EurActiv - Letters to the Editor


Regarding ‘EU recruiters looking for potential over knowledge, says expert‘:

Just a thought which some readers might share against supporters of the new system: the ‘improved’ EPSO system might be an innovation, a step forward, a good thing. We can accept this hypothesis. However, what is not included in the general picture is the huge production of European Studies graduates (bachelors & masters) who would vigorously disagree with Ms. Peter’s enthusiasm as regards the renunciation of EU knowledge in the exams.

If the EU-related private sector is such a jungle (note that it suffices to have a few friends working in the sector), so crammed with all sorts of organisations and bodies and offices, and so imbalanced in terms of location (most of them are in Brussels), then why on earth are there so many European Studies programmes in universities all over Europe? Is that really in line with the Commission’s perspective for 2020? How can you promote employment (among youth) if you turn a blind eye to the severe (un)employment problems facing young people when they graduate with European Studies?

Since the private sector is completely saturated, most students of European Studies see their professional future in an EU institution. That is the main drive of taking up European Studies. What EPSO is proposing now (and Ms. Peter is supporting) is that you can study textiles or bird habitats in Africa and that (together with some IQ, EQ and a bit of EPSO training) should be enough to find a place in the EU institutions.

OK, so be it. But should you not also tackle the issue of all the ‘tricked’ students who are being absorbed by universities into European Studies programmes just to be thrown up in the middle of nowhere once they graduate?

For training agencies, the new EPSO system provides more (profitable) opportunities to put their services to work. Unlike in the past (when they were competing against universities on EU knowledge), agencies are now giving training on IQ, EQ etc.

From their point of view, the new EPSO system may well be “fair” and “efficient”. But it is also important to consider the standpoint of students (and, why not, universities) in European Studies.



Author :


  1. It isn’t EPSO’s fault. The Universities are offering whatever sells to the uninformed. It’s wrong to think that European Studies gets you a job in the EU institutions. What is your proffesion title when you graduate? European ?

    Just like management studies. Are you expecting to be a manager right away when you graduate ?

    These are studies to be taken _after_ you already have a profession (e.g. “textiles or bird habitats”).

    A down-to-earth European

  2. I understand you feeling cheated that the goalposts have been moved since you embarked on your course in European studies. But taking a particular course no longer entitles anyone to a job. And the Commission doesn’t decide how many European Studies degree courses there are in our universities.

    Part of the problem is that third level institutions don’t always set courses according to the forecast demand in the jobs market: they respond to the demand of their market – students.

    This is particularly true in countries where there is a large private education sector at third level. In areas like law, marketing, journalism, and business studies, there are far too many graduates for far too few jobs.

    People have the impression that if they study journalism they’ll wind up with an opinion column at The Guardian, or study law to make lots of money while giving impassioned closing arguments in court, or take marketing courses on the presumption that they’ll be dreaming up snappy advertising slogans in a creative team.

    Shockingly, the world doesn’t work that way.

    The days of walking out of university into tailor-made job have passed, with only rare exceptions (pharmacy and medicine, perhaps).

    I should also say that I sympathise with your view that it would be bizarre to have the Berlaymont staffed by people with limited understanding of European history while you brave the private sector employment market.

    Alas, that still doesn’t mean the world owes you a public sector job for life (with arguably the best pay and conditions around).

  3. Ionut, I share your thoughts.

    The point is simple: why on Earth someone having good IQ marks AS WELL AS extensive EU law/institutions knowledge would not be given preference during the first round of the concours which eliminates the vast majority of the candidates (some 35000 out of 36000 this year, right?). And supposedly checking it during the 2nd round only via an obscure case study and an interview is simply not enough.

    And no, this is not about wanting a job for life, or an unbalanced job market (the students are indeed often tricked by the glamour of the degree title without knowing how the market really works).

    This is about bare common sense: a specialist of bird habitats with knowledge (degree or not) in the EU should be able to get more points in the first round than a bird habitats professional who knows nothing about the EU. Otherwise you agree that the EU knowledge is an irrelevant criteria for eliminating 97% of candidates (which would seem rather odd, wouldn’t it?).

    Sorry, but EPSO have simply made their life easier with the new concours system. The US company they hired didn’t have any “EU questions”, what it did have is IQ, EQ and the like the sell to big multinationals. What EPSO seems to have forgotten, is that when private companies screen potential employees they look not only at their IQ but also at the professional knowledge.

    I sincerely hope that the concours system will evolve in the next years, when EC’s Legal Service and hierarchy will be fed up with turning down drafts of IQ-trained but EU-illiterate bird habitat specialists.

    And, Euractiv, please stop promoting articles meant simply as an ad for a random consultancy as a “neutral” analysis. This reduces the credibility of the (otherwise great) site.

  4. @ A down-to-earth European

    Hadn’t seen your comment when I posted. You neatly summed up all I was trying to get across in three concise paragraphs! I doff my hat to you…

  5. I agree – the new EPSO system does not strike me as an improvement. It seems EPSO have cut-copy-pasted this system without thinking about what the EU institutions actually need or want in their new recruits.

    Personally I think the risk is that the so-called IQ and EQ tests do not comprehensively test these skills, but just some narrow skills. The standard needed to pass is very high, but I don’t know if practice really helps or not. I could imagine that the new recruits will be very good at those narrow set of skills tested in the exams, but may not know anything about Europe (or care anything about Europe, especially given the salary and conditions EU officials get!) nor know anything much about their specialised field (after all the main sifting is in the first round via CBT, and no-one seems to mind (until at least the AC) if you barely passed your degree in Bird-watching or if you were top of the class.

    In addition I don’t see where they are testing creativity and innovation, though surely (correct me if I’m wrong) EU officials are required to come up with good ideas on how to solve difficult problems (terrorism, domestic violence etc) or improve on existing systems, which can be implemented at national level?

    I worry that a candidate who is knowledgeable about the EU, motivated, socially able and bright-though-not-brilliant will be eliminated due to the narrow focus of the new procedure.

  6. I didn’t like Ms Peter’s attitude towards autistic genius people. Sure, the EU doesn’t need ONLY candidates like that, but I think they should be aiming for a diverse range of people, as there are a diverse range of jobs available. I’m sure there could be a job at the EU for which an autistic genius would be very good!! In fact I always liked that the EU seemed genuinely open to a real range of people with all sorts of skills and (even) eccentricities, so I hope Ms Peters’ comment is not reflective of their new hiring policy. It would be a shame.

  7. I did European studies and nobody ever promised me that I would be able to work for the EU because of that. Similarly, studying political science is not a free ticket to a job in a national government.

    I think Europe and the EU deserves to be studied just as much as other political, historical and/or cultural phenomenons.

    That being said I find that EPSO tests are better described as “equally unfair to everybody” than “fair”…

  8. Honestly, your letter angers me to no end. With what right do you believe, any student would be entitled to a good job? Are you kidding? We live in a free market society and it is simply your own responsibility to evaluate the opportunities, chose your education and get a job. If you chose wrong, that’s your problem – like with any other investment you make. In Germany only one percent of the law students has a chance to enter a civil service career. Even in France not every SciPol graduate will have a chance to work for the administration. My god, how deluded can you be? Are you so much more important than an engineer or a student of history? Let me give you some advice: Be active, adapt and stop whining. If you are good in your respective field and show some flexibility, you’ll likely get a job. But nothing in this life is certain. I simply can’t take this attitude of people like you who seem to believe that they deserve to be spoon fed for the rest of their lives. A simple fact: Life ain’t fair – you are grown up, so deal with it.

Comments are closed.