The Commission believes that the minimum level of investment in modernized higher education systems required for a sustainable knowledge- based economy is 2%. This does not necessarily mean Member States should dig further into their – usually empty – public coffers. As I said, the huge difference between the US and the EU consists in fact almost entirely of private funding – from industry, donations, tuition fees and so on. I am not arguing here that we must all adopt the US model: the Scandinavian countries, for example, achieve investment levels close to 2% almost entirely from public funds.”
Op het punt van de resultaten van levenlangleren was op de Dies van de OU Figel bondig: het HO zal hier zich meer moeten bewijzen. “Under the education and training part of the Lisbon Strategy, the European Union set itself the goal of attaining a 12.5% rate of adult participation in education and training by 2010. In other words, each year 4 million more adults should take part in lifelong learning. So far, progress has not been fast enough to allow us to meet that target. Indeed, the objective can only be achieved if more universities develop clear lifelong learning strategies, which correspond to real needs.”
Zijn volledige betoog leest u hieronder verder.
This institution was founded 22 years ago to open up university education to a broader public. This is a truly valuable and laudable goal – and one that is even more, not less, important today. In simple terms, education and training systems in Europe today are not yet providing citizens and economies with the knowledge and skills that they need. I want to talk to you today in particular about the reform of Higher Education in Europe and why it is also crucial for the future of the continent.
Europe is faced with major socio–economic and demographic challenges. They stem from globalisation, the rapid development of new technologies, changes in the organisation of work and the ageing of our societies. These changes threaten to put unsustainable pressure on our social systems and jeopardise our long–term growth, competitiveness and social cohesion.
[This said, I want to state quite clearly that I do not believe that it is justified to address these issues in a climate of fear. Less than two decades ago, the country I know best was still under Soviet under control. Europe was divided in two, and there was an ever present risk that the Cold War would become a hot one. Today, my country is a Member of the European Union and the artificial and dangerous division of our continent is no more.
Perhaps I have special reasons to be optimistic about the future and special reasons to believe in Europe, but if I can paraphrase Jean Monnet, I would say we need to be neither pessimistic nor optimistic: we simply need to be determined . Most certainly, if we recall the scale of the challenges facing Jean Monnet over 50 years ago, then we should not be afraid of those confronting us.
Nevertheless,] with around 80 million low–skilled citizens, and 19 million unemployed, the risks – and to a certain extent realities – of widespread social exclusion and competitive disadvantage through skills shortages must be addressed. The jobs of the future – at least in Europe – cannot be created or safeguarded by competing on wage costs. Neither can they be saved by protectionism. They can only be created through adding value to sophisticated products and services.
This, in turn, requires a highly educated workforce, constantly able to update its skills and knowledge. The knowledge and skills acquired through learning—our ‘human capital’—determine each individual’s employability and adaptability, and each country’s potential for excellence, innovation and economic growth.
These challenges did not appear over the horizon just this morning of course. That’s why, in Lisbon in 2000, the Heads of State and Government declared the goal of making the EU the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world. Last year, the Commission re-focussed the Lisbon strategy on creating growth and jobs. Clearly, knowledge and education play a key role in the success of any such strategy.
But I want to stress that this does not mean that our education and training systems must produce automatons who merely service the means of production. The fact is that the jobs of the future require not only knowledge, but individuals who are able to think for themselves, to think critically and originally. Indeed, I would argue strongly that the competences required by the jobs of the future are very much the same as those required by the citizens of the future.
For example, mastering Information Technology is a competence that is not only needed in most jobs today, but is also needed to be a fully-functioning and personally fulfilled citizen.
Education is an integral part of our social model, because our schools, universities, and training centres embody and transmit values – such as equality and tolerance. Education also has a positive effect in many areas, including health, crime, and our quality of life in general. This was the clear conclusion of a Commission Communication adopted just two weeks ago on Efficiency and Equity in Education and Training systems, based on several years of sifting the relevant evidence.
