Parecer do Comité Sindical Europeu

A propósito do futuro das Universidades e de um documento da Comissão Europeia

11 de julho, 2003

Mais informação em

The role of the universities in the Europe of Knowledge

Draft ETUCE comments on the Communication from the EU Commission and responses to the questions posed in the document

1. Introduction: general remarks

Like many national governments in Europe, the Commission sees the universities as playing a crucial and fundamental role in furthering development and innovation in private companies. Only sporadically does the Communication mention the other roles of universities, for example in preserving, developing and transmitting knowledge, national culture and identity; nor does it emphasize the importance of research within the humanities and social sciences, on which many aspects of EU policy, particularly in respect of social cohesion and `the Europe of the Citizen', depend.

ETUCE strongly support the concept of a single European Space for Higher Education and Research. We believe that in an age when mobility across national borders, for academic staff and students as for other workers, is increasing and governments take an active role in promoting such transnational mobility, research within areas such as the clash of cultures, language barriers, and the tools of intercultural understanding and social cohesion should be given a much higher profile in a description of the activities and the role of universities in a knowledge based society.

The Communication reflects general EU research policy in its focus on research as a central factor in strengthening the competitiveness of European industry. Thus the document is almost completely dominated by the opportunities for development within natural science and technology.( The terminology used in the document might lead to some misinterpretation, as it refers simply to science, when the context suggests that what is really meant is in fact the narrower focus of natural science).

We assert that a discussion of the role of universities in a Europe of the future must include their function in all aspects of the life of the community, and the opportunities and conditions of life of its citizens. It should be based on a thorough analysis of the totality of university activities. It is not enough to describe aspects of immediate relevance to competitiveness, innovation and the creation of new products in private industry. We have supported the definitions of these missions as stated in the 1998 UNESCO World Declaration on higher education - a `Mission to educate, to train, to undertake research, ethical role, responsibility and an anticipatory function'.

A very positive feature of the Communication, however, is its clear and unambiguous focus on the absolutely central role of universities in creating the knowledge society, in bringing forth new knowledge, in disseminating this knowledge through education, in social development, and in contributing to regional needs and strategies, as well as in applying knowledge in new industrial processes and services.

However, it is a dominant feature of the document that it tends to focus solely on transferring knowledge from universities through the interaction between universities and industry.

We suggest that dissemination of knowledge takes place in far greater measure, when well-educated university graduates put their knowledge to use in a steadily increasing variety of job functions and social roles - in the private, voluntary and the public sectors, in self employment, in private life and leisure. This diversity of applications should not be overlooked in a comprehensive discussion of the role of universities in a knowledge-based economy.

It is important that the Communication states that European universities produce research results of the highest international standard in spite of far lower financial resources than those available to many - American - universities. European universities are lacking in both public and private funding in comparison with their American counterparts.

ETUCE feels strongly that it is equally important that the Communication stresses the importance of maintaining excellence in teaching and research, and it is our major disappointment with the document, that it fails to acknowledge the central contribution of teachers to the delivery of the universities' mission. Indeed, teachers are scarcely mentioned in the document giving a quite distorted picture of the nature of universities in 21st century society. The teaching role of academic staff (including many research workers) must be better recognised by the EU. In many countries across Europe, there is currently a lively debate about the need to recognise the teaching function of universities and this is central to the Communication's concern for the transmission of knowledge.

There is an approaching crisis in a number of European countries regarding the future of the universities, as several tendencies combine in different ways to affect academic staff - pressures towards casualisation, short-term or part-time contracts, disruption of careers and a decline in salaries compared with other fields of employment, and an ageing academic workforce, combine with fewer new jobs in universities for the growing number of PhD qualified young people the universities are producing. In a number of fields, the competition with outside employment in respect of salaries, career prospects and conditions, is creating a real crisis of recruitment - fields such as IT, bio-technology, law and accountancy. University staff as the key transmitters of knowledge in society and the economy, need to be better rewarded for what they do.

