Brussels, 23 Mar 2006
The European Science Foundation (ESF) is to carry out a 'Forward Look' into the link between higher education and social and economic change, with the aim of providing guidance for the research community.
The ESF believes that not enough research is conducted on the knowledge generation process and the relationship between higher education and the rest of society. 'Existing research in this field is typically heavily influenced by short-term policy agendas and is relatively narrowly-focused within national contexts and traditions,' reads an ESF statement.
Study in this field is becoming more essential as Europe seeks to create a knowledge society in order to compete effectively with emerging economies, the ESF believes.
In addition to the potential economic contribution of higher education, the Forward Look will analyse governance, funding, and the provision of equal opportunities.
Professor John Brennan from the UK's Open University will lead the initiative. 'Universities as research centres tend to study absolutely everything but not themselves! I would like to see higher education, as a field of research, taken more seriously. I see this Forward Look as an opportunity to develop a clear, long-term research agenda,' he said.
The ESF envisages using the initiative to provide guidance for the research community on the direction of research, but also believes that it will directly connect the research community with decision makers all over Europe.
'Europe has a common cultural and economic heritage, so it makes sense to look at Europe as a whole for the purpose of this study,' explained Professor Brennan. Outlining his ambitions for the Forward Look, he added: 'Once we have established what is particular about higher education in Europe, we can look outward and see what implications this might have on a global scale.'