Continent's little guys that dare to think big

March 10, 2006

SMALL EUROPEAN STATES

Elite universities are the flavour of the moment in Europe. In their different ways, Germany and Austria in particular are deliberately setting out to create universities that can compete with the best in the world.

But what of those European nations with so few universities that any ranking is impossible or pointless? If a nation is so small that it has only one or two universities, is that an elite of one? Are there necessarily disadvantages? Does it meet the needs of its students and its nation? This series looks at six European countries - Luxembourg, Greek Cyprus, Malta, Andorra, Liechtenstein and Iceland - with one national university covering a range of disciplines and perhaps one other less exalted institution. The countries share two characteristics: they are small in population and the financial relationship between their government and higher education is much closer than in other countries. For them the concept of autonomy has a different meaning. How else do these universities differ? The Times Higher opens its examination with Andorra's and Luxembourg's institutions.

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