EUA : European University Association

Preview of 4th European Quality Assurance Forum: Can QA processes stimulate creative and innovative learning? (19-21 November)

Over the years, there have been criticisms that quality assurance processes used in higher education, often managed at the national level, can actually hinder moves towards more innovative and creative teaching.

This is why more than 500 higher education stakeholders working in quality assurance, including higher education institutions, students, quality assurance agencies, governments and intergovernmental organisations as well as researchers in higher education, will gather this week (19-21 November) at Copenhagen Business School in Denmark for a major conference on the theme: ‘Creativity and Diversity: Challenges for quality assurance beyond 2010’.

The main goal of the Fourth European Quality Assurance Forum is to examine how quality assurance approaches take account of institutional diversity and support creativity and innovative practices in higher education. The event will be opened by Johan Roos, President, Copenhagen Business School.

Through a series of plenary and working group sessions, it will provide a platform for discussion and exchange of experiences and best practice among the main stakeholders in quality assurance. During the event, a wide range of case studies – both from universities and quality assurance agencies – will be presented (from countries including Scotland, Finland, Ireland, Portugal, Australia, Belgium and Croatia).

The event is co-organised by ENQA, ESU, EUA, and EURASHE, and is supported by the Lifelong Learning Programme of the European Commission. For more information visit the conference website.

EUA delegation visit to Latvia focuses on higher education funding and reforms

EUA President Professor Jean-Marc Rapp led a delegation to meet the Latvian Prime Minister, Mr Valdis Dombrovskis, and State Secretary of the Ministry of Education, Mareks Gruskevics (on Tuesday 10th November).

The aim of the trip was to discuss the future of Latvian higher education, and particularly the funding for the country’s 34 higher education institutions, in the light of the severe economic downturn in Latvia. EUA also took part in a meeting at the Latvian Parliament with Mr Janis Strazdins, Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Education, Science and Culture and Mrs Baiba Rivza, a representative of the Parliamentary Committee on State budget.

The Latvian government has had to cut spending significantly in all areas of its overall budget and higher education has been particularly severely hit. The overall 2009 HE budget was severely cut  (nearly 50%) by government and further reductions are planned for 2010, and this has already led to salary cuts and reductions in staff in all of Latvia’s 34 higher education institutions.

While Latvia is not the only country to experience cuts in higher education budgets over the last year, the EUA delegation  - which also included Board member, Tadeusz Luty, and Secretary General, Lesley Wilson - stressed that it is more important than ever during such difficult economic times to invest in higher education. As underlined in EUA's Prague Declaration, universities are motors for economic recovery offering opportunities to diverse groups of learners, and providing the optimal creative environment for the talented young researchers that Europe needs.

During the meeting, the leader of the Latvian government also spoke about the next year’s budget which is presently being discussed by Parliament, and highlighted that during the 2nd reading of the Budget in Latvia, the Ministry of Education and Science will have the possibility to submit proposals for the allocation of additional funds to higher education.

In the discussions, Professor Rapp also offered the expertise of the association in coordinating an external review, to be carried out by international experts, of the proposals on the table for reforming the structure of higher education in Latvia. Among potential issues that could be addressed in such a review, in addition to the overall structure of the system, are a number of questions addressed in EUA’s comparative study on university autonomy, such as the ownership of real estate in European universities, and different funding strategies.
As stressed in the Prague Declaration, EUA is calling on all member states to step up efforts to reach the Barcelona target of 3% investment in research and development – signifying more than 700,000 additional researchers – and to invest at least 2% of GDP in higher education, as proposed by the European Commission.

EUA update on impact of economic crisis in Europe

Despite signals that economic conditions in some European countries are improving, EUA continues to monitor the impact of this on higher education (HE) policy development and funding.

This latest update, based on feedback from the last month’s EUDIS workshop, reveals that the higher education sector is still facing challenges in many countries.

In Ireland and Latvia, university leaders reported that (in addition to recent budget cuts) further reductions in public funding are expected in 2010. Irish universities are facing reductions of 6% in 2009 and expect a further 10% cut for 2010. A further 10% of the public funding is being withheld, to reward universities who best respond to nationally-established priorities.

