launches debate on Europe’s universities
6 February 2003 - The European Commission has published
on the role of universities in creating a ‘Europe of knowledge’.
This examines the current state of Europe’s universities and
calls for a debate on the challenges they face in reaching the target
set by the European Council in March 2002 to make European systems
of education a ‘world reference’ by 2010.
At the launch of the Communication, the EU's Research Commissioner,
Philippe Busquin said: "If we want to be a leading player in the
global knowledge-based society, Europe has to nurture its universities.
Universities are centres of research and education and poles of
regional economic development at the same time. Investing in universities
is one of the best investments we can make for our future."
The EU's 3,300 higher education institutes are mainly organised
at national and regional levels. Many of these institutes face similar
challenges, such as adapting to a constantly changing and increasingly
globalised market and coping with spending cuts. Universities' income
is a major issue addressed by the Communication. It reveals that
the level of private investment (family funding) in higher education
in Europe is well behind its main international competitors. Private
income for universities in Europe amounts to only 0.2% of GDP, compared
with 0.6% in Japan and 1.2% in the United States.
The Commission believes the under-funding of European universities
jeopardises their capacity to attract and keep the best talent and
to strengthen the excellence of their research and teaching activities.
New ways of increasing and diversifying universities' incomes will
have to be found to close this funding gap. The Commission has announced
plans to undertake a study on this matter in order to examine the
main trends and to identify best practices.
In addition to the funding issue, the Communication identifies a
number of areas that need "reflection and action". For example,
how to ensure autonomy and professionalism in academic as well as
managerial affairs, how to concentrate enough resources on excellence,
and create conditions within which universities can attain and develop
excellence, how to make universities contribute better to local
and regional needs and strategies, and how to foster the European
higher education area called for by the Bologna Declaration.
For information on how to get involved in the debate, log on to
the following website: