The governor of Austria's Styria province has proposed a new Euro-region to increase inter-university cooperation and improve economic ties. It would incorporate Slovenia and adjacent provinces of Austria and Italy, and counties of Croatia and Hungary.
Waltraud Klasnic made the proposal at a meeting near Graz, Austria, on European cooperation in the light of European Union enlargement. Slovenia is among six front-runners for admission to the EU and its accession to Nato is being mooted.
Janez Potocnik, Slovenia's minister for European affairs, told the conference that regional cooperation was "urgent and necessary".
Slovenia is eager to hasten harmonisation with EU legislation and the Bologna process of convergence. Its programme for higher education reform includes quality improvement, institutional autonomy, greater flexibility and mobility programmes.
In 1990, Slovenia had 28 higher education institutions. It now has 44 universities and colleges for a population of about 2 million. Undergraduate enrolments have more than doubled in the past decade - from about 33,000 to 68,000. The percentage of female students has remained high: 57.2 per cent in 2001-02. Postgraduate enrolments have almost doubled, though the proportion of women choosing further academic studies is lower than the undergraduate figure.
Employment figures are encouraging but higher education has yet to recover from cuts in research and development in 1996. The national office for statistics has been monitoring research expenditure in the private sector. The number of R&D organisations increased from 192 to 377 by 1998. But the number of people employed in R&D has remained constant.
Ljubljana, with 47,000 students, is one of the world's largest universities. Greater numbers of foreign and exchange students are wanted. But there is a language issue - it is necessary for foreign students to learn Slovene.