What are the Europeans doing?

In a recent conference by the European University Association, key factors were discussed on the sustainability of European institutions. These don’t seem much different from North American universities.

The main message was to address changes needed in leadership in order for institutions to respond to the needs of a knowledge-based economy, and global competition while focusing on the public good and social cohesion.  More specifically, leaders should ensure three essential institutional elements are considered: education, research and innovation.

Leaders also need to address governing systems and how students and other external stakeholders are best involved and served. As well, moving away from a monopolistic stance to one that includes cooperation (partners) and autonomy in decision making might be more in pace with a divergent economy and rapidly changing society.

As with most institutions, funding was a main concern, with one conflict of an aging population competing for public funding. In turn, this lack of funding might create a market-driven higher education system, thus developing new issues for governance, education development and delivery, students and faculty, and access.

The main speaker, Georg Winckler, the EAU President, nicely distingushed between the graduate (educated) culture replacing the bourgeois culture, implying increased access of less elite students and more minors to higher education. More so, the needs of students are changing as they look for broadened educational opportunities such as life long learning, world class education, and/or education for a global knowledge society.

The message seemed to be about creating new thinking for old systems, and that universities are no longer the isolated pillars of knowledge yet can become significant leaders and partners in activities of knowing, researching and innovating. I sense, in this case, society is creating a new institutional model.

Source: EUA site

Winckler’s Concluding Remarks: http://www.eua.be/fileadmin/user_upload/files/Barcelona_conference/Barcelona_GWINCKLER_Conclusions__Compatibility_Mode_.pdf

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