In this context we would also like to warn against the exclusive emphasis on evaluation of past research and the selection of new research initiatives and strategies on the basis of the results of such evaluations. This might lead to a backward-looking strategy where the performances of the past determine future strategies, and decision makers overlook the potential for development in areas, which have yet to demonstrate a major breakthrough. If choosing areas of excellence in research is based simply on published performance and merit rather than on encouraging new fields and topics - or new research teams or institutions - which may not yet have been able to document sustainable research, there is a risk that we end up with conservative, rather than innovative basic research at our universities.

The Communication very naturally compares European conditions to those of American (and Japanese) universities. The American universities in particular are praised for their much greater cooperation with industry. The Communication mentions possible evaluation criteria for universities' efforts at increasing cooperation with industry.

We dissociate ourselves from this one-sided and narrow approach to evaluating the efforts of universities. There needs to be a more general debate than the emphasis on cooperative research allows. However, the essential point raised in the Communication is increasing co-operation, and this surely must entail evaluating both parties' efforts - cooperation is a two-way street. The European economy, particularly the sectors in which growth is to be expected, is characterised by small and medium sized enterprises either with a very limited research potential, or with potential that cannot be fulfilled without partners. Also a diverse range of organisations including in the public and not-for-profit sectors may be effective collaborators in research. As organisations' interest in entering into research collaboration with universities, or their awareness of the potential benefits of such collaboration, may be limited, universities may need to take the lead in fostering collaboration, and in indicating the benefits of cooperation to non-university bodies, and what contributions (work placements, specialist equipment, contacts) they might provide to the partnership: the EU could help promote and support this role. This means that we need a thorough analysis of the potential for increased cooperation between universities and industry as recommended in the Communication. A realistic assessment of the possible contributions and benefits for the full range of actual or potential partners is necessary in the process of developing closer links between universities, industry and other potential partners in society.

In several contexts in the Communication, it is maintained that much greater public investment is not the only way out for European universities in their present state of under-funding.

It is important to point out, however, that the dominance of small and medium sized enterprises in Europe makes it absolutely necessary to increase public investment, as possibilities of increased private funding do not exist to the same extent in Europe as they do in the USA. Also, it is clear that universities are in the public domain and have a role and responsibility to society as a whole. Private and voluntary sector finance for research will always be welcome, but the maintenance of a system and infrastructure which is capable of sustaining ongoing research including research which has no immediate profit motive, will continue to rely on public funding. This is as true of research in the humanities which is key to Europe's social and cultural cohesion, as it is of the scientific research with which the Communication is primarily concerned. But basically, there is only one answer to the question of how European universities can live up to the goals of the Bologna process and the creation of a European Research Area: increased public funding. We would remind the Commission that the Communique of the Prague Inter-Ministerial Conference said: "Ministers supported the idea that higher education should be considered a public good and is and will remain a public responsibility".

Specific comments on the individual sections of the Communication

3.2 The European university landscape

In this section the degree of heterogeneity of the European university landscape is described as a negative factor. This is in line with the goal of the Bologna process, i.e. increased convergence between European university systems.

However, we suggest that within its existing limits and on the basis of a set of common principles and values now in the process of being reinforced by the `Bologna' process, this heterogeneity is an advantage: it provides the opportunities for exchanging experience, for learning from each other's differences, and for benefiting from a diversity of reactions to external challenges, which are essential elements of the higher education experience. Also, while much of the debate is framed by the language of competition, there is a parallel and equally valid account to be given of the university community as a cooperative enterprise with universities collaborating more and more among themselves at the regional, national, European and global levels, and this will undoubtedly be a strong tendency in the future, fuelled by ICT (discussed below), by the pursuit of funding, and by the character of the academic community itself.

Further on in 3.2 the current increase in specialisation at many universities - and the move away from the traditional university envisaged by Wilhelm von Humboldt - is mentioned. Elsewhere in the document it is pointed out that major breakthroughs in research are often achieved on the very borderline of two different disciplines.

Some caution might be in place, as there is a risk that a trend towards ever greater differentiation where each university chooses a very high degree of specialisation in its education disciplines and research fields could lead to a university landscape much less conducive to interdisciplinary research. Also, highly specialised universities or departments could result in a narrowing of the education they can provide.

