COUNCIL OF EUROPE
COMMITTEE OF MINISTERS
of the Committee of Ministers to member states
on higher education policies in lifelong learning
(Adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 15 May 2002
at the 795th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies)
The Committee of Ministers, under the terms of Article 15.b of the Statute of the Council of Europe,
Considering that the aim of the Council of Europe is to achieve greater unity among its members and that this aim can be pursued notably by common action in educational and cultural matters;
Having regard to the European Cultural Convention of 1954 (ETS No. 18);
Having regard to the Final Declaration and the Action Plan adopted by the 2nd Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe (October 1997);
Having regard to the Declaration on education policies for democratic citizenship and social cohesion: challenges and strategies for Europe, adopted at the 20th Session of the Standing Conference of European Ministers for Education held in Krakow in October 2000;
Having regard to the Joint Declaration on harmonisation of the architecture of the European higher education system (Sorbonne Declaration) adopted in Paris on 25 May 1998, to the Joint Declaration of the European Ministers for Education signed in Bologna on 19 June 1999 and to the communiqué adopted at their meeting in Prague on 19 May 2001;
Having regard to the joint Council of Europe/UNESCO Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education in the European Region of 1997 (ETS No. 165, Lisbon Recognition Convention);
Having regard to Recommendation 1437 (2000) of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on non-formal education;
Having regard to Recommendation No. R (98) 3 of the Committee of Ministers on access to higher education;
Having regard to the wide variety of activities carried out by the Council of Europe in the field of permanent education;
Aware that the building of a European “knowledge and communication society” represents a major challenge in the process of globalisation, as a result of the political upheavals and scientific and technological breakthroughs occurring worldwide;
Concerned that a knowledge and communication society might also lead to exclusion, especially of those groups with lower levels of education, and could widen the gap between those who possess knowledge and those who do not;
Considering that lifelong learning will play a pivotal role in the building of a European knowledge and communication society and that investment in lifelong learning is an effective measure for the prevention of social exclusion and for the promotion of equity and active citizenship;
Considering that everyone should have the right and opportunity to learn and acquire new skills and competencies throughout life, which enhances mobility and employability while encouraging a better practice of democratic citizenship in a continuously changing environment;
Aware that disadvantaged groups within society stand particularly to benefit from lifelong learning, yet may have difficulties in obtaining access to it;
Aware of the strategic role of higher education in establishing a Europe of knowledge capable of giving its citizens the necessary competencies to face the challenges of the knowledge and communication society;
Considering that lifelong learning represents a new challenge for higher education;
Considering that the extensive use of the information and communication technologies and all associated tools can stimulate and support the development and diffusion of new higher education courses and programmes, new learning and teaching approaches, as well as new educational patterns, thus improving lifelong learning opportunities;
Considering that, despite the progress made by a number of countries in restructuring their education in a lifelong learning perspective, there is still a need for measures to be taken by governments and the higher education systems in order to increase lifelong learning opportunities for all,
1. Recommends that the governments of member states:
a. take steps to implement in their policy, law and practice the principles set out in the appendix to this recommendation;
b. promote the implementation of the principles and measures contained in the appendix where this is not the direct responsibility of governments;
c. promote the implementation of these measures by higher education institutions;
d. ensure that this recommendation is distributed as widely as possible among all persons and bodies concerned;
2. Instructs the Secretary General of the Council of Europe to transmit this recommendation to the governments of those states parties to the European Cultural Convention which are not members of the Council of Europe.
Appendix to Recommendation Rec(2002)6
For the purposes of this recommendation, lifelong learning is defined as a continuous learning process enabling all individuals, from early childhood to old age, to acquire and update knowledge, skills and competencies at different stages of their lives and in a variety of learning environments, both formal and informal, for the purpose of maximising their personal development, employment opportunities and encouraging their active participation in a democratic society.
2. General principles
a. In accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, government action is required, in co-operation with higher education institutions, other education providers, professional networks, social partners, non-governmental organisations, local authorities and individuals, to promote lifelong learning in order:
– to meet the changing needs of European citizens and the new labour market requirements;
– to enable all individuals to participate actively in civil society, which is based on common democratic values.
b. Government action should be informed by an understanding of the benefits to society and the economy arising from offering to each individual:
– the opportunity to acquire or update knowledge, skills and competencies at different stages of life;
– equal access to and opportunities for success in lifelong learning at the level of his/her aspirations and abilities;
– the right to a fair recognition of his or her qualifications acquired in different learning environments.
c. In implementing these principles, governments should:
– encourage higher education institutions to undertake lifelong learning initiatives and support them in doing so;
– stimulate a variety of initiatives undertaken by different education providers, promote partnership and co-operation among different stakeholders and promot
e synergies as far as possible;
– provide the framework and establish standards for quality assurance;
– provide standards for transparent and reliable information by education providers;
– encourage lifelong learning provision to meet the needs of underprivileged groups.
