EUA : European University Association

Ministers gather for launch of European Higher Education Area: Preview of Bologna Process Conference in Vienna/Budapest (11/12 March 2010)

Ministers of Education from the 46 Bologna Process signatory countries will gather with key stakeholders, including EUA, for a special anniversary conference next month to mark the official launch of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA).

Launched in 1999 by Ministers from 29 countries, the Bologna Process had as one of its principal objectives the commitment to establishing a common European Higher Education Area by 2010 (46 countries have now joined Bologna). The aim of this voluntary process was not to harmonise national education systems but rather to provide tools to connect them; to facilitate recognition of degrees and academic qualifications, mobility and exchanges between institutions.
More than a decade later nearly all countries have enshrined the principles of Bologna in their national legislation. Ministers and the stakeholder groups (including universities, students, and quality assurance agencies) such as EUA who manage the process in between the Ministerial summits will come together at next month’s conference to launch the EHEA officially and to assess the progress of the last decade. The Ministerial conference will also include once again a Bologna Global Policy Forum where European politicians will be joined by Ministers or heads of delegation from different regions of the world.
EUA President Jean-Marc Rapp will address Ministers at this important meeting and present the university perspective including some of the findings from the forthcoming Trends study. This report, based on questionnaire responses from 821 universities, 27 national university associations, and site visits to 16 countries, will be officially launched and presented to EUA members at a special event taking place at Vienna University on 11 March.
To find out more about the Vienna/Budapest Ministerial Meeting, visit the official Bologna Secretariat website

To find out more about the presentation of Trends in Vienna, please visit the event website.

EUA response to the Commission report on Quality Assurance

EUA has responded to the European Commission’s invitation to stakeholders to reflect on its progress report on Quality Assurance in higher education.

As a key stakeholder, representing universities, EUA is pleased that the report underlines that the main responsibility for quality assurance (QA) lies with higher education institutions and recognises that progress has been made.
EUA draws the Commission’s attention to the important link between internal and external QA and stresses that the primary goal of QA should be to enhance the quality of provision of higher education institutions.  EUA also highlights how, as an organisation, it promotes QA through its different projects and activities, which offer a unique focus on the promotion of quality culture at the institutional level.
The Commission report makes several references to a ‘limited European dimension’ in QA. However, EUA stresses that there has been considerable progress and rapid change in the last five years, for example through the development and on-going implementation of the European Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ESG) and the creation of the European Quality Assurance Register (EQAR).  Given that these developments have taken place within a context where QA systems still remain integral parts of their national HE systems, EUA points out that the report does not discuss ‘the willingness of member states’ to open national QA markets.
Finally, EUA emphasises that the development of transparency tools is not a goal in itself and should be monitored carefully, taking account of wider system diversity and the development of individual university missions and profiles. 
Download the full EUA response and see the Commission’s report.

EUA contributes to new EC Expert Group report on Assessment of Europe’s University-Based Research

The European Commission’s Directorate General for Research has published a new expert group report entitled: ‘Assessing Europe’s University-Based Research’. This expert group was set up by the European Commission, DG Research, in 2008 to identify the framework for a new and more coherent methodology to assess the research produced by European universities.

As an observer to this expert group, EUA sought to provide the universities’ viewpoints reflected in its Lisbon Declaration (2007) and Prague Declaration (2009) and from the specific outcomes of 2007 and 2008 Conferences, i.e. i) the need for, and recognition of, the diversity of research missions and objectives, spanning fundamental and applied research; ii) the changes in national legislation that are needed to increase autonomy and accountability of universities; iii) the link between teaching and research, iv) the role of private sector in university research.

The report developed the outline of a multi-dimensional research assessment matrix and it is designed as a guide for users of the outcomes of assessments of university-based research, decision makers in higher education and specialists engaged in assessment of university-based research. It highlights that assessment of university-based research should be designed in relation to purpose, combine quantitative indicator-based data with qualitative information and that assessments should be undertaken at the level of “knowledge clusters” that could be further aggregated to institutional level. The report cautions against rankings or similar assessment systems which seek to compare whole universities only on the basis of an aggregated score and which lack validation through expert peer assessment.

Feedback and further refinement of the multi-dimensional research assessment tool will be provided by EUA through the development of its new major project EUIMA, particularly in Collaborative Research, where bottom-up good practices on assessment of research in cooperation with external partners will be collected and analysed. EUA member universities and partners are invited to participate in this project.

Download a full version of the report.

Conference Report: ‘Taking forward the higher education and research agenda between Latin America and Europe’

The policy dialogue conference ‘Taking forward the higher education and research agenda between Latin America and Europe’, took place in Cartagena, Colombia, 4-6 February, 2010, as the latest initiative to further cooperation between European and Latin American rectors’ conferences and university leadership.

It gathered around 65 participants, consisting of rectors and vice-rectors as well as the senior leadership from national rectors’ conferences on both continents. The objective was to have a concerted dialogue on current higher education trends and reform in both regions and the role of university associations in driving cooperation. The EU-LAC policy agenda (ALCUE) and ‘EU-LAC Higher Education and Knowledge Space’ (launched in 2002 by Heads of State) was debated as a central issue of the event and a final policy statement is being produced that will be submitted to the upcoming EU-LAC Heads of State Summit in Madrid, 18 May 2010.

The statement (that will be posted on EUA’s website) attempts to encourage a political reflection of the EU-LAC Higher Education and Knowledge Space to date and proposes an increased role for university associations in the policy making process and also in driving cooperation. The topics of EU cooperation programmes for Latin America, regional quality assurance, capacity building partnership, research cooperation and joint doctoral degrees were all central items on the agenda, and highlighted as priorities for EU-LAC universities.
The event was organised by the Association of Colombian Universities (ASCUN), EUA, the Observatory of Relations between Latin America and Europe (OBREAL) and was supported by the Technical University of Bolivar (the host), the University of Cartagena, the Colombian Ministry of Education, the Spanish Quality Assurance Agency (ANECA), the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Erasmus Mundus programme, and the Colombian International Cooperation Agency Accion Social.
Proceedings and presentations will be posted on the OBREAL website.

Sustainable development and carbon reduction strategies in Europe’s universities

European universities are increasingly taking up their responsibility in promoting sustainable development and a climate friendly society as the following examples demonstrate.

In January 2010, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), together with Universities UK (EUA member), and Guild HE, published a ‘Carbon reduction target and strategy for higher education in England’. This followed a HEFCE consultation in which the higher education sector widely agreed on the importance of sustainable development. The strategy demonstrates how HE can play its part in achieving national (UK) carbon reduction targets. It notes that it will be “for the individual institution to decide, within a national set of targets, how to reduce, and measure, review and report progress on their own emissions.”

Sustainable development is also being discussed in France, where EUA member, the Conférence des Présidents d’Université (CPU) in partnership with Fondoterra recently launched EVADDES – a self evaluation tool for French universities to assess their performance in the field of sustainable development. 

According to the German higher education magazine DUZ (01/2010) German universities have also started developing ‘green strategies’ as a way to sharpen their institutional profile and to guide research activities. Another EUA member, Leuphana University Luneburg, for example, has the declared target to become the first climate neutral university in Germany by 2012.

These are just three snapshots of activities unfolding in Europe and EUA would like to learn more about other initiatives in this field. Please send your suggestions to Michael Hörig.