Studying possibilities in the EU

Studying abroad is a great way of improving language skills, exploring a different culture and hooking up with people in other countries. It looks good on your CV too.

While vocational training had already been identified as an area of Community action in the Treaty of Rome in 1957, education was formally recognised as an area of European Union competency in the Maastricht Treaty establishing the European Community in 1992. Since that time education and training has become one of the key-questions of the European Union.

In the European Union education is the responsibility of Member States, and EU institutions play a supporting role. According to Art. 149 of the Treaty of Amsterdam, the Community "shall contribute to the development of quality education by encouraging cooperation between Member States." This happens through actions such as promoting the mobility of citizens, designing joint study programmes, establishing networks, exchanging information or teaching languages of the European Union. The Treaty also contains a commitment to promote life-long learning for all citizens of the Union.

The conclusions of the Lisbon Summit (2000) set the ambitious strategic goal for Europe of becoming "the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion" by 2010 and put education and training policies at the centre of the European policy. This requires not only a "radical transformation of the European economy", but also a "challenging programme for the modernisation of social welfare and education systems", including the provision of access to education for all.

For this reason the European Commission supports, develops and implements lifelong learning policies; with the aim of enabling countries to work together and to learn from each other, with an important emphasis on mobility. The EU also funds educational, vocational and citizenship-building programmes which encourage EU citizens to take advantage of the opportunities which the EU offers its citizens to live, study and work in other countries.

Lifelong learning is, for the EU, "the guiding principle for the development of education and training policy". While promoting social inclusion and personal fulfilment, lifelong learning develops people's employability and adaptability, and is therefore a core element of the Jobs and Growth strategy. On the grounds of the above mentioned goals the EU established the Lifelong Learning Programme, and the objective of the action programme 2007-2013 is to develop and foster interchange, co-operation and mobility, so that education and training systems become a world quality reference in accordance with the Lisbon strategy.

The action programme is divided into six sub-programmes, four of which are sectoral. They are all structured in the same way and address the teaching and learning needs of all participants, as well as of the institutions and organisations providing or facilitating education and training in each respective sector. All the actions incorporate mobility, language and new technology.

Diána Horváth