European Universities Discuss Their Future at EduLAB Conference
For the first time ever, the Higher School of Economics hosted EduLAB, an annual conference for university leadership. Participants discussed the challenges universities face in the digital age, as well as prospects for interuniversity cooperation, specifically as part of a wider project for European universities.
The Network of Universities from the Capitals of Europe, or UNICA, was founded in 1990 and currently brings together 49 universities from 37 European capitals where nearly 2 million students study. HSE became a member of UNICA in 2016, representing Russia alongside Lomonosov Moscow State University.
The annual EduLAB conference stands out among the various seminars and meetings UNICA’s working groups hold regularly. This year’s conference, the theme of which was the role of universities in creating human capital for a new economy, took place at HSE for the first time ever. ‘HSE always tries to learn from the best universities, and this meeting gives all its participants the opportunity to study each other’s experiences, best practices, and know-how,’ HSE Vice Rector Ivan Prostakov said at the EduLAB-2018 opening.
EduLAB initially took place as an annual meeting for Bologna Coordinators that addressed the challenges and best practices related to the implementation of the Bologna Process at European universities. As a result, commented UNICA President Luciano Saso, the focus of these discussions shifted to problems like the quality of education at universities, new educational methodologies, and the new learning environments that came about thanks to digital technologies.
An example of this is online learning and massive open online courses (MOOC). On the one hand, Mr Saso said, these classes give universities more opportunities in terms of reaching as many students as possible. On the other, they create new conditions and sometimes a less comfortable atmosphere for all students who are used to traditional forms of instruction. The development of MOOC also made informal learning more popular. During the hiring process, many companies are already looking at not only an applicant’s normal college degree, but also certificates for various online courses.
It is impossible for each university to handle these new challenges on its own. This is understood in Europe at the governmental level as well, which is why the EU is carrying out a number of initiatives in higher education. At the conference, Francesca Maltauro, a policy officer at the European Commission and a representative of the EU education director, talked about these initiatives. Specifically, the EU is proposing a project for alliances among European universities.
These alliances should arise thanks to the current joint efforts of universities. At least three EU countries have to participate in each ‘European university,’ and each university must have interuniversity campuses. The EU believes these alliances will foster increased competition within the European education system, which will subsequently help the economy. Additionally, the EU supports projects that digitise management processes in education, particularly as concerns simplifying academic mobility within Europe. The first ‘European universities’ should arise by the end of 2019.
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