Boost funding, says Barroso

April 8, 2005

The future of Europe's universities is a priority for the European Commission, according to its President, Jose Manuel Barroso.

Mr Barroso told the European University Association convention in Glasgow last week that universities had never featured so highly on the Commission's agenda. But there was concern that Europe attracted far fewer students and researchers than the US. The conference heard that without an extra 700,000 researchers, Europe would be unable to expand its role in science, technology and innovation.

The post-conference Glasgow Declaration, due to be endorsed by the EUA's council on April 15, is expected to highlight the workload tension between teaching and research and to warn that implementing the Bologna teaching reforms must not be at the expense of research.

Eric Froment, the EUA's previous president, predicted that the declaration was likely to stress universities' role in research through training postgraduates, whether they subsequently worked in higher education or industry.

Universities are also expected to seek more funding for the Bologna Process. Mr Barroso deplored the fact that Europe struggled "to scrape together" just over 1 per cent of its gross domestic product for higher education, compared with nearly 3 per cent spent in South Korea.

But in 2005-06, all of Scotland's higher education institutions are getting a funding increase, with a significant rise for teaching and research.

There is a 32 per cent rise in the knowledge transfer grant, enabling institutions to develop the knowledge economy.

Mr Barroso said: "It would seem that Scotland's centuries-old reputation for providing the world with top-flight minds, particularly engineers and scientists, is safe for the foreseeable future."

He said funding sources needed to be diversified, but not at the expense of broadening access because non-traditional learners would contribute to upgrading the skills of the European workforce.

Kim Howells, the English Higher Education Minister, said: "How we pay for higher education is a question facing all of us. It is vital these questions are not avoided. It is impossible to ignore the role of tuition fees in relation to the funding of higher education."

The Glasgow Declaration is likely to say that universities should be involved in shaping society's needs as well as responding to them. And also that European integration must work alongside global co-operation.

Incoming EUA president Georg Winckler, rector of the University of Vienna, said that Bologna ministers would hold a strategic discussion on how the "Europe of Knowledge" would be shaped beyond 2010, and what role the universities would play.

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