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5th EUA Convention of European Higher Education Institutions

Facing Global Challenges: 
European strategies for Europe’s universities

18-21 March 2009, Prague, Czech Republic


Charles University PragueEUA’s 2009 Convention, hosted by Charles University Prague, takes place just before the formal launch of the European Higher Education Area in 2010 and at a time of reflection on the shape of the European Research Area in the next decade. It therefore presents a major opportunity for universities to contribute to the debate by outlining their common vision of how best to promote a coherent, transparent and attractive university sector in Europe.

Building on the 2007 Lisbon Declaration that underlines universities’ central task of “equipping Europe’s populations – young and old – to play their part within the Knowledge Society, in which economic, social and cultural development depend primarily on the creation and dissemination of knowledge and skills” the Convention thus offers university leaders the opportunity to identify common European policies and strategies that will support them in carrying out their threefold mission of teaching, research and service to society.

For universities to realise their potential they will increasingly have to link their core missions in higher education, research and innovation, not least in order to be able to respond to public demand for universities to contribute substantially to finding answers to global problems such as demography and aging of populations, sustainable development, renewable energies and climate change.
This requires open, modern and flexible universities, with a strong European dimension, characterised by true European mobility and European careers, as well as engagement at global level. As a sector, European universities need to be attractive to both European and international students that can contribute to, and benefit from, the rich and diversified European scientific and scholarly tradition.

Objectives and Output

As previously in Salamanca (2001), Graz (2003, Glasgow (2005) and Lisbon (2007), the 2009 EUA Convention gives universities the chance to influence the European policy agenda by setting markers for the future from a university perspective. The 2009 Convention comes at a particularly crucial moment for European higher education and research as the first phase of the Bologna process comes to a close and Europe has little time to reach the ambitious goals set by the EU’s Lisbon agenda for the 2010 deadline.

Specifically, the Convention is timed to take place:

• Just before the 2009 Bologna ministerial meeting that will map out the contours of the European Higher Education Area and define priorities for the Bologna Process in the decade to 2020, and

• When governments and stakeholders are being asked to comment on 5 Communications and/or Recommendations launched by the European Commission as a follow-up to the ERA Green paper consultation in 2007 that aim to shape the future development of the European Research Area beyond 2010. 

Prague Declaration

The objective is to influence the priorities set for the Bologna process post 2010Prague and to ensure that the specific concerns of universities are properly taken into account in the conditions set for the further construction of the European Research Area. To do this, university leaders present at the Convention will be asked to contribute to identifying ‘10 theses’ for the future of European higher education and research as we look forward to 2020.

For each issue identified consideration will need to be given to the questions: Where are we now? Where do we want to get to? How do we get there? Reflection will also be needed to identify appropriate institutional, national and European level policies and strategies as responses in each case. This exercise shouldl enable universities to define the characteristics, and shape the future, of the European Higher Education and Research Areas.

The EUA Council will meet on Friday, 3 April 2008 to adopt the Prague Declaration which will then be transmitted to those present at the Bologna Ministerial meeting in Leuven/Louvain-la-Neuve, and to the European Commissioners responsible for higher education and research policy.


Discussions during the Convention will be organised in the framework of four separate thematic clusters: in order to be able to respond to meet the ambitious goals set out above and to take account of the increasingly diversified missions and profiles of European universities. The intention is to allow participants to focus on those issues of most relevance to them, given their own particular institutional mission and profile. The clusters will focus on following broad topics:

• Promoting responsive and flexible universities as institutions with a mission to educate increasing numbers of Europe’s citizens, addressing the needs of an ever more diverse student population, thus ensuring that all those who can benefit from a university education are able to do so

• Enhancing the role of universities as research institutions that need to be competitive in enhancing their research missions through bidding for external research funds; able to attract and retain talented researchers at all stages in their careers; and also to be able to cooperate and function cooperatively through exchange and cluster building, especially at regional level

• Addressing the growing complexities of governing and managing universities - based upon the conference series of the last two years and other work done by EUA over this period. The spotlight will be specifically on: ensuring financial sustainability, changing governance structures and dealing with mergers and other forms of concentration, all of which are presently hot topics around Europe

• Promoting the global outreach of European universities and enhancing their interaction with the rest of the world: investigating the most appropriate strategies and policies and building a coherent international portfolio of activities from a European perspective.

Prague1Each Cluster will comprise a ‘mini’ plenary session followed by working groups, and participants will remain in their cluster groups for the entire morning of Friday, 20 March. Each working group will be asked to identify a maximum of two theses and to consider relevant policies and actions at institutional, national and European level.

Plenary session III on Friday afternoon will provide an opportunity for initial feedback from the clusters and a discussion of some of the key proposals emerging from the groups discussions. In the closing session of the Convention, the EUA President will draw his initial and very preliminary conclusions from the cluster discussions. The final outcomes will be presented to the EUA Council on 3 April 2009, and, once adopted, distributed to all conference participants.
On Saturday morning, a post-Convention Open Forum will highlight several ‘hot topics’ of importance for the European higher education community, such as the debate on rankings, or that of the specific situation of universities with medical schools and university hospitals.

This Open Forum, which is being organised for the very first time, will also give the opportunity to university networks and other groups to organise public or network-only meetings.


The conference should be of interest to institutional leaders (Rectors, vice rectors, heads of administration, students), as well as other organisations involved in educational policy, social partners, employers and senior government officials.


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European University Association (EUA)

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