Europe needs a common brand and marketing campaign to promote its higher education to prospective students worldwide, a study backed by the European Commission has concluded, writes Tony Tysome.
The lack of a single brand and source of information leaves many international students with only hazy and stereotypical notions of what European universities have to offer, says a report on the study conducted by the Academic Cooperation Association.
The report's conclusions follow a year-long survey in 2005 on perceptions of European higher education, which quizzed more than 20,000 students and more than 1,200 academics across the world - the largest study of its kind ever conducted.
Most respondents believed that European universities were very traditional and lagged behind their biggest competitors in the US in terms of innovation and dynamism.
Most international students felt Europe was a good place to study the arts because of its interesting and diverse cultural heritage and traditions.
But Asian students in particular ranked Europe below the US on most academic and labour market-related issues, including study facilities, reputation of degrees and the chances of finding a high-paid job after graduation.
Europe generally was seen as elegant, clean, organised, modern and safe, but lacking in innovation, dynamism, tolerance and joie de vivre .
The report calls for the creation of a Europe-wide higher education brand, with its own European office running marketing campaigns and a website.
Marketing should focus on Europe's three main selling points: quality, tradition and internationally compatible degrees.
But the report warns that Europe will still struggle to compete if its nations fail to maintain standards in universities and to introduce flexible immigration and visa policies.