Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Scott has rubbed shoulders with senior politicians and business people charged with considering the future of European Universities at a seminar in Paris. Organised by the French Ministry of Economy, Finance and Industry and co-sponsored by leading financial newspaper Les Echos, the top-level discussions focused on how institutions in Europe could compete with those in the United States in terms of research. The event, hosted by the French Minister for European Affairs, Noëlle Lenoir, was attended by 35 high-profile delegates, including former French Prime Minister and current Member of the European Parliament, Michel Rocard, and Economic Minister Francis Mer.
An article written by the Vice-Chancellor appeared in Les Echos in conjunction with the event. In the piece, Professor Scott looked at how universities in Europe had evolved and how they currently compared with their American counterparts. “In a spirit of ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’, European governments have begun to encourage a group of top universities,” he wrote. “Universities are also now seen as knowledge factories, processing highly-skilled workers and producing intellectual property in the form of commercially-exploitable research.”
Professor Scott proposed that Europe should acknowledge the success of higher education in the United States, but not imitate it. The achievements of American universities reflected the United States’ status as the only remaining world power, he explained. “They have also added to the common stock of science and culture that belongs to all humanity – and enlarged the democratic possibilities of university education everywhere. But that does not mean that Europe must abandon its own distinctive university traditions,” he wrote.
The Ministry has now set up four groups to focus on key topics that emerged during the Paris seminar. A follow-up event is planned for later this year.