850 universities can’t be wrong

Nieuws | de redactie
20 november 2012 | It is rare that the European University Association (EUA) reaches unanimity so easily. EUA’s Lesley Wilson speaks on behalf of 34 national university associations: “Now is not the time to reduce investment in education, research and development.”

Everybody talks about the ‘knowledge economy’, how important it is for future growth, but when it comes to debating the European budget for the years to come, the prevailing logic is ‘juste retour’. “And that while R&D on a European level has real added value”, Lesley Wilson, Secretary General of the EUA says. “In the area of scientific research it just makes sense to cooperate, this pooling of talented people brings science further.”

While the UK threatens to veto the budget, Universities UK (UUK, member of EUA) has called for the UK Government to prioritise and protect the budget for Horizon 2020, “Whatever the outcome of the overall EU budget negotiations”, spokesperson Gareth Morgan says.

Morgan: “Universities UK wants government to ensure that the EU research and innovation budget is prioritised in the final Multiannual Financial Framework. This should be done by ensuring that the Horizon 2020 budget is protected and not targeted for budget cuts over the regional and agricultural policy programmes.”

Letter to governments

With a view to the multiannual budget negotiations later this week, the EUA published a clear statement on Europe’s research policy ‘Horizon 2020’ and the mobility programme ‘Erasmus for all’. The EUA has three messages for Heads of State and Government at the EU Budget Summit:

  1. A business-as-usual approach on the EU budget allocations for ‘juste retour’ purposes will not be good enough. The frequently stated political rhetoric which places emphasis on the central role of education, research and innovation in Europe’s future competitiveness needs to be backed up by commitment and action by EU Member States.
  2. Increased investment in higher education and research to mobilise the potential and capacities of present and next generations of young people is the ‘sine qua non’ for Europe to exit the economic crisis and achieve future prosperity.
  3. EU-level investments are essential as a counter-balancing force when the economy is weak, and to act as catalysts for economic re-structuring and growth.

Democratic support

Lesley Wilson is very happy with the support of the European Parliament on the budget for Horizon 2020. While the initial budget proposal of the European Commission for the period 2014-2020 amounted to €80 billion, the European Parliament still defends the position that Horizon 2020 should encompass €100 billion.

In the latest compromise proposal by Council President Herman van Rompuy however, the R&D-budget is sliced to €70 billion, leaving German MEP Christian Ehler (EPP) furiously remarking: “On agriculture member states  are willing to cut 1,03%, on Cohesion policy 2,84%, but on Competitiveness (under which Horizon 2020 falls) 10,24% could be chopped off! This budget proposal is a huge strategic mistake.” The two single largest parties in the EP, the EPP and the S&D, wrote a letter underlining the consequences of slashing the R&D-budget.

Secretary General Lesley Wilson has just returned from a visit to Brazil and realises once more that Europe’s global regional competitors are not waiting.  “They are investing heavily in universities and the next generation of young people who will be the innovators of tomorrow. In Europe today we are at risk of marginalising ourselves and losing out in the competition through creating a ‘lost generation’ of young people as a result of under-investment in higher education and research.”

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