British universities should scrap plans to reopen in September to prevent travelling students from fuelling the country’s coronavirus pandemic, a union said, calling for courses to be taught online. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government has come under fire over its moves to restart education, especially after a row over exam results for school students and a failed attempt to bring all pupils back to their classes earlier this year, writes Elizabeth Piper.
Johnson has been calling on Britons to return to something more akin to normality after the coronavirus lockdown, calling on workers to return to offices to help the economy recover from a 20% contraction in the April-June period.
But the University and College Union (UCU) said it was too early to send students back to universities, warning they could be blamed if cases of COVID-19 increased. “Moving a million plus students around the country is a recipe for disaster and risks leaving ill-prepared universities as the care homes of a second wave,” UCU general secretary Jo Grady said in a statement. “It is time for the government to finally take some decisive and responsible action in this crisis and tell universities to abandon plans for face-to-face teaching,” she said, urging the government to move all teaching online for the first term.
Stephen Barclay, chief secretary to the Treasury (finance ministry), said he did not agree with the argument. “I think universities like the rest of the economy need to come back and students need to be able to do so,” he told Times Radio. Several universities say they are ready to reopen next month after weeks of preparation and some students say they have already spent money on such things as housing in preparation for the new term.
Skills: Five new cross-border collaboration projects selected for #Erasmus+ funding to develop excellence in vocational training in Europe
The Commission has proposed Erasmus+ funding for five new Platforms of Centres of Vocational Excellence, to meet the needs of an innovative, inclusive and sustainable economy. Funded through Erasmus+ for a maximum budget of €4 million each, the platforms will be active in sectors such as green innovation and urban greening, microelectronics, and the furniture and wood sector.
They will also support major European priorities such as the digital and green transitions, sustainable growth, and the social inclusion of individuals belonging to disadvantaged groups. Selected from among 55 applications, the five newly-selected Platforms of Vocational Excellence involve 167 partner organisations from 17 member states and 4 other countries participating in the Erasmus+ programme.
The chosen projects respond to a changing labour market and are aligned with the priorities of the European Skills Agenda and the Commission proposal for a Council recommendation on Vocational Education and Training for sustainable competitiveness, social fairness and resilience presented on 1 July. The press release is available here.
Long-term EU budget: MEPs slam cuts to culture and #Education
In a debate in the Culture and Education Committee with the Commission, all MEPs referred to cuts in the revised MFF proposal (MFF: Multiannual Financial Framework) as “unacceptable” for EU culture and education, stressing that these sectors were particularly depleted by the COVID-19 crisis and need increased support to recover.
While commending the “unprecedented level of financial support” in the EU Recovery plan, tabled alongside the revised MFF, they criticized the Commission for rowing back on its first MFF proposal in 2018.
“We do not support the Commission’s proposal,”said Committee Chairwoman Sabine Verheyen, at the opening of the debate. “Here is what this means for EU programmes: the Solidarity Corps will be offering fewer opportunities to young people - full-stop. “Creative Europe” will be supporting fewer artists and fewer creators — full-stop. For Erasmus+, we can kiss goodbye to the aim of reaching 12 million participants — because we are not prepared to offer everyone lower-quality, short-term exchanges just to get the numbers up”, she added.
Culture and Education Committee MEPs also pointed to the promise made by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, ahead of her election, when she pledged to support the EP’s request to triple Erasmus+ funding in the MFF 2021-2027.
After the revised MFF proposal was tabled by the Commission on 27 May 2020, it is now up to EU member states to agree on their position. The EP needs to approve any MFF before it can come into force.
Compared to the Commission’s initial MFF proposal (2018), the May 2020 revised proposal (when calculated in 2018 prices) presents a 20% cut to the European Solidarity Fund, a 13% cut to Creative Europe and a 7% cut to Erasmus+.
Commissioner Navracsics hosts second #EuropeanEducationSummit
On 26 September, the second European Education Summit will take place in Brussels. The one-day event will be hosted by Education, Culture, Youth and Sport Commissioner Tibor Navracsics.
This second edition will focus on the teaching profession – which has a key role to play in building a true European Education Area by 2025. Discussions will address, among many topics, the challenges facing teachers, linked to factors such as recognition, prestige, training, autonomy and demography. Sessions will explore solutions to specific issues like the use of new technologies in the classroom, teaching in rural areas and the promotion of common values in education.
During the summit, Commissioner Navracsics will present the 2019 Education and Training Monitor. This year's edition of the Commission's flagship report on education focuses on teachers and is based, among others, on the latest results from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Teaching and Learning International Survey.
For a second year ministers, experts, and teachers from across Europe are gathering to exchange experience, insights, and ideas on the future of education in the EU. The summit emphasises the critical role education plays in promoting resilience, fairness and social cohesion. Last year's edition helped to drive discussions on new policy initiatives linked to the European Education Area.
More about the First Education Summit
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