On 12 February 2020, members of EFEE and ETUCE gathered in Brussels for the ESSDE Policy Working Group on Higher Education meeting. The meeting was kicked-off with a keynote speech from Professor Max Scheja, Department of Education at Stockholm University, on student learning and the notion of scholarship of teaching and learning in Higher Education. Prof Scheja identified students’ different learning methods as one of the key factors that shape the way teaching in higher education should be organized. By gathering empirical data of students’ experiences of studying in higher education, he aimed to reflect on the relationship between time, learning and understanding in relation to teaching in higher education.

Following the keynote speech, the meeting continued with a plenary debate on the role of teaching and research in academia. The debate was kicked-off by three presentations from two EFEE members and one ETUCE member from the higher education sector. First, Johan Huysse from VSNU (Netherlands) presented the position paper “Room for everyone’s talent” by the Dutch universities associations. Subsequently, Dita Štefenhagena from LIZDA (Latvia) introduced the participants to the research paper “For decent working conditions of academic staff at Higher Education Institutions in Latvia”. Lastly, Heikki Holopainen from FEE (Finland) enlightened the participants on the role of teaching and research in Finnish academia by way of the good practice example from the “Teachers’ Academy” at the University of Helsinki.

Subsequently, Marc Goffart (European Commission, DG EAC, B.1, Higher Education) provided an update on the ET2020 Working Group on Higher Education and gave some more insight into the new European Commission’s priorities for this sector. With regards to the former topic, specific attention was given to the Working Group’s Peer Learning Visit to Cyprus on the topic of Academic Integrity of October 2019. Regarding the latter, Mr Goffart expounded on the European Commission’s Work Programme 2020 as well as Commissioner for Education Mariya Gabriel’s priorities for the higher education and research sector.

After the intervention of the European Commission, a plenary discussion on the factors shaping quality teaching and learning in Higher Education and Research was organized in three separate working groups. These break-out groups each discussed certain identified mass-trends that affect teaching and learning in higher education and how higher education institutions can respond to them. Amongst others, impactful developments including changing financing models, mobility schemes, digitalization, academic freedom, professional development and the status of contracts were discussed during these break-out sessions.

Hereafter, a discussion on the advancement of the ESSDE Working Group on Higher Education and Research took place. Most notably, the next ESSDE joint project on Higher Education for 2021 was discussed by the attending members. The meeting concluded with a brief overview on the ETUCE-EFEE joint statement on HorizonEurope. While it was noted that no consensus can be found between both parties, the UK representative from EFEE indicated his desire to push this initiative forward in order to influence this funding programme more directly.

For more details, please contact isaline.ossieur@educationemployers.eu 

©Featured Image: by Jacob Lund, thenounproject