The European Commission on Tuesday launched a reform plan for higher education across the European Union (EU) in a bid to boost employment and growth amid the worsening debt crisis in the euro zone.
The plan gives top priority to increasing the number of graduates, improving the quality and relevance of higher education, providing more opportunities for students to study abroad and ensuring educational funds.
"We need to reform higher education and vocational education so that we equip our young people with the skills they need to reach their potential in terms of development and employability," Androulla Vassiliou, commissioner for education, culture, multilingualism and youth, said here Tuesday.
The commission, the EU's executive arm, believes that properly-supported higher education can be a key driver for growth and jobs and the engine for Europe's competitiveness, calling for efficient funding especially in a time of financial constraints.
Public and private spending on higher education varies among EU member states, from 1.1 percent of GDP in Slovakia to almost 2.3 percent in Denmark.
Education is principally still a matter of national competence, but the commission urges EU-level initiatives in collaboration with member states so as to reach the target set by the Europe 2020 strategy, or 40 percent of Europe's young people holding higher education qualification by the end of this decade.
In 2010, about 33.6 percent of Europe's young people held such qualification.
The commission's EU-level initiatives include a multi-dimensional university ranking list to help students make better choices, and a loan guarantee scheme for full-time students studying abroad.
Against the backdrop of notably increasing unemployment rate across Europe since 2008, data shows that higher education graduates survive better than those with lower levels of qualification.
Recent European skills forecasts indicate that 35 percent of jobs in the EU are likely to require a higher education qualification by 2020, while currently only 26 percent of the European workforce holds a degree, compared to 41 percent in the United States and 44 percent in Japan.