Select Committee on European Union Fortieth Report


Letter from the Chairman to Bill Rammell MP, Minister for Life-long Learning, Further and Higher Education, Department for Education and Skills

  Your Explanatory Memorandum dated 26 May was considered by Sub-Committee G on 22 June.

  We have no particular objection to the broad objectives outlined by the Communication so long as it is clearly understood that this is a basis for voluntary collaborative activity by Member States within their own national competence for higher education. We note particularly in this context what you say about the proposal that Member States should devote 2 per cent of their GDP to higher education within a decade which clearly cannot be mandatory. We are also inclined to agree about the targets for mobility programmes, where quality and inclusion seem to be more important than quantity.

  We are content to release this document from scrutiny. In doing so, however, we would point out that it is not at all clear how this Communication is expected to be taken forward. Your EM refers to the use of OMC and to the setting up of "peer learning clusters", without giving details. While we see some value in sharing information and good practice between Member States, we believe that it should be coordinated with a light touch so as to avoid unnecessary bureaucracy, duplication and nugatory work. We would want you to be sure that the objectives have been clearly-defined and agreed at the outset, with the aim of adding significant practical value to the development of national strategies, and that satisfactory arrangements had been made to co-ordinate and analyse any information gathered and to disseminate it effectively.

  We also note the Commission's references to the role of the European Institute of Technology, which appear to assume that it is a foregone conclusion. You should bear in mind our reservations about that proposal, as outlined in my separate correspondence with you under reference 6844/06.

  We are holding this document under scrutiny pending your reply.

23 June 2006

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