Opening up Education in Europe

Opening up Education in Europe

Author: Prof. dr. Fred Mulder: UNESCO/ICDE Chair in OER at the Open University in The Netherlands (former Rector OUNL 2000 – 2010)
Date: 30th October 2014
Licence: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. 

unnamedIt took a while before the European Commission (EC)[1] decided to go beyond the ‘project machine’ of primarily approving project proposals in the area of OER and MOOCs for funding without explicitly targeting coherence, synergy, and generating impact. In September 2013 the Commission launched an initiative called ‘Opening up Education’ (OuE)[2], its relevance and significance being grounded in a more concerted effort. OuE has a broad scope, is linked to two EC directorates (Education & Culture, and CONNECT), and refers to all EC instruments, including project funding through two substantial programs: Erasmus+ (for experimentation, exploration, and evaluation)[3] and Horizon 2020 (for research in a broad sense)[4]. OuE has two major goals, namely to innovate teaching and learning for the full spectrum of learners through ICT, and to reshape and modernize EU education in all educational sectors through OER. Furthermore, OuE addresses the need of improved infrastructures, increased digital competencies, interoperability, appropriate licensing, and adequate certification opportunities.

The umbrella term ‘Opening up Education’ is well-chosen, verbalizing the term ‘Open Education’ and adding the word ‘up’. This change underlines the dynamics of the process that is involved (‘there is no fixed model for education over time’), and does justice to the diversity that people so much desire (‘there is no single ideal model for education’).

As compared to previous actions the really new element in OuE is its dedication to OER (and MOOCs of course). Nevertheless practice shows a continued overriding focus on the use of technology for education in general. In the global Open Education community the dominance of this instrumental technology view over the conceptual view of sharing is received with some regret. At the same time, however, the inclusion of OER is important enough to be cherished, and certainly we witness a substantial increase of activities, events, papers, and projects with OER or MOOCs as carriers. The Open Education Europa[5] portal provides current information on Opening up Education in Europe, varying from running MOOCs and other courses, through conferences, webinars and blogs, to EU projects, news and relevant papers and articles.

unnamed (1)Opening up Education has been adopted as its mission by the first and so far only pan-European MOOCs initiative OpenupEd[6]. This is rooted in the ‘traditional’ world of open learning and education of the open universities, and was launched by 11 partners (of which 3 outside the EU) in April 2013, with a joint press release with the European Commission. The start was with 40 courses where each partner is offering its courses via its own learning platform and at least in its home language. Meanwhile the number of courses has increased significantly. Courses can be taken either scheduled or self-paced, and have different recognition options, including credit certificates (at a fee). OpenupEd is an open, non-profit partnership embracing a decentralized model where the institutions themselves are in the lead. Indeed diversity is being cherished as a relevant value, as is true for equity and quality.

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[1] European Commission,
[2] Opening up Education,
[3] Erasmus+,
[4] Horizon 2020,
[5] The Open Education Europa portal,
[6] OpenupEd,



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