At the first meeting of the Platform in March 2012, Ministers of Education in the region agreed that modernisation of higher education is their top priority. At their request the Commission organised a large regional conference, on 20-21 November in Dubrovnik Croatia, attended by around 200 higher education stakeholders, including government officials, heads of universities/faculties, businesspeople, student representatives, and civil society.
The conference, entitled "How does Higher Education Remain Relevant in a Changing World?", addressed topics such as the employability of graduates, qualifications and competences, links between higher education and the world of work, research in higher education as well as the important task of managing resources and reforms.
This policy dialogue at regional level and with diverse stakeholders was much appreciated and there were suggestions to repeat this exercise at national level.
The participants shared their experiences in their countries in implementing higher education reforms but also discussed the remaining obstacles in progressing with their implementation, which included:
- evaluation mechanisms for institutions and administrations,
- efficient use of resources,
- structured dialogue with society and business,
- development of doctoral studies,
- capacity building and training for employable skills.
- The development of national qualifications frameworks was seen as a tool to bring about structural reforms, provided that it is accompanied by political volition.
The conference successfully reached its objectives and a set of regional and national recommendations were produced to tackle the above. These were presented at the second Western Balkans Platform Ministerial meeting, held in the spring of 2013.