ETUCE Position on the impact of micro-credentials on teachers and higher education

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Preparing its recommendation to the Council on micro-credentials  the European Commission has issued a public consultation, entitled “Micro-credentials – broadening learning opportunities for lifelong learning and employability”,  asking feedback from the public in a questionnaire by 13 July 2021. In response, the ETUCE Bureau has adopted a position on this topic, following the advice of the ETUCE Education Advisory Panel.

The position expresses the concerns of the education trade unions that the European Commission’s initiative on micro-credentials can deepen the process of commercialisation of public initial education and increase the involvement of the labour market in the field of education. The joint ETUC – ETUCE Position on Micro-credentials in VET and tertiary education (July 2020) already emphasised that micro-credentials can be useful when added to full qualifications which are placed within national qualification frameworks, but they should not be confused with partial or full qualifications. ETUCE welcomes that the European Commission’s Roadmap acknowledges these differences.

For education trade unions, the EU policy on micro-credentials is important as it helps ensuring that national qualification requirements for pursuing the teaching profession are respected and academic freedom and institutional autonomy are safeguarded. Teachers need to be supported with quality and updated initial education and continuous professional development. The ETUCE position underlines that national education and training systems, as well as national regulations and requirements for the full qualification of teachers must be respected. Courses leading to micro-credentials can be considered as continuous professional development but not replacement of the initial education of teachers.

The education trade unions believe that the European Commission’s policy on micro-credentials should protect academic freedom and the institutional autonomy of universities. Indeed, these have been under attack following cuts in public budget and increasing demands from the higher education institutions to serve labour market needs. Many universities are forced to seek additional funding, often by providing short-term courses for companies. Fuelled by the COVID-19 pandemic, this pressure creates a high unemployment rate among young people and the rise of inequalities in society. For higher education institutions, the provision of short labour market related courses should be voluntary and the control on their micro-credentials or lifelong learning courses should remain within the institution.

Additionally, the higher education institutions should decide if they want to give ECTS credits to the micro-credentials they deliver. In this case micro-credentials need to be in line with the Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG) and the Lisbon Recognition Convention. Micro-credentials in higher education need to respect the goals and fundamental values of the Bologna Process (EHEA) and the Rome Ministerial Communique, most prominently academic freedom and institutional autonomy. 

ETUCE does not agree that the purpose of micro-credential courses is to improve quality, pedagogies and inclusion in higher education. Equal access to full degree programmes must be ensured to all students, while enrolling in micro-credential courses should be voluntary. Innovation in pedagogy and teaching in higher education institutions must be achieved by providing decent salaries and working conditions, as well as continuous professional development for higher education staff instead of opening more lifelong learning courses for the labour market.

The ETUCE Position on “The impact of micro-credentials on teachers and higher education” can be found here