On 30 November 2020, the EFEE Policy Working Group on Higher Education and Research gathered for its last meeting in 2020. The focal point of this meeting was to have a mutual exchange of best practices between members with regards to experienced impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the higher education sector as well as to look forward to the activities to come in this sector in the upcoming year.
The meeting opened with a policy overview of the latest key developments in the higher education sector. Thereby special attention was drawn to the three main initiatives published by the European Commission on 30 September 2020: The European Education Area by 2025, the new European Research Area and the Digital Education Action Plan. Furthermore, the Rome Communiqué, which was officially approved during the 2020 EHEA Ministerial Conference on 19 November 2020, was highlighted as a major cornerstone. Being the basis of most of EFEE’s work, the Rome Communiqué was welcomed by EFEE, especially with regards to Annex 3 on the “Enhancement of Higher Education Learning and teaching in the EHEA”. Subsequently, the Working Group was updated on the work of the ET 2020 Working Group on Higher Education. Furthermore, members received valuable information on the future of the ET 2020 Working Groups, with EFEE applying to become a member of the Steering Board of the European Education Area Enabling Framework.
Following this, an insightful exchange of experiences and best practices regarding the impact of the COVID 19 pandemic on the higher education sector took place among members. The majority of participants concluded that the crisis has had a formative and long-lasting impact on the higher education sector with regards to learning and teaching – in both a positive and negative way. In this regard, topics such as the performances of students with regards to distance learning as well as working conditions of researchers were brought up as major discussion points.
Subsequently, the Policy Working Group were provided with in-depth information on the new ESSDE project on “Promoting Quality of Academic Teaching and Management”, which was already mentioned during the last ESSDE Working Group plenary meeting on 20 October 2020. The project, foreseen to run from January 2021 until June 2022, will consist of two interactive workshops, taking place in May 2021 in Portugal (southern countries) and October 2021 in the Netherlands (northern countries). Additionally, members were informed that the projects are aimed to take place with all participants on site to ensure best peer learning results. However, in the face of the still ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this cannot be guaranteed. Lastly, the policy working group was notified of upcoming developments in the higher education sector such as a possible development of an OIRA-tool for the higher education in continuation of the ongoing “OSH4Edu” project.
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