3.3 The new challenges facing universities

This section deals with the growing demand for higher education and lifelong learning. This increase in demand leads to an increase in the number of students, but without a parallel increase in funding. No prospect of change in this trend is in sight. While the increasing demand for both higher education and lifelong learning are encouraging indicators of a more prosperous and sophisticated society, the funding issue is certainly a fundamental problem for aspirants to education beyond the compulsory level and for European universities, and it underlines the above-mentioned need for increased public investment in higher education. Education International at its World Congress in Jomtien in 2001, stated that " Access to and participation in higher education should be available to all that meet relevant entry criteria and should not be limited by the financial means or social origins of students. This means that higher education, as well as other education sectors, should be free of charge, and that the State should ensure that adequately funded student support schemes are available. Where fees do apply, they should not exceed 20% of total course costs and appropriate subsidies, grants and option for deferred repayment must be available". This resolution reflected a strong view from teachers' organisations around the world, that paying fees for access to higher education is wrong in principle. Without appropriate policies backed by a significant input of public sector resources, the expansion of higher education will simply benefit the sectors of society which already are disproportionately advantaged in educational and economic terms and increase the gap between the `haves' and `have nots.'

The Communication then goes on to state that it is absolutely necessary to ensure that the level of excellence in university education is maintained, and the question is asked how this can be done while at the same time ensuring broad, fair, and democratic access.

There may be a whole range of possible answers, but we see one aspect as all-important: The present system of access to higher education for all young people with the required qualifications is absolutely crucial in maintaining fair and democratic access. Some national systems operate forms of financial rewards or penalties for institutions on the basis of student completion rates: it is a tribute to the integrity of academic staff that such systems have not led to a deterioration of standards in pursuit of financial rewards, but such systems can also penalise students from less advantaged backgrounds if institutions are forced to make judgements about applicants on the basis of their likelihood to complete courses or obtain good grades.

The same section mentions the increased internationalisation of education and research through use of ICT and the resulting increased competition - among universities, among nations and between universities and other research institutions (primarily public research institutions without teaching obligations).

Here it should be pointed out that university research has always been international in character, and increased internationalisation does not necessarily mean increased economic competition and commercialisation. Competition between academics is all about being the first researcher to come up with important new research results and does not depend on economic competition in the marketplace. It must be said that ICT has also dramatically increased the potential for cooperation between universities.

Commercialisation of university research and education is a totally different process from the crucial and important on-going internationalisation of university activities. Commercialisation is often a result of the selling off of many previously purely public services, a phenomenon seen in many other sectors of society as well. It is a process, which is primarily driven by financial considerations. It is completely irrelevant to the international exchange of research results or the dissemination of knowledge taking place when university graduates seek job opportunities in an international labour market.

The Communication quite correctly ascribes the wishes of graduates to seek employment outside European universities to the fact that European universities cannot offer the same conditions as those offered elsewhere, and seeks to explain this in part by the absence of a `critical mass' at many European universities. That this must necessarily lead universities to build networks between many small units is described as a negative factor. Another factor mentioned in the document as a barrier to finding jobs in innovative sectors is rigid regulation of the labour markets.

However, forming networks and cooperation between different universities - be they small or large - cannot be seen as wholly negative. It should also be noted that it is not only labour market policies which may present barriers, but national immigration policies may be just as much of a barrier to taking up employment in innovative and research sectors. This is an area in which EU policies for increased mobility of highly skilled personnel can ply an important part, although so far EU level initiatives have met only limited success.

The following section points out what the Communication sees as the two main mechanisms of transferring knowledge from universities to industry: licensing of university intellectual property, and spin-off and start-up companies.

This approach is fundamentally flawed. The two most important ways of disseminating knowledge from universities to other sectors of society - including industry -are through open publication of research results, and not least through well-educated graduates applying their knowledge in all sectors of the economy.

