Five hundred university leaders gather in Salamanca, Spain, today to map out the future unity of Europe's universities as a follow-up to the Bologna Declaration of June 1999.
The convention is expected to decide a common set of priorities for building a more unified university system. It is hoped that delegates will vote for a clear plan of action rather than a declaration of intent as the meeting takes place just six weeks before the Prague summit of European higher education ministers on May 18-19.
"Salamanca is a unique opportunity to... take our future in our own hands because if universities don't do this, someone else will do it for them," said Guy Haug, senior adviser for the Bologna process at the Association of European Universities (CRE).
Themes on the conference's agenda include empowering universities, employability, a common qualifications framework and quality assurance and accreditation. "Students have the right to expect qualifications that are useful to them throughout Europe, and universities have a duty to make this possible," Dr Haug said.
The meeting will also look at what European institutions can do to increase their competitiveness given Europe's ageing population, which means universities' ability to attract the most talented students from overseas will become a key means of survival.