Commission urges European university reform

A Commission communication has highlighted the need for a rapid modernisation of European universities, which are encouraged to “open up to the business community”.

Commissioners Jan Figel and Janez Poto?nik presented the Commission’s answer to the demands of the Hampton Court Summit, see EURACTIV  28 October 2005, in the shape of a communication on higher education in Europe, on 10 May 2006. They both hope that the communication will give a strong signal for the member states on the need to modernise European universities and that the document will be a “source of inspiration” for the next European Council June 2006.

The Education and Culture Commissioner Figel highlighted “the enormous over-regulation of universities” as one of the issues for reform. Instead, “we should be promoting real autonomy and accountability for universities,” he said.

The main message of the Science and Research Commissioner Janez Poto?nik concerned the co-operation between universities and business. “Universities have to open up to business community and accept cross-disciplinarity,” he said. He also highlighted the importance of enhancing 
inter
– and 
transdisciplinarity in research.

Other Commission proposals for higher education reform include introducing training in intellectual property management, communication, networking, entrepreneurship and team-working as part of a research career.

Europe has more than 4000 universities, 17 million students, 1.5 staff and 435.000 researchers. 

Following its discussions on university reform and the university sector in Europe, the October 2005 Hampton Court European Council asked the Commission to come up with proposals on how to use this potential to the best advantage of Europe, especially in view of the EU's Growth and Jobs agenda.

  • The communication will not lead to any legislative proposal. It is aimed to give a strong signal for reform and show how the Commission can support member states' efforts with this regard, through the open method of co-ordination via the different EU's education programmes.
  • The European Council will discuss the communication on 15-16 June 2006.

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