If research is primarily about patenting rates it will take on a secretive and closed aspect, which will counteract the open and rapid flow of research results out of universities. This will lead to increased commercialisation, which may benefit the company which came first with its patents, but which will be an absolute barrier to a wider dissemination of research results. Universities were never meant to be simply institutions serving industry. They have a duty to disseminate knowledge to society as a whole, and not just to individual companies. Linked with these concerns, are the rights of university researchers to be identified as the originators of their own work, and to benefit materially from it.

Public under-investment may force universities to attempt increasing commercialisation of their activities and thus lead to a university environment, which will be much less open than today. But further commercialisation will usually be the result of institutions seeking solutions to their financial difficulties. Universities will not choose to go down the road of further commercialisation, because they see this as the best method of achieving better and more cooperation with all sections of society in disseminating and applying the most recent research results. There will always be a tension between the ongoing mission of universities and the pressures which come with commercialisation.

In contrast to the above, the following section of the Communication on the reorganisation of knowledge states that fundamental research is an essential part of university research activities, while at the same time emphasizing the need for interdisciplinary research and cooperation in solving the major problems and issues facing society. These are important observations in a discussion of universities and their role in society, and apply to all research in all disciplines.

Finishing off this section, the Communication mentions the demands for increased transparency and accountability. This demand is welcome in principle, and may be explained as a natural consequence of the important role and influence of the university in relation to the wider society and economy. However, this in turn may lead to growing public as well as private pressure for the participation in university governance of parties coming from outside university.

Universities need to be accountable for the public resources on which they depend, but the legitimate demand for openness and transparency needs to be met in a way which protects the unique role of universities in society and particularly so that particular economic interests are not given undue weight There is a risk in letting other interests besides the purely academic have a decisive influence on the governance of the universities. . What we witness here is basically a lack of confidence in the ability of the universities - on their own - to manage the financial resources made available to them for teaching and research. Priorities of fundamental research may be set aside for priorities based on the application of results in industry. This in turn may lead to a management control system based on economic rather than academic values, and to a university environment much less conducive to the interdisciplinary and ground breaking research cooperation which is recommended in other sections of the document

What is at Stake for Europe

This section deals with the European Union action for the universities and its role in strengthening research. The Communication ascribes this to the advantages of the Sixth Framework Programme.

However, this positive description does not accord with many researchers' experiences. The 6th Framework Programme introduced new demands for much greater research cooperation requiring a much greater number of participants from several countries. This means that it becomes a much more complex task to seek funding for research projects unless there is a huge administrative support system available to the research organisation. We have already seen several consortia formed between universities in order to meet the demands of the Sixth Framework Programme. This does not seem to be in line with the advantages of this programme as described in the Communication.

The final paragraph of this section mentions that the Commission supports the implementation of the Bologna process - including the increasing convergence of European university systems.

In this context we might mention that the Commission has a long tradition for supporting the social dialogue in Europe and seeking to include the social partners. This is an approach that the Commission should take also in the work on the Bologna process. This means, at least, working to ensure a level of representation of university teachers' unions equal to that of students' organisations and university associations. We would assert that university teachers and researchers are central to the `Bologna' debate, as they have been central to the phenomenal sustained growth of higher education in recent years. Their views and interests must be fully taken into account. At present, it would be exaggerating to say they are marginalized: they are virtually absent. Issues like casualisation, an ageing profession and the reducing relative rewards of a university career, will gradually undermine the existing system and subvert planned change. The university teachers' voice must be heard. ETUCE believes strongly in the principles of collegiality and academic freedom enshrined in the 1997 UNESCO Recommendation on the Status of the Higher education teaching profession: those principles apply as much to determination of the future of the universities in the international arena, and we would urge that the representatives of academic staff are allowed to engage in the debate on equal basis with the university rectors' and students organisations at the European level.

5. Making European Universities a world of reference

This section sets out the Commission's objective of making European universities a world reference. The introduction lists the following objectives, which are to be pursued simultaneously:

Ensuring sufficient and sustainable resources,

Maintaining excellence in research and teaching,

and opening up universities to the outside and increasing international activities.

Whereas the first two are conditions that everyone will agree are absolute vital, the third objective is open to interpretation.

