In addition to working in Brussels, I am involved in the academic sphere as well and as such I want to express some thoughts about funding and European education.
The crisis has serious affects on the education system, particularly on a university level. The university management is trying to find ways to continue the work, needing an integrated approach where public funding (national and especially European) is combined with private funding without compromising on the quality of academic curriculum.
We're used to seeing universities as higher education centers only, however they comprise much more. Nowadays, professors’ jobs are extended across 4 components: academic, training, research and consultancy.
At the European Business Summit in Brussels, the president of the European employers association (BUSINESSEUROPE), Jürgen Thumann, proposed providing financial support to European Member States in order to jump-start the national education reform following a German model, combining theoretical knowledge with practical experience. Positive examples can already be found in Austria, Switzerland and Denmark. Only by working closely with the business sector, the concept of ″education for employment" will be possible.
Some European universities have an intricate knowledge of how the system works and have consequently deployed European "representatives" to the capital of Europe for many years now. A few years ago the head of the international relations department at the University of Madrid explained to me why this institution has 10 people based in Brussels permanently: "The EU is funding research programs which annually account for a million Euros of our university budget. It's normal to have people who manage this relationship″. Should we summarize the motto of European universities, it is "academic seriousness" and "financial pragmatism".
The "Bruges Communiqué", published in December 2010, had an important impact on the relationship between universities and the business sector. It was an initiative of European Ministers responsible for education and training, the European social partners and the European Commission. It proposed an action plan for the coming years, combining national measures with European support. The authors say that "by 2020, European systems of education and training should be more attractive, in order to be more career-oriented, innovative, accessible and flexible compared to 2010, as well as to contribute to excellence and equity in lifelong learning".
The University-Business Forum taking place in Brussels, launched in 2008, provides a unique platform for stakeholders from academia and the business sector across Europe. Serving as a platform for exchange and debate, its purpose is precisely the elimination of what is almost a cultural gap between the two sectors, through the advantages arising from closer cooperation. I look forward to 6th edition Forum which will take place between 5 and 6 March 2015.
Dan LUCA / Brussels
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