EUA : European University Association

EUA challenges the funding conditions of European Commission’s Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI-JU)

EUA has this week written a letter to Commissioner Janez Potocnik on behalf of its members expressing their concerns on the European Commission’s Innovative Medicines Initiative, one of the public-private partnerships known as Joint Technology Initiatives (JTI).

In his letter, EUA President Professor Georg Winckler explains that the current rules of participation for the IMI-JU  threaten the financial viability of university-based research. In particular, EUA challenges the stated first principle of the IMI funding mechanism, whereby universities can only claim a 20% flat rate to cover the indirect costs of these research projects from the IMI grants. This is in stark contrast to other FP7 project contracts which provide a 60% flat rate to contribute towards indirect research costs.

While EUA acknowledges the Commissioner’s willingness to review the implementation of the first IMI call for proposals, Professor Winckler states “we hope that the second call will benefit from this review and the anticipated consultation with stakeholders.” He adds that “Such consultations will be essential and have relevance to the implementation of future joint undertakings, such as that recently announced on fuel cells and hydrogen which, for example, appears to be following the same path as the IMI-JU in seeking to implement 20% indirect research costs flat rate rather than adopt the agreed FP7 rules of participation.”

EUA believes the issues raised here are of fundamental importance in achieving the future sustainability of university-based research – issues which have been raised in the new report published last month on financially sustainable universities.

Please click here to read the letter to Commissioner Potocnik.

3rd European QA Forum underlines challenges to improving quality of higher education

The 2008 European QA Forum, hosted at the end of last month by Corvinus University of Budapest attracted 500 participants from 55 countries, including 11 from outside Europe. They represented higher education institutions, students, quality assurance agencies, governments and intergovernmental organisations as well as researchers in higher education.

The wide-ranging contributions to the Forum – organised by the E4 group, which includes EUA – demonstrated that much progress has been achieved in improving accountability of higher education in Europe. Particularly, the European Standards and Guidelines (ESG), the cyclical reviews of QA agencies and the establishment of the European Quality Assurance Register Committee were recognised as leading to the professionalisation of QA agencies, the development of internal quality processes in institutions and students’ involvement in QA processes.

The forum highlighted a number of challenges to improving the quality of Europe’s higher education. These included ensuring that a successful ‘quality culture’ is grounded in the engagement of all in an institution; as well as identifying and implementing learning outcomes, which requires new approaches to teaching and learning. This is essential to ensure that a learning-outcomes approach does not become a bureaucratic exercise but leads to improved curricular development in the context of the Bologna process.

The impact of rankings was also tackled during the Forum. A straw vote taken during the event showed that the majority of participants did not endorse rankings, which they saw as having perverse effects on institutional behaviour. While they could be used for benchmarking, participants felt rankings could lead institutions to change strategic objectives or to manipulate performance indicators in order to improve their position.

The forum contested the notion that rankings are a form of quality assurance but recognised that their existence is a symptom of an information gap that must be filled by higher education institutions and QA agencies. On behalf of their respective members, the E4 pledged to fill this gap within the framework of the ESGs, and restated the four associations’ commitment to engage in the construction of the European Higher Education Area post 2010, based on better information, quality and equity.
Please click here to read the conference summary.

Date for your diary: 5th EUA Convention, Prague, Czech Republic (18-21 March 2009)

EUA is pleased to announce that its 2009 Convention will take place at Charles University Prague, from the 18-21 March 2009. The theme of the event will be - Facing Global Challenges: European strategies for Europe’s universities.

Please click here to vist the Convention website.

European Education ministers adopt Bordeaux Communiqué on vocational education and debate EUA Lifelong learning charter

The Ministers of vocational education and training (VET) of the EU Member States, the EFTA/EEA and candidate countries, the European Commission and the European Social Partners last week adopted the Bordeaux Communiqué to strengthen cooperation in vocational education and training.

