The European Students’ Union (ESU) expresses its concern for the impact of the so-called Juncker Ten-Point Plan on the EU’s Higher Education Policy. ESU would like to point out some aspects of the effects of the plan in particular.
Firstly, the European Commission’s restructuring following the entry into office of the new Commission in 2014 has led to the transfer of the competences on qualifications, skills and lifelong learning from Directorate General for Education and Culture (DG EAC) to Directorate General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion (DG EMPL) which may lead to a so-called “competence creep”. Article 6 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) specifies that education policy is a supporting competence, while employment policy is a shared competence. ESU is concerned this competence creep will become an issue with the upcoming Youth Unemployment and Mobility Packages, which will deal with skills and qualifications. At the same time, ESU stresses the importance of the supporting, coordinating and supplementing function of EU education policy in a broad perspective: countries have a lot to learn from each other, and more cooperation at the European level can be very beneficial – provided it is in the benefit of students.
Secondly, the Commission has allocated €2.7 billion of the reserve fund of the Investment Package and its European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) mechanism from Horizon 2020 funds. ESU is concerned this will jeopardise the core research funding of higher education institutions, and would strongly recommend the Commission and the Council to reconsider this approach. Research funding is the key to good quality higher education and innovation. All of this is particularly discomforting considering the delay of the outcomes of the midterm reviews of Education and Training 2020 (ET2020) and the Europe 2020 (EU2020) Modernisation of Higher Education agenda. ESU hopes that the Commission and the Council recommit to the education targets of ET 2020 and EU 2020 by strongly supporting education through the Juncker plan. Education and employment policy are important concerns for students and complement one another, but they should remain separate policy areas also in the future. All of this should also be considered in the 2016 Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF).