How Europe’s leading universities can – and must – stay at the forefront of the Knowledge Revolution
In a world driven by new technologies and constant, rapid innovation, ‘knowledge’ is the new capital of the globalised economy. The revolution in communications technology now makes knowledge available in new forms at the press of a button. The discoverers, disseminators and manipulators of knowledge have become the driving force of the modern economy. Our leading universities, major producers of knowledge, have a key role to play – and remain the key instruments of economic and social development.
At the same time, there are many new knowledge providers in this new world, ranging from company-based ‘universities’ and other independent groups, through think tanks and document centres, to sponsored advocacy groups. Universities, therefore, can no longer rely on its traditional monopoly of advanced knowledge and highly educated people. In order to compete, Europe’s leading universities need to seek out a new public and economic role at the heart of democratic society.
Just as the universities adapted to the arrival of the printing press, 500 years ago, so today they must adapt - and indeed are adapting - to a bigger challenge: the information revolution since the 1990s.
This was the thinking that led to the launch of a major international dialogue or ‘conversation’ involving university leaders, academics and students with business leaders, politicians, policy-makers and researchers. These conversations would take the form of an inquiry to study just how European universities can stay at the forefront of this new Knowledge Revolution, and indeed lead it.
This report emerges from an international investigation into how European universities can – and must – operate at the forefront of the Knowledge Revolution in the 21st century, involving some 200 experts, academics, policy-advisors, politicians, and practitioners and 50 graduate students drawn from across and beyond Europe. What follows is a selection of what can be deemed to be key statements, key quotes and key recommendations, worthy of further and wider consideration emerging from a three-year inquiry. Not every participant will, of course, have agreed with every recommendation.
The Spirit of Education
European universities should not seek simply to ape the leading American universities because of any feeling of inferiority. They should not live in the shadow of the Ivy League. They should seek to study US universities and other models of success to improve their performance and all round quality while understanding and maintaining their own special qualities, particularly linked to of diversity of approaches in study and learning, in funding support, and in composition of student and staff bodies. It was agreed that they must then move forward with confidence
Universities have a key role to play in the production of economic and social knowledge. Universities also have a key role in the production of the qualified, the professional and the leaders. However, universities must always aim beyond merely producing more and more ‘trained’ people, with the right skills that meet the immediate demands of society and government. They must be citizens. They must be complete individuals.