Brussels, 19 Sep 2003
Germany's Minister for Education and Research, Edelgard Bulmahn, has claimed that Europe's universities are 'the deciding interface between education, research and innovation.'
Speaking at a Berlin conference on realising the European Higher Education Area, Ms Bulmahn outlined her vision of an internal market for higher education, in which students and scientists can move completely independently between universities in different countries without having to confront hurdles or forfeit recognition of their qualifications.
The way forward, according to Ms Bulmahn, is to introduce the new Bachelor and Masters courses as soon as possible, as already agreed at European level, to push for the recognition of qualifications through the expansion of the European credit transfer system, and to create a comprehensive quality assurance system for universities.
The minister also called for a closer relationship between universities and research: 'We are doing the right thing for my country and the right thing for Europe if we emphasise more strongly the connection between universities and research in our deliberations.'
Germany is aware of the importance of increasing the attractiveness of its own universities and research instates, and has therefore invested 100 million euro in this area over the past three years. But, she continued, 'We know that internationality is one of the basic conditions of success. Therefore [...] we are supporting all efforts aimed at increasing the attractiveness of the European Higher Education Area,' she said.
For their part, the Commission published a paper in February on the role of universities in the Europe of knowledge, outlining the current challenges facing European higher education, and launching a public consultation process on the issue.
Speaking at the event, Commissioner for Education and Culture, Viviane Reding said that the preliminary outcome of the consultation revealed that: 'there is a general recognition of the need to enhance the attractiveness of higher education systems and institutions in Europe and world-wide.'
She added that the Commission would complete the analysis of all the recommendations made in the coming months with a view to presenting a follow-up communication in the first semester of 2004.