My honourable friend the Minister of State for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education (Bill Rammell) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
Anne Lambert, UK Deputy Permanent Representative to the EU, attended the Youth Council on behalf on the UK. I represented the Government at the Education Council.
Ministers discussed the following issues:
The draft resolution on implementing common objectives for young people to promote their active European citizenship was adopted without discussion.
Ministers exchanged views on “better knowledge and understanding of youth”. They agreed that there was a need to support the development of youth policy with independent research based on practical experience. There was agreement that there should be a two-way relationship between policy and practice, with research concentrated in areas where policy decisions were most relevant to young people. The council also endorsed the setting up of an EU database on youth policies to support implementation and evaluation. The UK tabled a paper but did not intervene in the discussion.
Modernising Higher Education
The education part of the council was dominated by a public debate on the EIT (European Institute of Technology) and the wider reform of higher education (HE) in the EU.
On the latter, I underlined the crucial importance of the reform process and the supporting role of the EU. I noted that some progress has been made since Hampton Court, but we now need to inject a sense of urgency. Links between business and HE are needed to ensure the right supply of skills and qualifications for the labour market and widening participation. To this end I proposed that a compendium of best practice in modernising universities should be drawn up on the back of the ongoing peer-learning activity between member states. This was supported by the Commission and many member states.
Ministers gave a cautious welcome to the Commission's recent proposal. For the UK, I said the EIT's success would depend on its clarity of purpose. The focus on knowledge transfer is welcome. It is now crucial to ensure that the EIT provides value for money. We have concerns about the budget and want to be sure that resources will not be diverted from elsewhere. The Commission hopes that the regulation will be adopted by the end of 2007 and that two Knowledge and Innovation Communities would be up and running by 2010.
Vocational Education and Training
The council adopted conclusions on enhancing European co-operation in vocational education and training (VET). These will encourage member states to develop strategies to raise skills levels and improve the quality and attractiveness of vocational training. The informal meeting of Education Ministers on 4-5 December will pursue this theme. The Commission flagged up two forthcoming initiatives: a communication on adult learning; and a consultation on developing a European Credit Transfer System for VET.
Efficiency and Equity in Education and Training Systems
The council also adopted conclusions on efficiency and equity in education and training systems. These will encourage member states to develop education policies which produce the best outcomes for all groups in society, including disadvantaged young people. The presidency inserted a reference to member states' exclusive responsibility for the organisation of the education systems.
European Qualifications Framework
The council agreed a general approach on the draft recommendation on a European Qualifications Framework (EQF). The EQF will give a model for comparing qualifications in different member states and thereby support mobility.
The presidency reported that the recommendations on education key competences and a mobility charter had been approved by the European Parliament. The French delegation presented a proposal for the development of a European teaching aid as an introduction to the history of the arts in Europe.