The key role of Europe's universities in boosting research spending and quality must not be overlooked when implementing the European Union's Lisbon competitiveness strategy, EU education commissioner Ján Figel says.
He highlighted the emphasis on building a high-performing research and development system in Europe in the report by a high-level EU group, but said this was "only possible if based on a system of strong and vibrant higher education institutions. More investments in research and in higher education need to go together."
Mr Figel called for action on two key problems: lack of funding and autonomy. Money was needed, he said, for "renovating curricula", as well as for staff management training, quality assurance or career guidance systems, effective student recruitment and support policies and lifelong learning. Such investment would come over and above existing teaching and research costs.
"If in some countries universities do not have the financial means to fund these measures, they may be placed at a lasting disadvantage," he said.
But some universities lacked the independence to make these reforms.
"University autonomy is not some old-fashioned medieval privilege," he added.
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