So, we have to face the challenges and grasp the opportunities of globalisation. Knowledge, which for the Commission is represented by the triangle of education, research and innovation, is crucial in this respect. These challenges and opportunities used to be seen mainly as national ones, but they have become common European ones and require a concerted approach in the EU context.
How does Europe compare with others?
But where do we stand in relation to our competitors? The truth is that our higher education systems have fallen behind over the last few decades, in terms of participation, quality, and in research and innovation.
If we look at participation, we see that some 57% of the EU student–age population is enrolled in tertiary education. While this more than in Japan (at 50%), this is far below the US’s 81%. Enrolment rates for adult participation in higher education, one of the particular focuses of an Open University, are also below the US rates: for example, 1 in 50 Europeans aged 35 to 39 is enrolled in higher education compared with 1 in 20 in the US.
If we look at funding, we see that while the US invests around 2.6% of GDP into Higher Education, the EU manages just 1.15%. That difference, by the way, consists pretty much entirely of private funding. Over the last few decades, participation in higher education in Europe has grown dramatically – and that’s a good thing of course – but funding has not.
Then there is the place in the world of Europe’s universities. University rankings are a crude way of looking at things, but they mean something and there are fewer and fewer European universities in the top 50. The widest-used world ranking of universities comes from Shanghai Jiao Tong University. Their top 50 list includes 9 European universities. (1 is from the Netherlands– Utrecht at number 40. The UK has 5, Switzerland, Sweden and France have 1 each in the top 50. Japan and Canada both have 2. The other 37 are all in the US. California alone has 6 in the top 20.)
Our average level is quite good. But that’s no longer enough. We need more of our best universities to reach the summit.
But the US is not our only competitor. The reason why Jiao Tong is doing rankings is because the Chinese government set out to create 20 world-class universities by 2025, and asked Jiao Tong to work out what a “world-class” university would be. The Chinese government has set itself an objective of matching US research spending within 20 years. India, though it spends much less, is also a strong competitor. The Indian Institute of Technology was rated the world’s 3rd best Technological institute in the T.H.E.S. rankings. Much of the world’s software development is now happening around its hubs in Bangalore and Hyderabad.
So what needs to be done?
What does this mean for the future of European higher education? Well, it means reform and adaptation. To be fair to ourselves, Europe has already started this, through the Bologna Process. Indeed, it is probably true to say that the Bologna Process represents perhaps the most profound reform of Europe’s universities for a century.
The European Commission is at the heart of the process as a full Member and plays a very active role in supporting and promoting the Bologna reforms. While all the reforms may not be completed in all 45 countries by 2010, the progress is remarkable and the EU 25 are on track and certainly capable of meeting the targets.
Having said this, the fact remains that Bologna is a framework for success: the essential condition for success is root-and- branch reform of the way our universities are managed, structured, funded and regulated. We believe that the curricular and other reforms under the heading of “Bologna”, important as they are, cover only one aspect of how we urgently need to modernise our higher education systems.
The main weaknesses of our higher education systems and institutions are highlighted in the Commission’s recent Communication on “Delivering on the Modernisation Agenda for Universities: Education, Research, Innovation” , which was adopted on 10 May. In an indication that Europe’s leaders are keenly aware of the problem of underperformance in the Higher Education sector, the paper was called for by the Heads of State and Government at the Hampton Court Informal summit in London last October.
Based on over two years of previous analytical work, the paper identifies the various “gaps” that explain our comparatively weaker performance. These include:
– over- regulation and under funding of both education and research,
– conformity to a single model of university,
– problems with academic recognition across borders,
– fragmentation into small subsystems,
– relative insulation from industry and society, and
– poor career structures for researchers and teachers.
Overcoming these deficiencies is essential if we are to meet the challenges of globalisation and establish what we might call a Europe of Knowledge. In the “Hampton Court” paper, the Commission identified 9 actions that should be taken, essential reforms that are needed to enable our universities to play their full role in Europe’s economy, society and cultures. The European Council has endorsed our analysis.
