to the countries that are signatories of the Bologna Declaration and that are members of the EHEA. This applies especially when conflicting tools are encouraged in the proposal.
2. Furthermore, ESU expresses its concerns about the utilitarian approach to higher education. ESU reminds the European Commission that it goes against the fundamental social values and norms attributed to higher education to address it as a commodity and students as consumers that purchase this service. This does also contradict approaches that the EU Member States have agreed to in their EHEA Communiqués.
3. Last but not the least, ESU would prefer to strengthen the cooperation among EHEA countries in implementing existing tools properly, thus enhancing internationalisation. The European Area of Skills and Qualifications should highlight the existing tools and avoid creating parallel structure, if it is to be successful.
These are ESU’s recommendations
ESU’s position paper lays out several recommendations or suggestions for improvement from students’ perspectives. First of all, does ESU see the key to recognition of qualifications and skills, as the recognition of prior learning and transparency in empowerment of the existing tools and a stronger quality assurance system in the EHEA. The European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education (EQAR) and the European Standards and Guidelines (ESG) are essential in this development.
Secondly, ESU believes that transnational education should not be used for branding higher education institutions or seeking profit from such arrangements, regardless of the frequency of the establishment of franchises, offshore campuses, twinning and joint degree programmes due to the increased demand for education. Instead, transnational education should benefit the local community and the learning environment by providing students with opportunities for quality assured education, free of charge.
Thirdly, ESU reiterates the importance to implement and further adjust National Qualifications Frameworks, especially in terms of expected learning outcomes and student participation.
Fourthly, ESU believes that Vocational Education and Training (VET) should not be seen as a “dead end” and it should develop amongst others, general competences, in particular citizenship. In order to be student-centred, the evaluation of the quality of learning programmes should be qualitative and not only quantitative, contextual and not only general, work-based and not only school-based.
Lastly, ESU believes that the support of main stakeholders is essential for the European Area of Skills and Qualifications to succeed. It would be highly useful to have a clear message on this issue that would discourage the creation of parallel structures and encourage the use of existing tools.
The full version of ESU’s position paper on this issue is available for download here.
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The European Students’ Union, headquartered in Brussels, is the umbrella organisation of 47 national unions of students from 39 European countries. ESU represents and promotes the educational, social, economical and cultural interests of students at the European level. Through its member unions, ESU represents over 11 million students in Europe. To find out more about ESU, follow us on Twitter @ESUtwt, check out or Facebook page or visit www.esu-online.org. ESU celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2012.