ABSTRACT How might European higher education contribute to the promotion and development of European citizenship? In this article, the author addresses this question through a critical discussion of the notions of ‘active citizenship’ and ‘civic competence’, which play a central role in current policy and research on the role of education in the development of European citizenship. The author argues that there is a tendency within the idea of ‘active citizenship’ to depoliticise the very idea of citizenship because it is based upon a consensus notion of democracy and a functionalist understanding of citizenship and the formation of citizens. The author also argues that the idea of civic competence reduces civic learning and political education to a form of socialisation which undermines rather than supports political agency. For these reasons, the author argues that European higher education should not aim to become a socialising agent for the production of the competent active citizen but should seek to support modes of political action and civic learning that embody a commitment to a more critical and more political form of European citizenship than what is envisaged in the ideas of ‘active citizenship’ and ‘civic competence’.
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