Teachers’ are concerned about the impact of a European-level graduate tracking system on education


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Following that the adoption of a Recommendation on tracking graduates by the Education, Youth, Culture and Sport Council in November 2017, the European Commission established a working group of experts to discuss systems for tracking VET and higher education graduates. Recently the European Commission published two reports arguing for the benefits of “an EU-wide graduate tracking system”.

In relation to this work, ETUC and ETUCE today adopted a joint position paper on a European-level graduate tracking system for VET learners and tertiary education students. With this paper, the respective organisations of workers’ and education unions underline that graduate tracking for the sake of improving information about graduates’ opportunities in the labour market is important as a tool to  support graduates’ successful employability and just transitions in a fair and quality labour market. In addition, graduate tracking should improve equal access to education and training especially for vulnerable groups, social-economically disadvantaged people, and ensure inclusiveness in all fields of studies when giving feedback to education systems.

It is important to provide feedback to education institutions on the graduates’ achievements in the labour market, but ETUCE and ETUC ask for caution when interpreting these results. It would be inappropriate to introduce major changes in education curricula in line with labour market needs based purely on graduate tracking data because graduates’ success in the labour market depends to a great extent on the offers from employers. ETUCE is particularly concerned that a European-level graduate tracking system will draw the wrong conclusions from survey results among the graduates and such results with contribute to incorrect reform strategies within education systems. Education trade unions worry that these results, if not used carefully, will be used for blaming graduates’ education, schools, teachers and trainers for the employability or unemployability of the graduates. ETUCE and ETUC are also concerned that a harmonised European-level graduate tracking system which links graduates’ employability to learning programmes risks neglecting national competences on education and the institutional autonomy of vocational and higher education institutions in curriculum development. We believe that such a survey would not only harmonise graduate tracking systems, it could be an attempt to harmonise learning outcomes and education programmes.

Finally, such a European-level graduate tracking survey among higher education students may have a negative impact on institutional autonomy and the academic freedom of higher education institutions. We recall the Paris Communique which stressed that “[a]cademic freedom and integrity, institutional autonomy, participation of students and staff in higher education governance, and public responsibility for and of higher education form the backbone of the European Higher Education Area”. ETUCE and ETUC ask the European Commission to respect national competence on education and the professional autonomy of the teachers.