The Council adopted conclusions on equality of opportunity in terms of access, inclusion, and success for all. These are the basic principles of education and training. Nevertheless, equality of opportunity and inclusion still pose a challenge to our education systems and the differences between and within Member States are enormous. As the socio-economic background continues to have a major impact on educational outcomes in the European Union, the Council adopted conclusions on this subject. The number of underperformers and early school leavers is still high in the EU. 20.3% of people with disabilities leave education early. Disadvantaged students are less likely to obtain tertiary education (43.4%) than their peers (82.3%). The conclusions call on the Member States and the Commission to work together on policies to reduce poor performance, increase levels of competence and prevent unemployment.
Inclusive education and training-systems play a fundamental role in reducing poor performance, increasing competence levels, and preventing unemployment. This means that inclusiveness must be part of all aspects of education and training and an institution-wide approach, in order to promote equal opportunities and inclusion and achieve success at all levels and in all types of education and training. We need to do more to identify education and training measures that improve educational success for all learners. An example of such a measure is the elimination of teacher shortages, particularly in special education and in multicultural and multilingual environments.
The Ministers approved the conclusions on the 'European Universities' initiative. The initiative is a fundamental pillar of the European Education Area to be completed by 2025. The Council invites Member States to use all available funding mechanisms to support the initiative. It also recommends increased cooperation between education authorities, higher education institutions and stakeholders to remove obstacles to cooperation at European level. European universities can play an important bridging role in this with their research and challenge-based learning and teaching approaches. In this way, stronger synergies can be created between the higher education dimension of the European Education Area, the European Research Area, and the European Higher Education Area.
Although the 41 alliances of European universities are at an early stage of development, they are doing everything they can to become the universities of the future and are a source of inspiration for the reform of higher education in the EU. There is no doubt that cooperation across languages, borders, and disciplines will contribute to achieving the ambitious vision of an innovative, globally competitive, and attractive European Education Area and European Research Area and to strengthening our common European values.