Jo Ritzen argues that European universities can do better and infact, they should, if the goals of the Lisbon agreement are beingtaken seriously. Europe’s universities as a whole are not yet in acrisis, but Ritzen effectively highlights how they are fallingshort of their potential due to underfunding, bureaucraticstructures and Europe’s overall contemptuousness with highereducation.
If this path is continued, European universities will continue tofail to place themselves at the world’s top. Thus Europe as a wholewill lose its brightest talent, economic growth and innovation, toplaces such as the U.S.
Ritzen’s assessment of Europe’s higher education system in thebeginning of the 21st century does not however get lost ininternational gloom and doom compari-sons. He shows positivedevelopments, past and present, such as the Bologna Process as anattempt into the right direction and governance reforms acrosscoun-tries. Individual European countries and universities docompete well with the world’s top institutions, but as a wholethere is one element that makes the difference: money.
The illusion of full public finance of education is stranglinghigher education in Europe. As the demands in higher educationincreases, expenditures per students in general are constant if notdecreasing in Europe. Private sources do not replace publicfunding, as a culture of philanthropy does not exist inEurope.
Modest tuition fees in connection with a loan and grant system mayhelp, but do not relief Europe’s leaders to increase investmentinto higher education. While words of European leaders hailuniversities as the drivers of innovation and vitality, theiractions do not reflect this attitude.
Ritzen proposes a coherent system of building blocks inorder to produce a maximum of innovation and to fully utilize theEuropean University system. These five blocks – requirements of theEuropean labour market and attractiveness to students, equality ofopportunity, differentiation and branching out, public and privatefinance and student grants and loans, and the organization ofEuropean universities -, highlight the need for a rethinking of therole of higher education institutions in Europe.
As we have repeatedly argued in our publications, we believe thatEurope needs a diverse spectrum of models for higher educationinstitutions. As higher education institutions focus on differentaudiences in teaching and learning, so do universities need toidentify core areas in basic and applied research. Few universitieswill find it possible to be excellent in all areas of research,teaching and learning.
Culturele en sociale verantwoordelijkheid
Furthermore it is essential that universities distinct andhighlight their societal responsibility in their areas ofauthority. Part of this is a cultural responsibility in the artsand an economic responsibility in areas of patent application,participation in spin offs and co-operation with the public andprivate sector. Intellectual responsibility encompasses analysisand interpretation, or respectively critical and correctivefunctions in society. Social responsibility should be focused onsustainability, equality and diversity.
Europe’s higher education system will be successful, if highereducation institutions will master their respectiveresponsibilities – not every higher education institutions can beresponsible in all areas, but collectively, the system will be ableto ensure general responsibility. This cannot be done with asingle-model, as Ritzen has shown, but with diversity that isregarded as a treasure.
[Deze recensie publiceerde hij tevens op de site’chanceforuniversities.eu’]