Authors: Baumgartl, Bernd & Mariani, Michele
Resume: This report is the transnational synthesis of national findings and interviews under the question about the role and profile of Higher Education Institutions (HEI’s) in the European knowledge society. As such, the document has been written mainly basing on research evidences collected in previous national reports elaborated in the course of the project NESOR (New Social Risk in the European knowledge society and higher education). The European Union co-funded this project through the Socrates programme.
The collection of documental and literature reviews, qualitative studies and semi-structured interviews with national stakeholders has made it possible to accumulate a unique knowledge base which provides a rich picture on the state-of-the art of the implementation of the Bologna Process and looks forward to the contemporary and future role of EU higher education institutions, especially with respect to ensuring social inclusion and sustainable economical development.
According to the applied guidelines, the themes of this report have been clustered in three sections:
- i) Higher Education and the European Knowledge Society;
- ii) Higher Education and the new social risks;
iii) Higher Education: European dimension and internationalization.
All sections discuss the present stage of implementation, effects and future prospects of recent EU HE reform (i.e. the Bologna Process) in six countries: Austria, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Spain and The Netherlands. Each section is structured in three levels:
- i) awareness (what has been implemented);
- ii) experience (results that have been achieved);
iii) strategies (what has been learnt and how to go ahead).
A first draft of this report was reviewed and commented by a panel of experts external to the project. Their valuable comments and revisions, which provide significant added value to this report, have been taken into account to release the present, final version.
According to the rich evidence accumulated throughout the national studies, after a few years from its launching the contribution of the Bologna Process to the making of a European knowledge society/economy resulted in mixed achievements. The reform has produced different impacts on the different national educational systems, along with different economical and social consequences, and it is hard to say which Country’s experience could be considered as ‘the best practice’ to be extended to all EU HEIs.
Furthermore, the transition towards the European Knowledge Society is proceeding at quite a different pace among the participant countries (as it can be seen in the Global Competitiveness Index), partly in response to the diverse degrees in which knowledge-based activities are present in the different economies and partly because the importance of knowledge as a long-run growth factor is differently acknowledged by Member States. The very same assumption behind the Lisbon strategy, i.e., that the rapid creation of knowledge and easy access to it enhances counties’ efficiency, quality, and equity, is still under debate. While it may be plausible end even probable for certain types of activity and even certain national systems as a whole, it seems to be more uncertain and even unrealistic in many other cases.
The sudden change in the labour demand has led to an upgrading of jobs which sometimes has been found to deepen inequalities, both with respect to the least skilled workers and with respect to the high-skilled ones. All this creates new social risks and calls for an active response also by Higher Education Institutions. To face contemporary challenges, contribute to social cohesion and sustainable economical development, EU higher education institutions must further engage in local and global reflections, being active agents in the creation of the future society. Curricular adaptations, lifelong learning, assistance in the transition from education to learning, provision of equal opportunities for all, are all relevant and challenging tasks which definitely are part of the contemporary role of EU Universities.