Education as a subsystem of economy is a structural component of production, exchange, distribution, consumption and reproduction of economic values. At the same time, education produces specific value added, market commodity – educational service, and transforms an ordinary person into a rare labor resource under conditions of extremely dense specialization of economic activity. The decisive role in this process belongs to higher education. In the paper, the problem of development of the European higher school is considered. Attention is focused on priorities of European higher education, which are directed at improvement of the organizational structure and quality of scientific and professional training: internationalization and trans-nationalization of educational processes, higher education quality assurance, actualization and a rise of the level of doctoral training, development of the culture of academic autonomy and creativity of higher educational institutions as a guarantee of sustainable self-development, orientation to a harmonious combination of scientific studies, business and practical training. Basic trends of the experience of European countries in the mechanism of promotion of higher educational institution activity and formation of the educational system in Russia were considered.