In our response we have previously made the point that the universities are already open and international. So if in the view of the EU, increasing openness means increasing dependence on industry, and if increasing internationalisation means increasing commercialisation of university activities within research and teaching, ETUCE must dissociate itself from such recommendations. Increased openness and internationalisation are not about higher patenting rates and trade in research and teaching. On the contrary, internationalisation means dissemination of the knowledge generated at the universities through fair and democratic access, it means dissemination of knowledge through a variety of job functions filled by university graduates, and not least, internationalisation means publishing research results freely for the use of everyone interested without the limitations posed by patenting rights and other forms of exclusivity.

The Communication makes an important point in mentioning that the resources invested in education have not increased to the same extent as numbers of students have increased. This is an increase and an imbalance that all member states have seen. Here, too, American universities have an advantage, as they have twice the resources for teaching that European universities have. This advantage of the American universities stems from several sources, but one important point to be made here is the fact that American universities also receive higher levels of public funds than European universities.

The Communication then goes on to say - adopting a rather defeatist tone -that public investment will never be able to fill the gap, and that European universities have to look for alternative sources of income. But again, we must draw attention to the problems posed by the dominance of small and medium sized enterprises in Europe. This means that it is highly unlikely that the gap can be filled by funds from this source, as well as bringing with it the dangers of undermining the universities broader role to which we have referred.

As quite correctly stated in the Communication, reaching the target of investing 3% of GDP in research -a target set by the Barcelona European Council in March 2002 - will require great efforts with regard to research students. But this just underlines how vitally important it is that European governments take their responsibilities seriously and do their utmost to make sufficient resources available to their universities in order to close the gap between American and European institutions.

The Communication then goes on to identify four sources of income for the universities. The first one is public funding, including research contracts won in competition with others.

Here it should be noted that if there is inadequate basic funding and over-reliance on such contracts, much valuable time for research will be lost in writing applications for funds for projects, many of which will not receive financial support, even if they are top quality projects. Funds for such contracts after all are not unlimited, either. If universities are to seek a large part of their resources in competition, public investment must be allocated as basic funds as far as possible in order to enable institutions to build up their research infrastructure.

The next source of finance is private donations. The Communication states that different rules and regulations between Europe and the USA mean that this possibility is much less attractive to potential donors in Europe. Some national tax regimes have tried to encourage private sector donations, but usually with limited success: it is clear that this is likely to remain at best an uncertain source of funding.

The third source of income is generating income by selling services (including teaching, research and lifelong learning) and by using research results. The Communication states that this is also an area where rules are too rigid for universities to find this source of income an attractive one.

The rigid regulatory framework of both the second and third source of income mentioned in the Communication should be loosened in order to give the universities greater autonomy and a real possibility of self-government independent of strong state control. However, institutions need to be encouraged to be cautious about over-reliance on the sale of services which take them too far from their core role.

The fourth and last of the sources of income identified in the Communication is contributions from students. It must be stated quite categorically that student fees undermine the democratic access to university education so highly praised in the Communication, and present formidable obstacles to further increasing participation by under-represented social groups. We might further draw attention to international experience where the example of Australia has demonstrated that an increase in student fees almost immediately leads to a similar reduction in public funding. The net result - financially - for universities might in fact end up being negative.

The questions for debate, which end this section of the Communication, are answered above.

To sum up:

The answer to how adequate public funding of universities can be secured is that this requires sufficient emphasis on this priority on the part of governments, as European universities, cannot expect the same possibilities of income as their American counterparts, given the high proportion of small and medium sized enterprises in Europe. Democratic access is reduced if tuition fees are increased, so this possibility will have many negative social consequences. Furthermore, there is little likelihood of student fees actually increasing universities' total income, with public funding almost certainly being reduced proportionately.

Improved tax incentives could be given to both companies and private donors to support research, and companies above a certain size which were using the benefits of research but not contributing through research spending, could be penalised through the tax system.

Finally, it is absolutely necessary to free universities from many of the tight controls of government regulations, if we want positive developments in education and research and want universities to remain as central institutions in a knowledge society.

