How the EU may support and enable universities’ ongoing transformations

By SalM on October 23, 2020 in News

“Towards a 2030 Vision on the Future of Universities in Europe” study sets out a stakeholder-driven, strategic Vision 2030 for the future of universities in Europe in research and innovation.

Recognising Europe’s diverse university landscape, the study considers the extent to which – and how – universities’ ongoing transformations might best be supported through EU support (e.g. policy changes, funding, legal mechanisms).

The Vision is underpinned by European values, such as respecting institutional autonomy and academic freedom, scientific and research excellence by exploiting universities’ investments in fundamental research, delivery societally-relevant research, maintaining trust, equality of opportunity and inclusivity, and openness based on reciprocity from third countries (e.g. through open science, open access and open data approach in which Europe excels).

The study assignment, “Towards a 2030 Vision on the Future of Universities in Europe” was commissioned by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Research and Innovation (DG RTD). It was undertaken by the Centre for Strategy & Evaluation Services LLP (CSES), supported a team of high-level experts composed of academics and ex-academics.

Europe’s university landscape comprises more than 5000 universities and is characterised by its heterogeneity. The Vision provides an enabling, non-prescriptive framework, which recognises the imperative of maintaining the autonomy of universities and ensuring the principle of academic freedom. It also embodies the values
provided in EU primary legislation, which will underpin the Vision’s implementation.

Accordingly, the Vision – and the transformation modules that underpin it – need to be flexible enough to accommodate differences between universities. These include the degree of emphasis on their different missions (e.g. educational, teaching, research and innovation, societal), the extent of their existing contribution and future capacity to contribute to excellent science, and their different disciplinary and inter-disciplinary strengths.

Reflecting this diversity, the Vision seeks to support universities and to enable them to autonomously determine their own developmental needs and pathways towards the achievement of the 2030 Vision.
Given that the Vision covers a broad range of issues, challenges and opportunities for universities between now and 2030, an effort was made to build a consensus among stakeholders. However, whilst the analysis presented in the report has been closely informed by desk research, stakeholder events and feedback from the university networks, there are divergent viewpoints in some areas. This reflects different viewpoints among different types of universities in Europe and variance in the baseline situation in terms of how strong particular universities are in the research and innovation domain already, and what progress remains.

As such, the study represents the authors’ best efforts to establish a degree of consensus on the main priorities for universities in Europe.

In parallel with the publication of the revitalised European Research Area (ERA) Communication 2020, this report is designed to provide inspiration for the development of an EU policy framework on the future of universities in the fields of research and innovation. The study, therefore, provides an important starting point to inform the policy debate on a possible follow-up Communication on the Future of Universities in Europe to 2030 in 2021. This could set out in greater detail how Europe might best support and further enable universities’ ongoing transformations, building on the section of the new ERA Communication which addresses this topic.

Read the whole study here.