Since the end of February, The European Commission has proposed the creation of a European degree, according to a press release issued last month by the Commission’s Italian section. This European degree is intended for tertiary education, i.e. universities. According to the press release, the aim of this European degree is to promote learning mobility and make European graduates more attractive to employers. At the same time, the European degree would aim to meet the needs of the European labour market and thus boost Europe’s competitiveness. This package of proposals aims to remove legal and administrative barriers to the creation of competitive joint degree programmes at bachelor, master and PhD level.

Although a series of publications on this proposal and the three European Degree initiatives have appeared in numerous newspapers since the end of February, no further details have been published on how the proposal will work, whether it will be mandatory or voluntary, and what other criteria the degree will have to meet in order to be implemented.

However, in line with the recent statement of the press release of the European Commission’s section for Italy, it has been mentioned that each individual EU country and regional government will have full autonomy in decisions regarding the higher education system and university autonomy, The European degree label would be really beneficial to European students and would improve the quality of their higher education and their access rights.

In order to answer these doubts and to get more detailed information on this proposal, I have been researching for the European Student – led Agency which has more information on the European Degree Initiative – how university students could be involved in the decision-making bodies, especially those of quality assurance.

After some research, I contacted Ana Grvishvili, a PhD student in the Economics programme at Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University, a member of the ESU Quality Assurance Student Expert Pool since 2020, and an elected member of the ESU Executive Committee since 2022.

The ESU Quality Assurance Student Expert Pool is a student-led pool coordinated by the European Students’ Union. It works in collaboration with various European Quality Assurance Agencies to evaluate the quality of the educational pathway within the European Higher Education System.

In this interview with Ana, which also includes the perspective of Horia Onita, President of the ESU, you will find some information about the ESU QA POOL, the role of the student expert and European degree initiatives.

1) Thanks for participating in our interview series for this column, “Who will be the Next European Parliament.” First, tell us a bit about yourself.

I am Ana Gvritishvili, member of the Executive Committee of the European Students’ Union. ESU is the organisation representing 20 million higher education students at European level, composed of 44 national unions of students from 40 countries, including Georgia. I have already been working in the field of Quality Assurance for more than 6 years. I am also a part of ESU QA Student Experts’ Pool since 2019 and participated in various program, institutional and QA agency reviews.

Horia Onita serves as President of ESU, working in the organisation on overarching political priorities (Bologna Process, European elections etc.), quality assurance of education, learning and teaching policies, digitalisation and social dimension of higher education. He represents ESU in positions such as co-chair of the Drafting Committee of 2024 Tirana Communique, co-chair of the Bologna Follow-Up group on Social Dimension and member of European Quality Assurance Register Board and BFUG Board. He also follows EU developments on education funding and monitoring through National Recovery and Resilience Plans and the European Semester and has been representing ESU in the Steering Committee on Education of Council of Europe.

2) Could you give me a quick overview of what the Quality Assurance Student Expert Pool is, what their role is and which role you cover in this pool?

ESU QA Student Experts’ Pool was established in 2009 and the aim of the pool is to promote and develop students participation in quality assurance all over Europe (and further). Our pool is renewed annually and around 100 students have the chance to be part of the pool.

3) Please describe the activities carried out by this Student Expert Pool.

The pool members have the opportunity to participate in the program, institutional and QA agency external reviews and be part of the expert panels. Our partner “QA agency” operates according to the Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG 2015), which are co-authored by the ‘E4 organisations’*, including ESU. Pool members also have opportunity to participate in different training or capacity building activities organised specifically for them. Student experts are equal members of the expert panels.

4) As a student expert, what are the main challenges that you face during your work?

As a student expert, we represent student voice among the expert panel. The most challenging thing is to ensure that student’s involvement is meaningful in all decision-making bodies or QA mechanisms. This is not always the case in many parts of Europe, and sometimes the argument goes that students themselves do not get engaged in quality assurance matters. However, without transparency, commitment to follow-up actions and trust in the meaningfulness of the process, students can believe that the quality assurance activities are only a bureaucratic necessity without yielding concrete results. This is also evidenced in our recent Bologna** with Student Eyes publication. Therefore, student experts have to convince and support HEIs*** to design methodologies for participation that ensure student participation in co-creation and convince students to get engaged.

5) At the end of February, the European Commission launched the European Degree initiatives. Please provide a detailed account of the genesis of this initiative.

The creation of a European degree (label) was firstly announced by the heads of state, in the conclusions of a European Council meeting. The concept was not yet defined, but the overall aim was to increase the attractiveness of Europe for higher education studies in contrast with other global regions, to promote the ‘European dimension’ and to remove barriers in transnational cooperation, while some believed it would be a back-door for the European Union to harmonise higher education policies. In the meantime, the contours of the initiative have been clarified through the policy experimentation of what a European degree (label) would look like in 6 dedicated projects, financed by the Commission.

6) Could you please provide a more detailed description of this initiative?

The European Commission proposes two possible routes: a full-fledged degree or a label awarded for already existing joint degrees that comply with some European set criteria. The European degree would represent an academic qualification designed for transnational Bachelor, Master, or Doctoral programmes, that promotes innovative learning practices and shared European values, including a compulsory component of mobility.

This degree is awarded collaboratively and voluntarily by a consortium of universities from different European countries, reflecting a shared commitment to educational performance. Furthermore, the European degree (label) would be anchored in a common set of criteria established at the European level, guaranteeing a consistent and high standard of education for all students involved.

7) Could you please share your thoughts on why it would be beneficial to create and implement a European degree?

ESU thinks that The European degree (label) could serve as a meaningful tool to support the creation of joint degrees and incentivise the removal of unjustified barriers for international cooperation, thus enhancing the quality of education. The primary focus should be on fully implementing Bologna tools, while also ensuring the consideration of fundamental values and the protection of students’ rights. In this context, it may be more appropriate to start by testing a European degree label, and ensuring that some of the remaining concerns are tackled in the implementation phase: inclusivity, the financing of the initiative, admission systems, creating guardrails against a downward spiralling of student rights etc.

8) Could I ask your opinion on whether the following phases of this initiative will be implemented in the following year, even in the event of a significant change in the composition of the European Parliament?

As this is part of the higher education policy, where EU has only supportive competencies, the European Parliament is not involved in the process, and as such its change in composition cannot affect the developments of the European Degree. However, the member states still have to further discuss the proposal, therefore we cannot expect an agreement of the Council earlier than November 2024, possibly even later.


• E-4 organisations refers to the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education, a European framework for quality assurance developed and launched in 2008 by the main stakeholders in the field. This framework is made up of four organisations: ESU, ENQA, EUA and EURASHE. This framework is the European framework for promoting quality in higher education and mobility in Europe. It is also the only legal entity created in the context of the Bologna Process. (https://www.eqar.eu/e4-group/)
• The Bologna Process is a process of harmonisation of the various European higher education systems implemented since June 1999. This process of harmonisation aims to create a European Higher Education Area, which aims to promote and disseminate the European Higher Education System to promote competence on a global scale.
• HEI is an abbreviation for Higher Education Institute.

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