The sub-section 5.1.2 lists a number of the university stakeholders. It is rather alarming that the Communication completely ignores university teachers as one central group of stakeholders, which the universities should be able to offer satisfactory working conditions and opportunities for professional development. This is a crucial factor in the process towards more efficient use of available resources at the universities: indeed given the problems of recruitment and retention of academic staff, and increased reliance on casualised workers in some countries, University systems urgently need to recognise their staff as a key stakeholder.

The communication lists a number of factors, which indicate less than optimal use of resources. The first one is the high dropout rate. But the discussion of the dropout rate here does not include a mention of the previously mentioned imbalance between rising student numbers and allocation of resources for teaching. But the Communication quite correctly states that there is a guarantee of equality for citizens in the free and fair access to education. On the other hand, this means that many young people enter higher education ill prepared to complete their education, and that support mechanisms in institutions are inadequate to cope with the demands upon them.

We would suggest that what is needed is greater efforts at easing the transition from one level of education to the next. Responsibility for guiding students does not rest with the universities alone. Some of the guidance must be given prior to entering university. One way of improving the transition from secondary education to university education is better guidance in secondary schools on what university studies entail, as well as improved counselling and support in the universities themselves.

The next factor is a mismatch between the qualifications university graduates have acquired and society's demand for qualified people.

It is not likely that we can ever have a total match of supply and demand in this area. The dynamics of the labour market mean greater and faster shifts in demand than the time it takes to educate a university graduate. Efforts should therefore be concentrated on ensuring that university graduates have as many and as broad academic qualifications as possible. This will make it easier for them to acquire new knowledge and to find employment in new fields. But it goes beyond employment: characteristically university education should develop skills of intellectual inquiry and analysis which will be useful not only in the labour market but as an enrichment of individuals' personal lives and their capacity to contribute to society more generally. In a society developing as rapidly as we see today and with demands for qualifications changing just as rapidly, universities should not aim at giving graduates very specific knowledge which may soon become obsolete. They should aim at making students capable of acquiring new knowledge quickly, finding new information and new solutions to complex problems. This is best achieved if graduates leave university equipped with broad qualifications and competences.

The next factor mentioned in the document is the difference between the various European university systems in the duration of studies for specific qualifications.

It should be noted in relation to the example mentioned that these are not exactly the same qualifications. Civil engineers educated in Germany have different qualifications at the end of their university studies from those of UK engineers. The German civil engineer has received several years of research based teaching, whereas the British counterpart will often have training and education much more tailored to an individual company. In principle, at least, the German will possess the flexibility and ability mentioned above, i.e. the ability to acquire new knowledge quickly, whereas the British graduate will possess a much more specific knowledge, which may be difficult to adapt to the needs of other companies, and which may not give the same basis for seeking new knowledge and new solutions to unknown problems.

ETUCE totally agrees with the observation made in the Communication that the status of researchers has been undermined in recent decades, although arguably it did not start from a very high level in a number of countries. In many countries, similar arguments can be made about university teaching staff. Decision makers in both industry and in political life must take their share of blame for this. How are society to have any confidence in a group of public employees who are constantly being accused by political leaders, the media and the business community, of living in a world closed against the outside and of being unwilling to cooperate with other sectors in society? Paradoxically, at the same time they are met with ever increasing demands for tighter control exercised by people outside university, with demands for industrial management principles (which have in fact often been superceded by more flexible and open management methods in the growth industries), as well as demands for outside representatives on governing bodies. If politicians and representatives from industry changed their attitudes and started to back calls for more freedom, autonomy and self-government for universities and their researchers, we would surely see a new more positive trend and the beginnings of a new process. If such a process then is to be a success, it is vital that university teachers' unions are included in it to a much greater extent than we have seen so far. However, the material conditions of researchers, including their career prospects must also be addressed as a matter of urgency.

The above is to be seen as answers to the four questions for debate concluding section 5.1.2.

To sum up:

Increased guidance at all levels of the education system and allocation of funds to match the increase in students are the necessary ingredients if the dropout rate is to be reduced.

