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Long-term EU budget: MEPs slam cuts to culture and #Education

EU Reporter Correspondent

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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.

Video statement by Chair Verheyen, following the debate.

Re-watch the full committee debate.

Next steps

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.

Background

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+.

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President von der Leyen opens 3rd European Education Summit

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Hosted by the European Commission, the 3rd European Education Summit took place on 10 December. European Commission PresidentUrsula von der Leyen, delivered the opening address paying tribute to teachers, who since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic have strived to keep classrooms open digitally giving pupils the opportunity to continue learning. This year's summit was dedicated to the ‘Digital Education Transformation'.

In her speech, President von der Leyen said that the pandemic “also exposed the shortcomings that need to be tackled. We have to successfully integrate digital technologies in our education systems. Digital technologies enable many pupils to continue learning. But for others it proved to be a major barrier when access, equipment, connectivity or skills are lacking.”

She made reference to the Digital Education Action Plan recently presented by the Commission, which seeks precisely to boost teachers' and pupils' digital skills, as well as to develop the related infrastructure. The president highlighted the ambitious but doable targets proposed for the European Education area and spoke about how NextGenerationEU can help the education sector.

Finally, she welcomed the new 'Education for Climate Coalition': “With this coalition we want to bring some of the energy from the streets to all our class rooms. We want to mobilise the entire education community to support the goals of climate neutrality and sustainable development.” Read the full speech online.

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Third European Education Summit to address the transformation of Digital Education

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Today (10 December), the European Commission will host the third European Education Summit, taking place online this year. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen; Promoting our European Way of Life Vice President Margaritis Schinas; Jobs and Social Rights Commissioner Nicolas Schmit and Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth Commissioner Mariya Gabriel will all participate. Ahead of the event, Vice-President Schinas said: "Europe puts a premium on fair, green, digital and inclusive societies. The European Education Area offers concrete initiatives to achieve this shared ambition together. European Universities, Erasmus Teacher Academies, Centres of Vocational Excellence and Erasmus mobility are emblematic of our European Way of Life."

Commissioner Gabriel also said: “I look forward to hearing the views of so many people from the education world as we take our work on achieving a European Education Area by 2025 forward and implementing our Digital Education Action Plan. To this end, I will take the opportunity at the Education Summit to launch a consultation process on the transformation of higher education. I will also announce another key deliverable of our European Education Area agenda - the Education for Climate coalition, which we will develop in the course of 2021.”

EU education ministers, as well as education professionals and representatives from across Europe, will discuss the challenges and opportunities for the digital transformation of Europe's education systems in the context of recovery from the coronavirus crisis and beyond. They will also exchange experience and best practice on mitigating the pandemic's effects on education and training provision, and provide feedback on the Commission's vision to create a European Education Area by 2025 and the implementation of its Digital Education Action Plan. The Summit will be webstreamed – links are available on the webpage.

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#Coronavirus - British universities should not reopen in September, says union

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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.

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