I will try to sum up these necessary reforms in four main points:
Firstly, we must ensure real autonomy and accountability for universities. We need a new type of partnership between state and universities, whereby the state focuses its efforts on the strategic orientation of higher education and moves out of micromanagement, while universities are fully responsible for managing their programmes, their staff and their resources.
Universities will not and cannot strive for excellence unless they can decide on and take responsibility for their activities. Currently, too many decisions on matters such as staffing, student selection, resource allocation, curricula content and courses offered are taken by ministries.
Linked to this is the question of allowing universities to play to their strengths. In the US, the huge levels of research funding are overwhelming concentrated on around 100 research intensive universities and fewer than 250 institutions award postgraduate degrees. In Europe, research funding is sprinkled between some 2000 institutions aspiring to be research intensive and offering postgraduate degrees. Europe’s universities should be allowed to diversify and specialise: some must be able to play in the major league, but others should concentrate on regional and local needs and perhaps more on teaching.
Secondly, we must ensure adequate funding. I mentioned the difference between the US and the European Union in terms of the percentage of GDP invested in higher education. This translates into a funding gap of the order of 10.000 € per student per year.
The Commission believes that the minimum level of investment in modernized higher education systems required for a sustainable knowledge-based economy is 2%. This does not necessarily mean Member States should dig further into their – usually empty – public coffers. As I said, the huge difference between the US and the EU consists in fact almost entirely of private funding – from industry, donations, tuition fees and so on. I am not arguing here that we must all adopt the US model: the Scandinavian countries, for example, achieve investment levels close to 2% almost entirely from public funds. But most Member States are simply not in a position to provide this level of public funding and will have to look to a new mix of funding sources.
I know these are sensitive issues. However, some countries, such as the Netherlands, have shown that it is possible to have policies which are both efficient in channelling money to universities and equitable in terms of participation. This is precisely what the Commission has argued in the recent paper I mentioned on Efficiency and Equity.
Thirdly, and this is linked to the above point, universities must develop structured partnerships with the business community. Your university has prominent business leaders on its board and I commend you for that. But this is rather the exception.
To be fair, this is not only a problem on the side of universities. Both parties need to develop an open-minded approach and recognise the mutual benefits available, such as curricula which take account of the modern job market.
In this respect, there needs to be profound curricular renovation, with more differentiated curricula, course content and teaching methods in order to serve more diverse groups of learners and to allow the emergence of areas of excellence; a special effort is needed at the doctoral level, for the development of interdisciplinary doctoral schools with a distinctively European outlook and strong ties with industry and society.
Moreover, a closer partnership between universities and business would help to correct another European weakness, namely a low capacity to transform the results of research into innovative and marketable products and services.
And importantly, as you have successfully done, universities need to cater more to an audience that is not traditionally theirs, including through non-degree courses for adults. Open universities in Europe already have valuable expertise in this area that could serve for broader application.
Some of you may be aware that, under the education and training part of the Lisbon Strategy, the European Union set itself the goal of attaining a 12.5% rate of adult participation in education and training by 2010. In other words, each year 4 million more adults should take part in lifelong learning. So far, progress has not been fast enough to allow us to meet that target.
Indeed, the objective can only be achieved if more universities develop clear lifelong learning strategies, which correspond to real needs.
Fourthly, geographical and inter-sectoral mobility must be facilitated. It is deeply ironic that medieval scholars enjoyed greater mobility than their modern- day counterparts in the single market. The EU helps fund mobility, such as through the highly successful Erasmus mobility programme. However, this will never be enough as long as Member States refuse to consider portable student grants and loans or make it practically impossible for professors to transfer pension rights. Mobility will not only increase competition and promote excellence, but will foster the establishment of world class research centres.
In addition to this, the European Commission invites universities to link research and education more closely and to enhance interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity. Moreover, we believe that excellence should be supported and rewarded by the public authorities. Together we need to promote the international visibility and attractiveness of universities in the European Higher Education and the European Research Areas.