Education leading to broad, general academic qualifications rather than narrow, specific qualifications (rapidly becoming obsolete) is the solution to the problem of mismatch between supply and demand for qualified people.

If we are to compare studies and their duration we must make sure that we are comparing identical qualifications. This is not the case in the example mentioned in the Communication. If the opposite had been true, some of the mechanisms of the Bologna process (ECTS etc) would be quite adequate for a reliable comparison. The `Bologna' process and the national approaches to it, are achieving a balance between continuity and change which in general the teachers and their representative organisations can support - although this support will be more effective if we are brought on board the process.

Finally, we fear that increased transparency of research costs (which of course in itself is a sensible objective) might lead to the introduction of more regulation of universities and thus undermine university freedoms.

The main content of the next sub-section 5.1.3 deals with a more efficient application of research. This aspect has already been commented on in detail in this response, and arguments will not be repeated here. We would like to note however that we take it as a positive feature of the Communication that this section also contains a discussion of the conflict between openness and free access for all to the most recent discoveries of science and the negative impact on this from greater exclusivity, from more emphasis on purely economic gains, and from a lack of openness. Finally, it should also be noted that legislation modelled on the American legislation mentioned in the Communication may lead to complex ethical problems- something which has already been experienced in the pharmaceutical industry and the relationship of researchers to it.

The points made in the next sub-sections of 5.2 on the need for more long term planning and consolidation of university funding could not be more appropriate. The Communication even suggests the possibility of a funding plan of 6 to 8 years, which would be welcome in many respects, but would be far longer t²han most public or private financial planning regimes allow. Given the pace of change, planning over such a period could only be on the basis of broad strategy. The Communication also rightly points out that it has become a very difficult business to run a university.

But we are not so certain that the proposal to hire managers from outside the university is the best solution, cf. what we have previously said about confidence in the universities. Experience suggests that senior management from outside the academic world are no more effective than academics, and that the assumption that generic management skills alone are sufficient to run a university and to lead it in an increasingly complex environment, is misguided. Hiring professional administrators to assist university teachers in their discharge of autonomous university governance might be a much better solution, which will secure internal legitimacy and increase the attractiveness of a university career. Academic leadership, built on scholarship, is a key ingredient in the success of academic programmes, departments and institutions.

The task at hand is therefore to restore confidence in public, non-commercial universities as the primary source of new knowledge and its dissemination to society as a whole. Autonomous university governance gives the most efficient use of research resources. The most effective and attractive academic leadership is achieved by making professional administrative assistance available to university teachers, who are thus alleviated of the many administrative functions they are burdened with, while at the same time retaining their autonomy.

The answer to the question about encouraging interdisciplinary research projects must be that researchers themselves better than anyone else can explore possibilities of new paths. Again it is important not to try to control research from the outside through rigid regulation. It is essential to restore confidence in researchers and support them in developing interdisciplinary projects wherever appropriate opportunities exist. True research is always driven by the researcher's own desire to move the frontiers of human knowledge and discovery forward.

One comment only is to be made on the following sections. The most important observation made here is that what sets universities apart from other teaching institutions is teaching based in research and scholarship. The conclusion is therefore that this must be the basic form of teaching at all levels of university studies.

A brief repetition:

Sufficient public funding is necessary if the highest possible excellence in research is to be achieved. A critical mass may be achieved also through network collaboration between small physical units,

The European Union could participate in a more positive way by leading national governments in a process, which reduces bureaucratic procedures in connection with the administration of research funding. The Commission could make application procedures much simpler so that valuable research time is not wasted on filling out applications for funds.

Steps must be taken to ensure that the researchers themselves set the professional criteria for allocating funds and that the allocation of funds is made on the basis of professional - and not political or bureaucratic - judgement.

