How the EU election impacts higher education policy

The countries of the EU set their own policies for higher education and research, but the elections to the European Parliament still have some influence. For example, the EU's research and education programmes are to be renewed in the coming term.

During the coming parliamentary term, both the EU's framework programme for research, Horizon Europe, and the Erasmus plus education programme will be revised.

Higher education and research are not major political issues in the run-up to the elections to the European Parliament on 9 June, notes Magnus Blomgren, a docent of political science at Umeå University.
“It is not much of a subject for political conflict or profile building,” he says, “so there is no real reason for politicians to push the issues. There are also no clear yes or no questions. The processes are quite complex. If the EU made legislative decisions on higher education, it would be different.”

In the main, political questions regarding higher education are for the national parliaments. However, the EU has set a number of objectives, for example, that higher education should be adapted to the competence needs of the labour market. There is also a vision that education should be broad and open, Blomgren continues.

Magnus Blomgren
Magnus Blomgren

Docent of political science at Umeå University

When it comes to research policy, the EU can exert more influence. During the coming term, the framework programme for research, Horizon Europe, is to be revised ready for relaunch in 2028, as is the Erasmus+ education programme.

Although the European Parliament does not produce legislative texts for EU countries to follow, it can exercise influence through the budget process.
“These are enormous programmes,” says Blomgren, “and big money has a tendency to shape reality. The priorities set in the Horizon context impact research at national level.”

Erasmus plus has a budget of 26 billion euros for the 2021 to 2027 period. Horizon Europe’s budget for the same period is 95 billion euros.

A mini survey conducted by Universitetsläraren, (presented below this article), shows that several Swedish political parties want to see stricter EU regulations regarding academic freedom.

Even though the European Parliament cannot make decisions on academic freedom in the individual member states, it has great influence.
“Today, we see that several countries are backsliding when it comes to these issues,” says Magnus Blomgren. “The EU and the European Parliament play a very important role and need to act and say that this is not okay.”


The European Union’s decision-making institutions

The European Parliament: Makes laws and sets the budget. Consists of 720 elected members.

The Council of Ministers: Makes laws together with Parliament. Consists of the ministers of the EU member states.

The European Commission: Proposes new laws and implements the decisions of the Parliament and the Council. Consists of one commissioner from each member state.

The European Council: Consists of the heads of government of the EU member states. Determines the EU’s political direction. Does not legislate.

Additionally, there are the European Court of Justice, the European Central Bank and the European Court of Auditors.

Universitetsläraren conforms strictly to journalistic principles and follows the media industry’s rules on publication and professional ethics. The magazine is free and independent of its owner, SULF – the Swedish Association of University Teachers and Researchers.
If you have tips on issues that you think we should write about, you are welcome to contact us at You can remain anonymous if you wish.