Report on universities and higher education in the European learning area

June 6, 2002

Brussels, 05 June 2002

FINAL A5-0183/2002 24 May 2002
REPORT on universities and higher education in the European learning area (2001/2174(INI)) Full Text

EXPLANATORY STATEMENT

1. Introduction

This own-initiative report, the first document that Parliament has produced on universities as such, is intended to chart and open the way to a policy explicitly supporting universities as training centres for professionals and researchers. All the bodies concerned should accordingly intensify the work done to date and press swiftly ahead towards solidly based, resolute cooperation with a view to consolidating the European higher education area and further exploring the avenues offered by the existing legal framework, which is not invariably exploited to good effect and in many cases is perceived as more of a hindrance than a help.

2. Universities as the foundation of the European edifice

Since ancient times, universities have been the prime movers in defining the core values of our culture and technical and political development, laying the foundations on which the European edifice has risen up by establishing the supremacy of reason and dialogue, formulating the ethical and political principles, honing natural and political law, and developing science and technical expertise and the theory and practice of medicine, engineering, the humanities, and the social sciences.

Through the centuries, the universities have been laying down a philosophical and scientific bedrock; they have fostered experimental sciences and the critical spirit and, in moments of crisis, served as the repository of democratic ideas. They have, moreover, helped to overcome the dark chapters of history by deepening understanding.

European universities have managed to adapt and respond to social changes and the new needs of our age as regards social well-being by opening their doors to all citizens.

However, the traditional role of universities as scientific powerhouses is currently being questioned in Europe because much top-flight research is being conducted outside the university environment and mass higher education has placed severe strains on teaching, at times reducing quality and competitiveness.

Furthermore, the desire of many universities and governments to meet the social demand for qualifications and the extraordinary increase in the student body has made itself felt in the dearth of measures and resources for research and postgraduate training.

At present, now that the "knowledge-based society`1 has become a priority for the Union, what needs to be done is to check whether the policies being implemented are coherent and effective. It is necessary to ascertain that European bodies have worked out and for that matter drawn up proper combined strategies to boost universities as focal points of technical, learning, and cultural renewal in a world founded on intellectual and scientific expertise.

Comparative statistics on European universities in the research sphere show that their leadership capacity, contributions to science, and powers to regenerate have declined. That being the case, and bearing in mind that the system concerned is one that is slow to respond to the stimuli applied to it, the most important steps to take are to foster scientific and technical debate, train young people, and restore the scientific leadership that Europe has always enjoyed.

3. European policy on universities: specific measures, convergence projects, and initiatives to encourage mobility

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Full Text

European Parliament Committee on Culture, Youth, Education, the Media and Sport - Rapporteur: Cristina Gutiérrez-Cortines

http://www.europarl.eu.int/home/default _en.htm

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