Education, Youth, Culture and Sport Council, 17-18 May 2021

Source: Council of the European Union (Council) i, published on Monday, May 17 2021, 22:30.

Main results

Education and Youth, 17 May

Equity, inclusion and success in education and training for all

Equity in access, inclusion and success for all are basic principles of education and training. However, equity and inclusion are still a challenge for our educational systems, with significant differences within and between member states. As the socio-economic background remains an important factor influencing educational outcomes in the European Union, the Council approved conclusions on this topic. The number of underachievers and early school leavers is still high in the EU. 20.3% of those with disabilities leave education early. Students with fewer opportunities have lower expectations of completing tertiary education (43.4%) than their peers (82.3%). The conclusions call on member states and the Commission to work together on policies to reduce low-achievement, raise competence levels and prevent unemployment.

Inclusive education and training systems have a fundamental role to play in reducing low-achievement, raising competence levels and preventing unemployment, across the whole spectrum of education and training and in a whole institution approach, in order to enhance equal opportunities and inclusion and promote educational success at all levels and types of education and training. We need to do more to identify education and training measures that can improve educational success for all learners. One way would be to address teacher shortages, in particular in special needs education and in multicultural and multilingual settings.

Tiago Brandão Rodrigues, Minister of Education

European Universities initiative

Ministers approved conclusions on the European Universities initiative. The European Universities initiative is a fundamental pillar of the European Education Area to be built by 2025. The Council invites member states to use all available funding mechanisms to support the initiative and recommends more cooperation between education authorities, higher education institutions and stakeholders in order to remove obstacles to cooperation at European level, bearing in mind that the European Universities can be instrumental in building important bridges with their research and challenge-based learning and teaching approaches, creating stronger synergies between the higher education dimension of the European Education Area, the European Research Area and the European Higher Education Area.

The 41 European Universities alliances are in their early stage of development, but they aim to become the universities of the future, inspiring the transformation of higher education in the EU. We have no doubt that the cooperation across languages, borders and disciplines will help to achieve the ambitious vision of an innovative, globally competitive and attractive European Education Area and European Research Area and to reinforce our common European values.

Manuel Heitor, Minister of Science, Technology and Higher Education

Evolving scenarios for the transformation of EU higher education

Following up on the Council conclusions on the European Universities initiative, ministers held a public policy debate to hear opinions and exchange ideas on the future of higher education and, in particular, on the role of higher education institutions as drivers of change towards the digital and green transitions. The debate was framed by three questions: whether European Universities’ alliances should be ‘testbeds’ for interoperability and cooperation between member states regarding European research and teaching career development; what specific measures member states are prepared to take to promote a European approach to quality assurance for joint degrees; and whether they are considering adopting national legislation allowing for micro-credentials in higher education.

Roundtable (Education)

Preserving the diversity of higher education in Europe and promoting a common European vision and values for a stronger European identity among youngsters and citizens has become a unique challenge for policy-making in higher education throughout Europe and must be addressed as part of the transformation of EU higher education. Furthermore, bearing this transformation in mind, we need to guarantee that learners have the necessary skills and competences and to ensure integrated long-term education, research and innovation strategies, engaging society at large, in order to strengthen the knowledge landscape across European regions and to boost the quality, attractiveness and societal empowerment of European higher education institutions.

Manuel Heitor, Minister of Science, Technology and Higher Education

Participation of young people in decision-making processes

Even though young people are very active in democratic life, they often have fewer opportunities to participate and are underrepresented in decision-making. As they are affected by the whole political agenda, their engagement and involvement in finding responses to today’s challenges are essential.

Today the Council approved conclusions on strengthening multi-level governance when promoting the participation of young people in decision-making processes. The aim of these conclusions is to ensure that all young people have equal opportunities for participation, involvement and empowerment in relevant decision-making processes.

Young people are among those who have been hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions. Their participation in policy-making is essential as today’s decisions will impact their future. That is why we should all support active and sustainable structures for youth participation in the development of policies.

Tiago Brandão Rodrigues, Minister of Education

Roundtable (Youth)

A rights-based approach to youth policies: The drive for commitment in the future?

In their transition to adulthood, young people face specific challenges which place them in a position of vulnerability. This results in a need to improve young people’s access to rights and should be reflected in a human rights-based youth policy. Ministers held a public debate about how authorities, at all levels, can engage, connect and empower young people.

Any other business

  • The presidency reported on the current impact of COVID-19 on education and training and on youth.
  • The incoming Slovenian presidency presented its work programme.

Live streaming

Live streaming

18 May 2021

  • TBC Arrivals
  • 10:30 Public session
  • 13:00 Press conference
  • 15:20 Public session
  • 17:30 Public session
  • 18:00 Press conference

Estimated schedule

Agenda highlights

Culture, Audiovisual and Sport, 18 May

Culture and Audiovisual

In the morning, ministers will discuss diversification of funding sources and mechanisms for the safeguarding and protection of European cultural heritage.

Expected outcomes for culture and audiovisual:

  • approval of conclusions on the recovery, resilience and sustainability of the cultural and creative sectors
  • approval of conclusions on Europe's media in the Digital Decade: an action plan to support recovery and transformation in the media and audiovisual sectors


In the afternoon, sport ministers will hold a debate on sport diplomacy focusing on how sport can promote Europe's interest and values in the world. They are also expected to approve conclusions on sport innovation.

Other business

The presidency will provide an update on the state of play of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on education and training, and sport.

The EU representative of the future trio presidency in the WADA Foundation board will inform ministers about the next WADA meetings to be held on 20-21 May 2021 in Montreal (Canada).

The Spanish delegation will address the impact of video-on-demand (VOD) platforms on the EU audiovisual market, particular on the relationship between the different actors in the value chain.

The German delegation will inform about culture policy perspective on the negotiations amending the VAT directive, especially considering taxation of the art trade.

The Slovenian delegation will inform on the designation of the European capital of culture for 2025.

The Commission will inform on the "Healthy Lifestyle 4 All" initiative which is planned to be launched in September 2021.

Finally, the Slovenian delegation will also present the work programme and priorities of their incoming presidency (second half of 2021) in the areas of education, youth, culture and audiovisual, and sport.

Meeting information

  • Meeting n°3794
  • Brussels
  • 17-18 May 2021

Preparatory documents

Outcome documents