11 European countries launched the first pan-European university MOOCs (massive open online courses)

The European Commission welcomed the launching of the first pan-European 'MOOCs' (Massive Open Online Courses) initiative. The initiative is led by the European Association of Distance Teaching Universities (EADTU) and mostly involves open universities. So far, it counts with around 40 courses, covering a wide variety of subjects, will be available free of charge and in 12 different languages.

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The Commission puts forward a proposal to make the EU more attractive for foreign students and researchers

The proposal presented by the Commission responds to the need to give the Union a legislative framework that would maximize its ability to attract talent. Current rules applied to visa award for students or researcher willing to come to Europe are unclear and lack from unity between Member states. The recast proposal presented by the Commission aims to put an end to this situation.

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A new international university ranking launched under the Irish EU Presidency

The new 'multi-dimensional' listing will rate universities according to a broader range of factors, in five separate areas: reputation for research, quality of teaching and learning, international orientation, success in knowledge transfer (such as partnerships with business and start-ups), and contribution to regional growth.

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Graphene and Human Brain Projects are the winners of the European largest research excellence award

The European Commission announced the two winners of a competition of Future and Emerging Technologies (FET), which will receive one billion euros each, to deliver 10 years of world-beating science at the crossroads of science and technology. "Graphene" will investigate and exploit the unique properties of a revolutionary carbon-based material. The "Human Brain Project" will create the world's largest experimental facility for developing the most detailed model of the brain.

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€680 million in EU funding awarded to 302 top researchers

The 'Advanced Grants' from the European Research Council (ERC) were awarded in this occasion to 302 senior research leaders in 24 different countries across Europe. The European funding will allow these scientists to pursue their most ground-breaking ideas at the frontiers of knowledge together with their own teams.

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3,000 scientists in 6 years were granted with EU funding from the ERC

The 3,000th scientist to receive EU funding to pursue essential research across Europe was reached. The European Research Council (ERC) has marked the occasion, with a symbolic awarding of a grant to Professor Christian Keysers to further his research in the field of empathy and the brain.

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More than 100 European personalities signed a letter supporting the Erasmus Programme

EU Heads of State and Government received a letter backing the Erasmus Programme and signed by more than 100 European personalities from the worlds of education, art, literature, economics, philosophy and sport. The letter calls for investment in education and training to be at the heart of Europe's response to the crisis, and was signed by personalities such as the Spanish film director Pedro Almodovar, the president of FC Barcelona Sandro Rosell or the Nobel Prize winner Professor Christopher Pissarides.

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A High level group will study the Modernisation of Higher Education in the EU

The European Commission announced the establishment of a new High level group on the Modernisation of Higher Education, that will be chaired by Mary McAleese, former President of Ireland, and will focus this year on how best to achieve excellence in teaching and then, next year, it will discuss how to adapt learning in the digital age.

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A third more women than men are enrolling in higher education in the EU

The European Commission welcomed the launch of the OECD report, Education at a Glance 2012, which highlights that more than 40% of secondary school teachers in five EU countries (Austria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, the Netherlands, Sweden) are aged 50 or older. Gender inequality is also a problem because the report shows that nearly a third more women than men are enrolling in higher education in the EU.

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Report highlights major differences among EU countries with regard to student support

According to report published by the European Commission, the cost of higher education for students varies dramatically in Europe. Tuition fees are highest in England, while nine countries (Austria, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Malta, Norway, UK (Scotland) and Sweden) do not charge fees in most cases. Also, the report highlights that major differences exist with regard to student support.

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The Commission is concerned on the latest figures published about early school leaving in the EU

Eurostat published its latest date on progress in reducing early school leaving and increasing graduates in Europe. According to these data, Member States are making progress, but wide disparities remain and it is far from certain that the EU will meet its 2020 goals. These goals are to reduce early school leaving rates to less than 10% and increase the share of young people with degree-level qualifications to at least 40%.

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Commission calls on Member States to urgently modernise their higher education systems

Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, speaking ahead of the two-yearly meeting of higher education ministers in Bucharest (Romania), in the framework of the Bologna Process, asked to urgently modernise their higher education systems and remove barriers to a fully functioning European Higher Education Area (EHEA).

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