Brussels, 20 May 2005
Commissioner Ján Figel' has called for a new type of partnership between the State and universities, and believes that the Bologna reform process should be more closely linked to the re-launched Lisbon strategy.
The Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Multilingualism was addressing the education ministers of 45 European countries at a conference in Bergen, the Netherlands, on 19 May. Mr Figel' said that the rapid increase in the number of Bologna signatory states is a sign of how dynamic the process is.
However, Europe's universities currently face bigger challenges and stronger competition than ever before. 'While Europe is certainly a highly educated society,' said Mr Figel', 'only 21 per cent of the EU working age population has achieved tertiary education, significantly lower than in the US (38 per cent), Canada (43 per cent) of Japan (36 per cent).'
The Commissioner also warned that while Europe produces more graduates and PhDs in science and technology overall that its competitors, the proportion that go on to follow research careers is far below that in the US or Japan. 'Two recent surveys emphasising research found that there are only a handful of European universities in the top 50 in the world,' he added. '[...] In order to change this situation, we need profound reforms.'
Mr Figel' welcomed the reforms already carried out or currently being implemented under the Bologna process, including quality assurance, a European qualifications framework, and together with Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik, the re-launch of the European Doctorate Label scheme. Despite these successes, however, Mr Figel' emphasised: 'Bologna reforms are necessary and they will have my full support in the years to come, but we must look beyond the structures, and deal with the underlying questions of attractiveness, governance and funding.'
To answer these questions, the Commissioner called for 'a new kind of partnership between the State and the University, comprising the following elements: a balance between autonomy, responsibility and self-governance and strategic guidance from government; a stable and medium-term funding framework, incorporating a 'creative mix' of public and private funding; and real accountability towards society.
Mr Figel' added that universities must ensure equitable access for all qualified students, independently of the funding mix chosen, and concluded by stressing that: 'Sufficient investment in, and sound management of higher education are core determinants of the future of each region and country in Europe and of the future of Europe in the world.' To read the full text of Mr Figel's speech, please: click here