In the UK, the sector expects cuts in teaching funds of between 10 and 20%, which is likely to have a strong impact of the sustainability of smaller institutions. University leaders calculate that over 6,000 posts are currently at risk.

However, the worst scenario seems to be the one unfolding in Latvia, where EUA sent a delegation last week (see story above). As national GDP has fallen by 18% in 2009, higher education is experiencing major cuts in public funding. Private funding is also expected to drop by 15%, and private institutions have been recruiting about 45% fewer students than in the previous years (compared to about 18% less for public universities).

But even in countries where universities still benefit from investments or had no reductions in public funding (like Sweden) there is a fear that the situation will change in the future.

A large number of European countries reported a growing student demand (either to enter the university or to stay on for additional qualifications). This, in combination with mounting pressure on public funding, has led to debate on the issue of tuition fees and free admission to universities in some countries. In England, the level of tuition fees is being reviewed and the current debate and student protests in Austria are also about the possibility to regulate student access in areas where student demand is higher than the available capacities.

Although research income from private sources was, in the majority of cases, reported to be stable, it was equally clear that new partnerships and projects were proving more difficult to establish.

EUA will continue to monitor the development of public and private funding through the EUDIS project. Updated information can be sent to

Conference report: EU-Asia Higher Education Platform (EAHEP) events in Thailand

Three events were organised last month in Bangkok, Thailand, as part a series of European dialogue and promotion events under the EU-Asia Higher Education Platform.

The series of events began with a workshop (27-29 October 2009), hosted by Chulalongkorn University, focusing on quality assurance in Asian and European higher education. The workshop brought together 35 quality assurance practitioners and policy makers representing both universities and quality assurance agencies in the regions, for intensive and lively discussions on the relationship and synergy of internal and external quality assurance processes in higher education. Conclusions from this workshop will soon be available on the EAHEP website.

This was followed by a Symposium on the theme ‘Thailand-EU cooperation in higher education: common interests and shared commitments’. Bringing together more than 100 participants, it offered government officials and policy makers from Thailand, the ASEAN region and Europe, and representatives from higher education institutions, an opportunity to exchange information on policy issues and practices in order to facilitate collaboration between EU and Thai higher education institutions.

The final event (31 October and 1 November 2009) was the European Higher Education Fair (EHEF) that was designed to inform students about the study opportunities offered by European higher education institutions.

The EAHEP project, financed by the European Commission, is managed by consortium led by EUA and includes DAAD and Nuffic.

Report from Sarajevo Conference on Higher Education

EUA participated in the Sarajevo Conference on Higher Education (30 – 31 October 2009), which focused on building capacity for change in the Western Balkan region and creating a platform for collective convergence towards the European Higher Education Area through cooperation, dialogue and development.

The Sarajevo Conference was the third in a series of biennial conferences on higher education, following from the Novi Sad Initiative (2005) and the Dubrovnik Conference on Higher Education (2007), both of which were strongly supported by EUA.

The main idea behind the initiative is to involve all parties in the region with responsibility for higher education in the reform process, provide assistance from international organisations and individual European and Regional experts, along with examples of best practices, with a view to exploring possibilities for the acceleration of the convergence of the Western Balkan region towards the European Higher Education Area.

This year’s conference was hosted and organised by the recently established Regional Cooperation Council in cooperation with the University of Novi Sad, the University of Zagreb and the University of Sarajevo.

For more information please visit the Conference website.

Reminder: 2nd EUA-CDE workshop, Structuring Doctoral Education (10-11 December 2009, University of Zagreb, Croatia)

Registration is still open for the EUA Council for Doctoral Education (EUA-CDE) workshop ‘Structuring doctoral programmes: a means for continuous improvement’ that will take place at the University of Zagreb in Croatia on 10-11 December 2009.

This workshop – which is only open to EUA-CDE members – will be a forum for discussions based on concrete examples from the membership showing the possibilities and problems of structuring doctoral education.

To find out more about the workshop and how to register, please visit the event website.