EUROPE: Promoting a university-business dialogue

European universities need to forge stronger ties with the private sector but must retain full control over their finances, governance and curriculum, the European Parliament decided last week.

In a detailed resolution, the parliament called for the creation of a European Industrial PhD scheme in which the European Commission would help fund doctoral programmes from its Seventh Framework Programme for research.

Members urged European institutions of higher education to adopt more innovative and methodical curricula encouraging entrepreneurship. The parliament said better university-business ties could also be a way to attract bright young researchers to the European labour market.

Small and medium-sized businesses should also get easier access to university education and funding for research, the resolution stated. But universities must not depend on businesses financially or intellectually, the members stressed, with one risk being higher funding for mathematics, science and technology over the humanities.

"Higher education remains a public responsibility and therefore public financing to universities is needed in order to preserve equal financing to all fields of study, including humanities," the resolution said.

Collaboration between university and private sector should benefit all areas of study. The resolution also called on businesses to increase their scholarships, and encouraged the development of international student work placements to help language learning and cross-border collaboration.

Universities must focus on "following up young graduates more closely in order to assess the economic and social usefulness of education programmes".

The resolution stressed "there is no longer any such thing as a 'job for life'," so universities should become more accessible for retraining and life-long learning to reflect the constantly changing needs of individuals, of vulnerable social groups and of the labour market.

Better links between universities and business would remove the gender disparities present in some university departments, the resolution stated.