European Elections 2024: Relevance for higher education and research in Germany and in Europe

© European Parliament

The European elections in 2024 will take place from 6 – 9 June 2024. The future composition of the parliamentary committees made up of incumbent and new MEPs and the formation of the EU Commission (2024-2029) will have a significant impact on the higher education policy priorities of the EU and the further development of the European Education Area.

Approximately 5,000 higher education institutions (HEIs) play a decisive role in the education of around 18.5 million students in the EU, of which around 3.4 million are in Germany (as of 2021, link). As centres of high quality education and critical, independent research and innovation, universities are responsible for training researchers, leaders and professionals of the coming decades who will play a key role in addressing technological and societal challenges. Moreover, by promoting values such as institutional autonomy, academic freedom and democracy, they contribute to a pluralistic and inclusive society.

Strong representation of higher education and research issues in the European Parliament can make a significant contribution to shaping the framework conditions for HEIs, researchers, staff and students in Europe. The funding and further development of the current and future EU programmes for education, rsearch and innovation programmes, Erasmus+ and Horizon Europe respectively, the further implementation of the Bologna Process in the European Higher Education Area and the promotion of social inclusion in higher education are issues that depend heavily on the respective political priorities of the EU institutions.

Higher education and research policy positions of German political parties

The German Rectors’ Conference (Hochschulrektorenkonferenz, HRK) has asked all major parties currently represented in the German Bundestag that have agreed to a standardised procedure for answering corresponding questions (CDU/CSU, Bündis90/Die Grünen, SPD, DIE LINKE, FDP) about their position on science and higher education policies, and their strategies and goals. HRK’s website provides insight into the parties’ responses to eight questions, including the integration of education and research, the funding of EU research and education programmes as part of the next Multiannual Financial Framework, the European Universities Initiative as well as academic freedom (link). At European level, the ScienceBusiness media forum provides orientation about the positions of European parties, parliamentary committees and MEPs (for instance: link). The DAAD Brussels Office has assessed the parties’ responses together with their higher education and research-related statements in their Electoral Programmes and summarised their positions (link).

Online voting aids for the 2024 European elections

The European University Institute’s online tool ‘EU&I’, which is available in 20 languages, provides guidance about which party to vote for all 27 Member States. Based on 30 political statements on topics of European relevance, the voting aid shows which parties have the greatest overlap (link). In Germany, the ‘Wahl-O-Mat Europawahl 2024’ tool provides a party comparison of the 35 parties registered for the European elections in Germany. The Wahl-O-Mat was created on the basis of a catalogue of questions on 38 statements that were developed and selected by young voters under the age of 26 from all over Germany, experts from science and education and those responsible at the Federal Agency for Civic Education (Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung). One of the statements addresses the Erasmus+ programme and asks whether voters are for or against an increase in the Erasmus grant for financially disadvantaged students (Link).

The impact of Erasmus+ on voter turnout

“One of the most important goals of the Erasmus programme is to enable young people to experience Europe and the world, and to enable them to help shape the future of Europe,” says Dr Stephan Geifes, Director of the National Agency for Erasmus+ Higher Education Cooperation at the DAAD (NA DAAD). The NA DAAD has analysed the impact of Erasmus+ student mobility on former Erasmus+ funding recipients from 2014 – 2019 and found that the vast majority of the 19,000 respondents (85%) intends to participate in the 2024 European elections (link). The survey findings published on 18 April 2024 show that the rate of intended participation in the election is significantly higher for former Erasmus+ students than among people of the same age.

According to the results of the Eurobarometer survey published on 13 May 2024, 64% of 15-30-year-old respondents in the EU who are eligible to vote (in DE: 65%) say they intend to take part in the European elections (link). The comparatively much higher share of intended participation in the elections for former Erasmus+ students in Germany indicates the beneficial effect of international academic exchange for uptaking of democratic rights in the EU.

Concerning the Eurobarometer findings, it is striking that a significantly higher proportion of respondents from Germany compared to the EU aveage identified engagement in social media as the most effective measure for young people to make their voices heard by decision-makers (DE: 42%, EU: 32%), and that fewer respondents in Germany (33% vs. 38% in the EU) selected the participation in elections as the most effective measure.

Raising students’ awareness of the European elections

The results highlight the potential across Europe to further promote the exercise of democratic rights through elections. They also underscore the importance of social media platforms, also across Europe and particularly in Germany, which play an increasingly crucial role in reaching younger target groups, including for information and marketing purposes.

The NA DAAD is calling on students to take part in the European Parliament elections (link) and informs Erasmus students from Germany via Instagram about how they can vote abroad (in the EU) (link). ESN has developed the VOTING FROM ABROAD tool for European citizens living abroad, with a list of countries and their corresponding voting procedures (link). While the European Parliament offers several resources to promote the European elections across target groups, including “Use Your Vote” videos and social media visuals (link), ESU explicitly addresses students and higher education institutions with its EU election campaign (link).


Screenshot of map with location of DAAD-office marked