Still a mountain to climb? Benchmarks of learning mobility in the European Union

The further cooperation in education has been an important target of the European Union within the last decades. In 2009, the EU council adopted the strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training (ET 2000) and set four new strategic goals for the period till 2020. One of them was to "make […] learner mobility a reality"; in other words to increase the proportion of – mainly young - European citizen who are learning abroad.

The Erasmus+-programme is the European Union's main policy instrument for achieving this objective – but how can it be assessed whether the objectives have really been achieved in 2020? For this purpose, the EU council introduced two benchmarks in 2011:

  1. 20 % of the higher education graduates should have gained experiences in higher education abroad, equivalent to at least 15 ECTS credit points or 3 months.
  2. An EU average of 6 % of the 18 to 34 year-olds with an initial vocational education and training qualification should have had a training period of at least two weeks or also shorter if documented in the Europass.

In November 2018, the European Commission published a report assessing the current state of the benchmarks, focused on the first of the two indicators. This benchmark includes two types of mobility: Degree mobility, addressing students who obtained their tertiary education level degree in a country different from the country of the secondary level degree and credit mobility, referring to tertiary level graduates, who spent a time of their tertiary level education aboard (at least 3 months or 15 ECTS credits).

With data from the academic year 2015/16 both types of mobility were captured for different types of graduates (ISCED levels 5, 6, 7 and 8) and different EU member states. However, some of the EU member state couldn't provide data on some kinds of mobility, e.g. Poland or Ireland, which relatives the results. Here are some key results of the inquiry:

  • In total 10.7 percent of all high education graduates within the EU were mobile learners – still considerable far away from the intended 20%.
  • Credit mobility (7.6 percent) was much more common than degree mobility (3.1 percent)
  • The most learning mobility occurred within ISCED-7-level studies (master or equivalent) with 14.7 percent of the graduates being mobile learners.
  • Only two countries already reached the 20-percent-goal: Luxembourg (84.4 %) and the Netherlands (23.2%)

While the report highlights that the overall result of 10.7 percent "might be underestimating the real phenomenon since the available data currently provide only an incomplete picture", it also shows, that many parts of Europe were still considerable far away from the targets four years before they wanted to reach them.

Meanwhile, the second benchmark hasn't been estimated on European level yet and only single results on national level are available. For example, the National agency at the Federal Institute for Vocational Education in Germany announced in February 2019, that 6.3% of the graduates of an initial vocational education had been mobile learners. Thus, the second benchmark was reached in the case of Germany.

Country: Europe
Stakeholder: TU Dortmund
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