Last updated: 05.04.13

Europe 'needs its own Moocs'

Higher education across Europe would be better off if the continent had its own massive open online course (Moocs).

While Futurelearn - the Open University-run platform consisting of 17 UK universities - has become a success in Britain, little action has been taken to create something bigger and better. This is the view of Alex Katsomitros, research analyst at the Observatory on Borderless Higher Education, in an article for the Guardian.

According to Mr Katsomitros, who mourned the fact there are no pan-European higher education institutions, Moocs offer the chance to create a truly European university and as well as allowing students to access crucial learning materials from wherever they are, they could also help people back into employment.

Figures from Eurostat show that 26 million individuals were out of work in November 2012, with most of them between the ages of 18 and 29 and likely to be tech-savvy. It could be that online training helps them find jobs, as in some capital intensive sectors - like ICT - there are plenty of unfilled vacancies due to the fact so many employees are under-qualified.

Mr Katsomitros noted a European Mooc would provide access to lifelong learning opportunities for everyone, as well as "facilitate career changes and boost mobility from one country to another".

Furthermore, he explained a European online university is necessary to boosting the continent's nascent identity and pointed to a recent argument made by Italian semiotician Umberto Eco who said a whole new generation of Europeans is needed to make the continent nationalism-free.

And, the analyst said, there is no policy more suited to solving this than higher education, as even universities not taking part in programmes like Erasmus could encourage their students to take online courses in another language.

Last May, WiredAcademic reported the Erasmus might become available online itself, which Mr Katsomitros said is "a good start if we want to see the equivalent of Coursera on this side of the Atlantic," but added "this does not go far enough".