The new communiqué,  which builds on the Copenhagen process (initiated in 2002), is one of the instruments for European cooperation in vocational education and training. Taking stock of the progress achieved and defining priorities for 2008-2010, the Bordeaux Communiqué introduces the new objective of strengthening the links between VET and the labour market. This ties in with the Commission’s "New skills for new jobs" initiative on anticipating and matching labour market and skills needs. A Commission Communication with the same title is due to be published this month.

During the Ministerial meeting, EUA President Georg Winckler was invited to present the European Universities' Charter on Lifelong Learning. The Charter was warmly welcomed at the meeting and implementation of the charter will now be taken forward also by national governments and the Commission.

French Presidency meeting: Towards a European ranking of higher education institutions?

The European Commission has announced that it hopes to launch its own classification of European higher education institutions in the coming years.

Odile Quentin, the European Commission's Director-General of Education and Culture, announced during a special meeting on the comparability of higher education systems (organised by the French Presidency of the EU on 13 November) that the Commission would publish a call for proposals in the coming months looking at the feasibility of developing  a multidimensional international classification/ranking for Europe.

Speaking at the meeting, French Minister for Higher Education, Valérie Pécresse, welcomed the Commission’s proposal, saying that it was important to create an objective international ranking that would help both to raise the profile of European universities and end the virtual ‘monopoly’ of existing international rankings (such as The Times Higher and the Shanghai rankings).

EUA’s Secretary General Lesley Wilson was invited to present the European universities viewpoint on international rankings. Whilst pointing to some of the well documented risks of such rankings, she told the audience that “rankings are a fact, and will not go away – even if the impact and the responses of governments and institutions vary across countries and continents.”

She explained EUA would be establishing a working group to make sure universities views were understood in future rankings debates and developments.  In particular, it was important that any future “mapping exercise”, had the instruments/methodologies that reflected the diversity and different purposes of European higher education while not dividing institutions into categories set in stone at a time of great change in European higher education.

The onus was also on policy makers, institutions, students and QA agencies to promote greater public understanding of the limitations of rankings and to consider alternative sources of information about institutions, she underlined.

Interestingly, in the same week as the Paris meeting  The Lisbon Council, a Brussels-based think-tank, published a University Systems Ranking (USR) in their report "University Systems Ranking: Citizens and Society in the Age of Knowledge". This new report focuses on country-level data and change, and not the individual institution.

EUA Conference report: “Young Researchers in Europe”, Rennes, France (20-21 November 2008)

Organised by the French Presidency and the European Commission, last month’s “Young Researchers in Europe" conference brought together key actors, stakeholders and young researchers from across Europe.

The meeting was an opportunity to discuss ways to implement the recent communication on the European partnership for a more open and attractive European Area for Research, together with initiatives to encourage mobility of researchers.

Lidia Borrell-Damian, EUA Senior Programme Manager, presented outcomes of the DOC-CAREERS project in the session on “Development of new skills for researchers”, chaired by Prof. Jean Chambaz from Pierre et Marie Curie University and Chair of the EUA Council for Doctoral Education (EUA-CDE). The presentation highlighted the role doctoral candidates can play as natural “bridge builders” between university and industry, and underlined the added value of such collaborations in providing additional skills to doctorates; such as the ability to deal with both academic and non-academic mindsets, networking and enhancing employment opportunities.

In the concluding session, Lidia Borrell-Damian presented the European universities’ viewpoint on the “Stakes and Challenges of the EHEA and ERA for Universities”, underlining EUA’s main priorities on advancing the Bologna process and stressing the need to reaffirm the link between higher education and research. Here, she stressed the important role of the EUA-CDE in this framework, in contributing to the development, advancement and improvement of doctoral education in Europe.

The conclusions and recommendations of the conference included the recognition of skills acquired through doctoral education, support models of public/private collaboration in teaching and research, developing human resources strategies for researchers aligned with the Charter and Code and encouraging stakeholders to take responsibility to improve contractual arrangements, funding mechanisms and working conditions.