My two+ year hiatus from blogging coincided (accidentally) with the disruptions to higher education with the onset of COVID 19 as well as the recent (and ongoing) social, racial injustices, economic disparities and immigration challenges. 2020 marked a critical year for higher education around the world and pushed colleges and universities to pivot, adapt and adjust and to do so quickly. Universities and colleges had to change immediately, something institutions of higher education have not done well in the past. IHEs are noted for slow change, if any. And 2020 demanded something else. Perhaps the confluence of pandemic, political upheaval, and racial social injustices will force colleges and universities to make the changes permanent. To do things differently.
Although a critique might be appropriate, my focus here will be on the progress made toward the modern global university for today’s society and tomorrow’s future. James Duderstadt in his book entitled University for the 21st Century began the conversation in 2000 in the United States and it must, and it does, continue. The future of higher education has also been a conversation in Europe, led by the European University Association (EUA) which is celebrating 20 years of European collaboration since its founding – brief history is shown here. What the EUA has accomplished in 20 years is truly amazing and very informative and relevant for higher education in the U.S.
Since 2000, the EUA has published many informative reports, conducted valuable surveys, hosted annual conferences and topic focused webinars (most recently virtually), and established organizational units to assist in achieving its goals. The EUA has advanced initiatives such as teaching/learning, diversity and inclusion, interdisciplinarity, open science, doctoral education, quality assurance and more. Although these are focused on the European context, their contents are valuable to U.S. institutions of higher education. Some of these I have discussed in previous blog posts (and tweets) and others I will elaborate in the upcoming weeks.
The most recent EUA initiative focuses on the future of higher education in Europe and strategies for success. In 2021, the EUA published Universities without Walls: A vision for 2030. In publising this report, EUA stated that
“Europe and the world are at a crossroad. We are facing immense challenges; finding a sustainable equilibrium between ecological, economic and social concerns, the digital transition and major political developments will be some of the main drivers of change for the new decade.
Education, research, innovation and culture are key to addressing these challenges. Europe’s universities uniquely unite these in their missions. They are keen to contribute to shaping a positive future for our continent with their academic values and missions. To be able to do this, universities need academic freedom and institutional autonomy, adequate public funding and enabling regulatory frameworks. It is in Europe’s keen interest to support them. Europe needs universities and universities need Europe.”
Earlier this year, the European Commission issued a challenge and opportunity to European higher education institutions through the documents entitled European Strategy for Universities and a Commission proposal for a Council recommendation on transnational higher education cooperation. These documents serve as an impetus for bringing together the European Research area and the Higher Education area and EUA has already assumed a leadership in effecting change. There’s more to come in the near future.
“Higher Education in 2030” is the theme of the Global Perspectives Program this year (GPP’22). This year, we will actually be able to travel to Switzerland, Italy and France and explore the future of higher education with university colleagues and EUA leaders. I’ve had the great fortunate to be engaged with EUA for the pasts 20 years and witnessed first-hand the developments and changes in Europe. As future faculty members, the GPP participants have also benefitted from these efforts. This year, we will learn directly from our colleagues how 2020 and its challenges have changed the universities.
written by Karen P. DePauw