These, then, are the main areas where the Commission believes that Europe’s universities need reform. To highlight how important the Commission believes this is for the future of Europe, I should like to briefly mention a specific Commission initiative which is personally supported by the President of the Commission, namely the European Institute of Technology (EIT). The specific purpose of the EIT is to be an institution which fully integrates all three sides of the “knowledge triangle” of education, research and innovation.
The model for the EIT was presented by the Commission in two Communications this year. It was the result of an extensive public consultation which made clear that Europe needed neither a new elite university created from scratch nor simply more networks of excellence. It needs something more, something to integrate the best in Europe in order to overcome the fragmentation and dispersal of resources from which we suffer. Moreover, if the strategic scientific challenges facing Europe are to be adequately addressed, then a model which effectively integrates the worlds of business and industry is also required.
This is why the Commission proposed an EIT which would be an independent “knowledge operator”. Its purpose will be to select and support – on a competitive basis – the creation of “Knowledge Communities”. These will consist of centres and teams from research organisations, universities and industry. They will not, of course, be brought together on a single site, but they will be integrated partnerships brought together to address economic and societal challenges in key interdisciplinary areas such as green energy or nanotechnology. The EIT will select, support and direct its Knowledge Communities in order to implement a long-term strategy which it has defined itself.
Finally, the EIT, with its innovative governance and operating structure, should be a role- model, inspiring change and modernisation in existing organizations.
The Commission intends to adopt a legislative proposal on the EIT in October under the Finnish Presidency. It is our hope that the first Knowledge Communities would begin operations in 2009.
Ladies and gentlemen:
The continent which invented the university badly needs to raise its game with regard to knowledge: it needs to come to terms with the key role knowledge will play in assuring its future and, consequently, improve its quest for knowledge and its transfer into everyday life.
Open educational resources It is in this context that I am very supportive of the idea of developing Open Educational Resources. I am delighted that professor Steven Lerman and Rector Fred Mulder will give us their views on this topic today.
Open Educational Resources have the potential to be powerful instruments for attracting a much wider audience to the activities within universities. In doing so, they support the lifelong learning agenda and they respond very well to the point I made earlier about opening up universities to their communities.
§ They can be a catalyst for organizational and technological change in educational institutions;
§ they can empower learners, promote equity and social inclusion, and fight the digital divide.
§ And lastly, I might add that they can also play a role in the opening up and preservation of our European heritage.
Through its education and training programmes, the Commission supports the development of Open Educational Resources projects at the European level. Let me give you a couple of examples:
§ EDUKALIBRE is a project for adapting the procedures of free/open–source software development to the creation of educational materials. It will produce a Learning Content Management System that will be made available to the educational community;
§ OLCOS, (the “Open e- Learning Content Observatory Services”) is an eLearning project for making available information and learning services that help create, share and re-use open e-learning content. One of the expected outputs is a European Open Digital Content Roadmap. The partnership includes universities or educational institutions from Austria, Germany, Spain, Finland, the UK and Hungary.
As of next year, all the Community education and training programmes will be integrated in a single Lifelong Learning Programme, and the total resources available will be double those of previous years. Open Educational Resources projects will, of course, be eligible for support.
Innovations always need an initiator and I praise the OUNL for taking the initiative to cooperate with other European open or distance universities, notably through the European Association of Distance Education Universities (EADTU).
Ladies and gentlemen:
For universities to meet the challenges I have outlined, our choice must be to press ahead with reform and modernization.
We must reform to attract more people, young and old, from all backgrounds, into our education and training systems.
We must modernize and innovate – in curricular reform to make learning more relevant to the needs of the workforce, and in new disciplines that keep pace with technological and intellectual advances.
And we must build links between business and universities, not least in order to promote innovation.
It sounds challenging, but, drawing on our traditions, our skills and our determination to work together, we can attain the excellence we seek.
 The Times Higher Education Supplement – usually referred to by its initials
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