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Higher Education: EC Action

Volume 457: debated on Tuesday 6 March 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if he will publish his Department’s submission to the German EU Presidency on the creation of a compendium of good practice for higher education, as cited in Prospects for the EU in 2007, Cm 7024. (123517)

The Department has not made a submission to the German EU presidency on the creation of a compendium of good practice for higher education. I myself made the proposal for such a compendium during the Finnish presidency, at the Education Council on 14 November 2006, and the suggestion received support from a large number of other member states. A copy of the UK position paper on higher education reform, which includes a proposal to develop a compendium of good practice in modernising universities, follows this answer. This paper was tabled at the November Education Council.

UK Position Paper: Higher Education Reform 14 November 2006

The UK welcomes the efforts the Commission and Presidency have made to take forward the EU’s Higher Education (HE) reform agenda. The UK believes that the discussion in the Education Council on 14 November will provide critical momentum in the follow up to Heads of State and Government discussions at the Hampton Court summit and at the June European Council this year. The latter called for “a follow up to the Commission’s communication on the challenges ahead for universities and encourage the Member States to promote excellence and foster modernisation, restructuring and innovation in the higher education sector”.

The Commission’s Communication on Modernising Universities highlights the challenges facing the European HE sector, whilst stressing that it is primarily for Member States and HE institutions to carry out reform. It is now for us, as Member States, to ensure that concrete reforms are taken forward to modernise our Higher Education systems. The approaches taken by different Member States will necessarily be predicated on varying national needs, systems and approaches to HE. However, it is clear that there are also many commonalities and therefore scope for Member States to share best practice and work together to discuss possible approaches.

At the EU level, we need to work together to identify and disseminate good practice, for example on governance, funding and business/industry links. Good work is already underway in the peer learning clusters set up under the Education and Training 2010 work programme. The Member States involved in the Higher Education cluster have already started this process; peer learning activities in the UK and in Norway have demonstrated the value that European co-operation can add to Member States’ own efforts.

The UK is keen to ensure that all Member States are able to consider and learn from other countries’ experiences of Higher Education reform, thus making the most of the opportunities made available by the Open Method of Co-ordination.

In this context, the Council could provide a forum for sharing experiences and good practice, including those identified through the peer learning activities. To this end a compendium of good practice in modernising universities could be compiled, based on Member States’ own experiences and possibly on experiences from elsewhere. This could be a useful aid to decision making and a lasting resource to help support Member States’ ongoing reforms. The Council, with the support of the Commission, could set itself the challenge of developing such a compendium by the end of 2007.