Universities and the future of Europe | LERU
flavoursofopenscience's bookmarks 2019-09-23
The second decade of the 21st century is coming to an end. For the European Union, it has brought many new, unexpected challenges, which have not always been easy to master. They are well-known: migration, security, terrorism, climate change, etc. The upcoming third decade of the century will no doubt also have its surprises. But with her strong speech in the European Parliament on 16 July 2019, the president-elect of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has indicated that she is more than ready to deal with new challenges, surprises or any other unexpected events. Together with her team of commissioners, including commissioner-designate Mariya Gabriel (whose portfolio title should read as "research, innovation and education"), she will present a more detailed agenda for the next five years later this fall. With this publication, “Universities and the Future of Europe”, the 23 members of the League of European Research Universities (LERU) wish to contribute to the shaping of this agenda for 2019-2024. This publication is also intended for the recently elected members of the European Parliament, many of whom are new to EU policy in the field of research, innovation and education. In this document LERU asks the following question: how can research universities best help 21st century society to cope with old and new challenges? Our answer is, by taking a serving role: by training excellent students, performing outstanding research, forging scientific breakthroughs, producing new products and services, etc. In a nutshell: by engaging with society and creating societal added value. As comprehensive, multidisciplinary institutions, with a long-term vision, bright students and talented staff members, research universities are one of the very few forces capable of rendering this service to society. And this service will be crucial if the realisation of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals is to be taken seriously. Research universities will be a key actor to make that possible. At the same time, universities themselves face numerous challenges: increased internationalisation, reduced funding, worrying fake news, criticism of excellence and expertise, demands for societal and institutional diversity, damaging cases of lack of integrity, the need for institutional collaboration, to name just a few. And the reality is that not all universities are ready or sufficiently able to tackle these challenges. As a consequence, their role of serving society is threatened, and society risks to be left behind, disappointed by and in its universities. We consider this a plausible rather than a potential scenario. One thing is absolutely clear: a more supportive environment for universities, facilitated by local, regional, national and European public and private actors, is absolutely crucial. Such an environment is not only about funding, although it remains an essential element. That is why the Multi-Annual Financial Framework 2021- 2027 must invest more in research and innovation than the 94 billion euro proposed by the Commission. As indicated by the European Parliament and the Lamy Group, a budget ranging from 120 to 160 billion euro is what is realistically needed to tackle pressing research and innovation challenges. We urge the Member States to support such a budget increase for research and innovation, which should benefit in the first place the European Research Council (ERC) and the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions (MSCA). Alongside budgetary issues, the European Research Area (as foreseen in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union) must still be fully realised, meaning that obstacles at the Member State level must finally be eliminated. Domestic tax, social security, pension, VAT and other rules hamper the free circulation of knowledge in the EU. The European Education Area must do the same for education by 2025, albeit against a much weaker Treaty background. We call for a level playing field in research, innovation and education in Europe. It will make cooperation between universities easier and better, and in this way increase their service to society.
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