Universities must save EuropePress release 5 June 2012
Universities can save Europe and make a major contribution to durable economic growth. Higher education has no other course but to strengthen its innovation power by stimulating entrepreneurship and focus research more on societalquestions. Universities need to take on their role as leaders and take a more active stance on the current societal issues, says Prof. Dr. Ir. Jo Ritzen in his inaugural speech on the 8th of June.
Jo Ritzen is the former minister of education and former president of Maastricht University. On February 1st 2012, he became professor of International economics of science, technology and higher education at Maastricht University. On June 8th he will accept his chair with an inaugural lecture.
Europe is struggling with an economic crisis and needs drastic measures to achieve a sustainable economical growth by reinforcing the knowledge-based economy. The quality of academic graduates needs to be improved, with more attention to the vastly changed labour market. In academic education, cognitive development and expertise within disciplines should take the highest priority, but there also needs to be a link to entrepreneurship — working in teams, oral, written and digital communication skills, solution based and innovative thinking, learning to work in an international environment and a larger job mobility.
This requires a new approach from the universities. According to Prof. Ritzen, universities can only carry through these changes if the various European member-states are willing to learn from each other. This is why he founded the Foundation Empower European Universities (EEU) in which correspondents from each of the 27 member states will take part. The EEU gathers and analyses data on the impact of higher education on the achievements of universities, measured by their social contribution. Moreover, it is necessary for universities to compete at the European level and to form a single higher educational space in which students – based on solid information – can choose at which European university they would like to study.
Research should be funded on a European level to raise efficiency and lower the costs of selection and evaluation. At the same time, this allows for specialisation at a higher level. Pensions and other social security arrangements should also be regulated at the European level. This requires a different interpretation of the European principle of subsidiarity. Prof. Ritzen acknowledges that university education and research can best be implemented at the national level, but a European framework is needed to elevate the quality to a higher level.
Note to press:
Prof.dr.ir. Jo Ritzen will hold his inaugural speech titled ‘Can the university save Europe?’
On Friday June 8, 2012 at 16:30 in the auditorium of the administration building situated at the Minderbroedersberg 4-6, Maastricht. The written version of the speech can be obtained through Caroline Roulaux, pressofficer Maastricht University, phone +31 43 388 5229 e-mail