Interview: ‘Without autonomy universities can’t modernise’

Universities need to be able to manage their own budget, develop their own strategies and decide with whom they wish to collaborate, otherwise they will never change, argues the European University Association (EUA).

“Give us the autonomy to manage our own funds and we’ll be accountable for them. If we can’t decide ourselves what we use the money on we are never going to be able to change and modernise and develop our own missions,” says Lesley Wilson, the secretary-general of the European University Association (EUA) in an interview with euractiv.com.

The EUA thinks that giving universities more autonomy is crucial: “This is one of the issues that we keep on coming back to in different ways.” Another important issue is funding – the association would like to see universities to be allowed to diversify their sources of income, as this is currently impossible in many member states.

According to Wilson, increased autonomy is the answer to fragmentation of the European system – she argues that if the universities had stronger governance, they would be less fragmented. Facilities making their own decisions and developing strategies would lead to the much-wanted diversification of universities, as they would opt for different missions. 

More autonomy would eventually also boost the university-business knowledge-transfer and attract more private funding. 

With regard to the Bologna Process, the aim of which is the establishment, by 2010, of a European higher-education area, Wilson says that the structures and basic tools for creating such an area have been put in place but that “quite a lot of work is still needed to ensure that they work properly”. 

The next bi-annual Bologna ministerial conference, taking place in London in May, will be an important stocktaking exercise as 2010 approaches.

To read the full interview with Lesley Wilson, click here.

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