The following sub-section 5.2.3 correctly observes that a career as a researcher at European universities is not the most lucrative one, and that `the absence of career prospects' deters young people from scientific and technical studies. This is borne out by survey results for a recent conference in Berlin organised by the EI (Europe), ETUCE and GEW, with European Commission support. In fact, the situation is even worse than the Communication implies, in that the reduced flow of graduates in these fields reduces the quality of teaching in schools, lowers schools students interest in them, and contributes to a yet smaller pool of students entering university level studies in science and technology. This must be a matter of the utmost concern. A much greater effort must be made to break this vicious cycle, working at all educational levels and including crucially teacher education. As part of the solution, and as an objective in its own right, it would certainly be an important goal to increase the proportion of women taking up a university career. There is a particularly acute shortage of women among professors. This is a valid and important target for the research world as a whole, not just for the research environments of natural science and technology, which seem to be the exclusive concern of the Communication. It goes without saying that making a university career more attractive - to both women and men - requires sufficient funding, in order to provide the necessary levels of remuneration, career progression and support staff and resources: it is certainly a positive feature of the Communication that it includes this aspect.

But the attractiveness of a career as a university researcher is not simply a matter of economics and financial rewards. The degree of autonomy and individual influence on one's own research terms are aspects that could increase the quality and attractiveness of a career as university researcher as a job worth striving for. The lack of career opportunities mentioned in the question must primarily be solved through negotiations with the unions organising university teachers and researchers, and through a substantial increase in the universities' financial capacity to create attractive working environments. This means better working conditions, career opportunities and control over one's own work. Improving working conditions will in itself make more women see the job of university teacher as relevant and attractive.

As regards the last question of the section it is evident that any risk of losing national rights such as pension rights will constitute a barrier to inter- European mobility. However, attention should be drawn to the fact that the Communication in its opening pages points out that mobility is in fact greater among researchers than among other sections of the population. This of course does not mean that abolishing barriers and creating attractive workplaces would not increase mobility even further.

The observation made in the Communication that working conditions for European university teachers are poorer than in many other countries is beyond question, and it is welcome that this is recognised. It is long overdue for action to be taken to redress the problem. Any initiative that governments and/or the European Union may take to find solutions must be in cooperation with relevant professional associations and unions - at a national as well as at a European level -and this collaborative approach would be most welcome.

The answers to the questions of this section 5.3.1 must therefore be that the attractions of a university career would be increased by adequate resources in a combination with the opportunity to exercise a very high degree of academic freedom in the discharge of duty. In this context it should be noted that involving researchers in the governance of the universities would be the best way to manage a university, to achieve a higher degree of competitiveness, and to attract the best international researchers.

As mentioned in the introduction, there can be no doubt that universities also play a central role in regional development, so this section ( 5.3.2.) calls for no further comment.


This response may be concluded even more briefly than the Commission concludes its Communication.

The main problem for European universities is lack of funding - this is especially the case because of the steep increase in student numbers without matching increases in resources for teaching.

Europe's universities are not solely concerned with partnerships with business. They have their own role in society, but must form appropriate partnerships throughout civil society. Universities themselves collaborate as much as they are in competition.

Europe's universities are genuinely global in their scope: this is part of their strength and action at EU level must enhance this aspect, not diminish it. Being `global' is different from being `commercial', and the assurance from the EU that no further bids to include education in this round of the GATS is to be welcomed. However, the university system cannot be complacent about the future and we look to the EU to help protect Europe's universities from the dangers of commodification in future rounds of GATS.

European universities have neither the same tradition nor the possibilities of alternatives to public funding that exist in North America. At the same time the predominance of SMEs in Europe does not support the massive compensation for insufficient public funding envisaged in the Communication.

It must be re-stated in this conclusion, that university teachers and researchers are central to the future evolution of Europe's universities to meet the demands being placed upon them, and to cope both with greater access and the maintenance of the universities' unique role in modern society. Universities face a crisis of staffing. The attractiveness of a university career partly depends on the material conditions being offered university teachers, partly - and probably more importantly- the opportunities for exercising academic freedom and autonomy.

Finally, a strengthening of the social dialogue through involvement of the unions organizing university teachers at both national and European levels, including full involvement in the `Bologna' process, would lead to a restoration of the confidence previously enjoyed by universities and their staff - a confidence in universities and researchers as the most central players when it comes to bringing forth new knowledge so crucial to the development of the knowledge society in all its aspects, in the public as well as in the private sphere.

May 2003