The recommendations below are concerned with lifelong learning only in so far as it relates to higher education.
3. Higher education courses and qualifications in the context of lifelong learning
i. Course provision
a. Governments, while bearing in mind the autonomy of higher education institutions, should encourage them to:
– rethink their traditional mission of teaching and research by extending lifelong learning opportunities, including by providing access for mature students to “regular” study programmes and by establishing special programmes aimed at lifelong learners.
– identify target groups of learners and their specific needs to ensure that the lifelong learning offer is relevant and adequate;
– create flexible learning paths, promote mobility and facilitate recognition, including the use of credit transfer and accumulation;
– promote learner-centred education, taking into account learners’ prior knowledge and promoting their active participation in the study process;
– encourage the widespread use of information and communication technologies and research on computer-assisted learning;
– share resources and make use of best practices through inter-institutional, national and international co-operation.
ii. Quality and standards for lifelong learning
a. Those responsible for quality assurance should apply appropriate methods for evaluation and accreditation of various forms of lifelong learning.
b. Higher education institutions should be encouraged to ensure parity of standards between qualifications that are parallel, regardless of the learning paths through which they are obtained.
iii. Award and recognition of qualifications in lifelong learning
a. Governments should encourage higher education institutions and other competent national authorities to provide opportunities for individuals to have their competencies evaluated and to set up procedures for assessment and validation of professional experience and prior learning.
b. The recognition granted to each qualification should be independent of the mode of study and the learning path leading to it. The principles of the Council of Europe/UNESCO Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education in the European Region (Lisbon Recognition Convention) should be applied also to qualifications earned under different lifelong learning arrangements. The Enic Network should be encouraged to develop new assessment methods and procedures to this end.
c. Governments should encourage higher education institutions to use the “Diploma Supplement” to allow greater transparency and facilitate recognition.
4. Human resources
i. Staff and experts in higher education
In order to stimulate high-quality staff to become involved in lifelong learning, governments should encourage higher education institutions to provide the necessary support in this field, through appropriate recruitment policies, technical, financial and professional incentives and the provision of training.
a. Governments and higher education institutions should provide learners with clear information about lifelong learning opportunities and learning paths as well as career information and guidance in secondary and higher education in order to raise awareness among young people of the opportunities for pursuing their education through lifelong learning arrangements.
b. Efforts should be made to stimulate and to meet the diverse demands of learners, and involve learners in the development of curricula and programmes.
a. Steps should be taken to establish the employers’ needs in terms of education and training of their employees and these should be taken into account in the overall policies for the provision of lifelong learning and in the design of individual programmes.
b. Employers should be encouraged to support lifelong learning for their employees, and governments should examine possibilities of offering incentives to employers and learners.
5. Organisation and funding
a. In order to meet the demands for lifelong learning, higher education institutions should be encouraged to implement organisational and structural changes, taking into account in particular the flexibility offered by information and communication technologies.
b. Higher education institutions should be encouraged to seek effective co-operation with other stakeholders, with a view to promoting equity and social cohesion.
c. Special funding arrangements involving governments, employers, public and private funding bodies, local authorities, and so on, should be considered to promote equity and social cohesion within higher education institutions in a lifelong learning perspective.
d. Government strategies for the introduction and the development of information and communication technologies should also reflect the needs of under-privileged learners by creating the necessary technical and financial infrastructure, including subsidies or grants.
e. Governments should adopt policy measures aimed at providing affordable and easy access to information and communication technologies for higher education institutions, schools, public institutions, libraries, teachers and learners.
f. Wide public access to information and communication technologies should be facilitated by equipping relay centres, such as libraries, for collective use, which could be run and managed by local authorities.
6. Partnerships and co-operation
a. Higher education institutions should be encouraged to establish co-operation with competent partners at regional, national, European and international level to ensure co-ordinated and complementary offers of courses as well as to set up common standards of lifelong learning and guidelines for assessment of non-formal learning.
b. Governments should facilitate and encourage the exchange of innovative experiences and best practices between higher education institutions and their partners, both at national and at European level.
c. All possibilities offered by mobility schemes for co-operation, such as inter-institutional agreements, European Union programmes and regional co-operation exchange schemes should be utilised and extended to lifelong learning arrangements.
d. Education networks are invited to develop and disseminate information on European education policy, giving high priority to lifelong learning in the promotion of the European Higher Education Area.