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The next steps towards a European Degree

The results of the ED-AFFICHE project have been presented. The project involved six university alliances and 51 higher education institutions from 22 countries to propose recommendations and identify obstacles to be overcome to achieve degrees that are automatically valid in all 27 EU Member States

How far away are we from introducing European degrees?
 The ED-AFFICHE project, with the contribution of six university alliances (Una Europa, 4EU+, CHARM-EU, EC2U, EU-CONEXUS and Unite!) and 51 higher education institutions from 22 countries, sought to answer this question.

The University of Bologna, with twenty years of experience in joint study programmes and the Erasmus Mundus programme, and one of the founding members of the Una Europa alliance, was actively involved in the research work, contributing to the development of data collection tools and taking part in surveys and focus groups. The aim of the project was to test the criteria proposed by the Commission, to propose recommendations and to identify the obstacles that needed to be overcome in order to introduce a European degree certificate.

After a year of work, the results of the 6 European Degree pilot projects, including ED-AFFICHE, were presented a few days ago in Brussels at an event attended by almost 300 representatives of higher education institutions from all over Europe, the Member States, the higher education sector and the European Commission.

The Commission has just presented a proposal to allow universities in different European countries to set up joint study programmes and award degrees that are automatically valid in all 27 Member States.

At present, degrees are only accredited at national level, and the integration of two or more European study programmes (joint degrees) faces legislative obstacles that underline the need to harmonise the regulatory framework.

By mapping the joint degrees programmes that are already available, and analysing the criteria used to define them and the legal barriers, the ED-AFFICHE consortium has developed a set of key recommendations for ministries to achieve European degree certification.

In the course of its work, ED-AFFICHE collected input from 2,546 students, 67 employers, 8 quality assurance agencies and ministries in the participating countries. The students emphasised the importance of interaction with the job market, access to inter-campus facilities and the need for financial support for mobility. Employers, on the other hand, stressed the importance of acquiring soft skills and the need to be involved at an early stage in the co-development of joint degree programmes. Lastly, quality assurance agencies and ministries recommended ensuring a straightforward accreditation process for joint degree programmes and the importance of establishing clear agreements between the institutions involved.

Dialogue and cooperation between the various actors involved, encouraged by the UNA Europa alliance, remain essential to continue in this direction, as does the coordination activity by the European institutions.

Indeed, ED-AFFICHE's recommendations stress the importance of a permanent dialogue between the European Commission, European alliances, national and regional authorities, quality assurance agencies and universities. Without forgetting the exemplary role of students and employers and the importance of ensuring adequate funding to achieve the ambitious objective of establishing a European degree.