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The University-Business Forum provides a platform at the European level for exchanging good practices, sharing experiences and fostering mutual learning amongst the relevant stakeholders. Better cooperation between universities and businesses is considered a cornerstone for the modernisation of higher education in Europe.
Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 2 April 2009 – A new partnership for the modernisation of universities: the EU Forum for University Business Dialogue [COM(2009) 158 final – Not published in the Official Journal].
The University-Business Forum, launched on the basis of the Commission communication of 10 May 2006 on modernising universities, provides a European platform for dialogue. The present communication follows from the forum’s call to improve the links between businesses and universities, with a view to strengthening Europe as a knowledge-based society.
The aims of the communication are three-fold:
- taking stock of challenges and barriers to university-business cooperation, as well as of good practices;
- proposing future work for the forum;
- establishing follow-up actions to foster cooperation.
The stock-taking focuses on six central issues, with employability and innovation being the most important challenges to be addressed. These should be tackled with a comprehensive change to curricula, which is possible only if an appropriate framework is provided by universities. The curricula should include transversal and transferable skills as well as basic notions of economics and technology. The examination methods should focus on assessing learning and competences. At the same time, the admission profiles and approaches to learning should be diversified to draw talent from non-traditional backgrounds. Furthermore, the education and research agendas should be made more inter- and trans-disciplinary.
Higher education is also challenged to provide a learning environment that fosters entrepreneurship. In order to create an entrepreneurial culture, universities need to make transformations in their leadership and governance. Entrepreneurship education should be comprehensive and accessible, with entrepreneurs and business people involved in the teaching. Likewise, training in teaching entrepreneurship should be provided to professors and teachers.
Yet another challenge universities are facing is the transfer of knowledge. For this to happen between universities and enterprises, a general framework for cooperation should be set up. Universities could also benefit from knowledge transfer offices to enter into partnerships with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Furthermore, strategies should be developed by both universities and public research organisations for the management of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR).
Universities should also aim at improving mobility internationally as well as between business and academia. To this end, it is essential that the value of mobility is promoted and recognised by all actors involved. It is equally essential that mobility to business by academics, researchers as well as students is accredited. Finally, there is also the need to adapt legal frameworks in order to support and facilitate mobility.
Universities need to reorient themselves to open up for Lifelong Learning (LLL). LLL should be included in their missions and strategies in a comprehensive manner. However, the development of LLL must be done in partnership with enterprises. Universities and business also need to work together in identifying and addressing the demand for new/updated skills. Simultaneously, the labour market needs to value and recognise updated/upgraded skills.
Good governance of universities is seen as essential for improving cooperation with businesses. The institutional strategies must incorporate this cooperation and appropriate incentive and assessment systems need to be put in place. Finally, the crucial role of national and regional framework conditions in achieving a supportive environment for university-business cooperation must not be overlooked.
The Commission will use the results of this stock-taking exercise in its policy cooperation and in the actions under its programmes, in order to continue promoting the modernisation of European universities. As follow-up actions, the Commission is proposing the mapping out of a future work programme for the forum as well as a series of concrete actions to respond to the most urgent issues at hand, in particular regarding employability.
The forum will be continued with meetings and seminars. In addition, a web space will be developed for its communication. The Commission will also seek to ensure a stronger involvement of public authorities, as requested in the communication.
Furthermore, the Commission will:
- explore how new forms of structured partnerships could be supported under its relevant programmes;
- invite stakeholders to discuss the possibility of future cooperation between enterprises and schools and Vocational Education and Training (VET) institutions;
- encourage national authorities to establish structures for university-business cooperation at national level;
- launch a study on best practises in university-business cooperation.
The University-Business Cooperation website of the European Commission Directorate-General for Education and Culture