The EU/Commission is developing policy actions and funding schemes that aim at supporting both individual researchers and students and universities as research institutions. This includes measures regarding for example mobility, attractiveness of careers or a single labour market for researchers in Europe.
State of play
The European Commission identified nine key challenges for higher education modernisation in its 2006 Communication Delivering on the Modernisation Agenda for Universities: Education, Research and Innovation.
It was supported by the Council Resolution of 23 November 2007 on modernising universities for Europe's competitiveness in a global knowledge economy.
Whilst action in this area is primarily for EU Member States and their universities, putting into practice this necessary restructuring and modernisation requires coordinated action from all parties involved.
To this end, the Directorate-Generals for Education and Culture (EAC) and DG Research (RTD) are managing a number of important projects:
Mutual learning on national reforms to improve research performance of universities
- In the context of the application of the Open Method of Coordination to research policy, undertaken by CREST, Member States have reviewed national policies and measures and identified approaches and good practices to improve the excellence of research in universities. A report entitled Mutual learning on approaches to improve the excellence of research in universities was published in March 2009.
- To reinforce the mutual learning dimension, a series of "Peer Learning" activities are scheduled in 2010 focused on concrete issues such as mergers of universities and research institutions, world-class excellence in university research, capacity building, and institutional ways for achieving research excellence.
Common principles for responsible external research funding
- An independent expert group on 'impact of external research funding on financial management in Universities, set up by DG RTD, delivered a final report in November 2008. The report contains a set of recommendations calling for consistent funding conditions for research institutions within ERA as well as financial modernisation of European Universities.
- The development of an effective financial management capacity is key for European universities and other research institutions to diversify their sources of funding and sustain their research portfolios. Being able to more precisely identify the true costs of their research activities ("full costing") is crucial for the strategic behaviour, autonomy, accountability and transparency expected from research institutions. The transition towards full costing remains relatively slow and piecemeal, in particular in universities.
- In order to facilitate a progressive alignment of the terms and conditions of external research funding, research funders and research institutions - through their European umbrella organisations - agreed during the 2009 Brussels ERA Conference on the need to work together to define and promote common principles for responsible external research funding within the ERA. Stakeholders explicitly asked the Commission to support the process. The Commission supports the setting up of a stakeholders' platform in 2010.
Assessment of university-based research
- An ERA expert group was set up by DG Research to identify and define possible measures and actions regarding the strengthening of research institutions with a focus on university-based research. A final report was published in 2008.
- An independent expert group was established in 2008 by DG Research to identify the parameters to be observed in research assessment as well as analyse major assessment and ranking systems with a view to proposing a more valid comprehensive methodological approach. The overall objective was to promote and contribute to the development of multidimensional methodologies designed to facilitate the assessment of university-based research. A final report was published in November 2009.
- DG EAC launched a study in 2009 to design and test the feasibility of a Multi-dimensional Global University Ranking. A final report is expected in mid-2011.
Towards a European University Register
- DG RTD launched a feasibility study in 2009 to create a European University Data Collection. This project (known as EUMIDA) aims to build a complete census of European universities and includes a pilot data collection with particular emphasis on those universities that are research-active. A final report is expected in the autumn 2010.