Higher Education and Research

Public responsibility for higher education and research

In 2003, the Steering Committee for Higher Education and Research (CDESR) launched a project to contribute to the discussions on public responsibility for higher education. As has been pointed out in several discussions, higher education cannot be considered a public good in the economic sense of the term, which is the origin and also established sense of the term. While a term can of course be given a new meaning in a different context – a fairly common phenomenon in language development – it is questionable whether it is worth the effort to try to redefine this term. At any rate, the politically operational dimension of the expression used by the Ministers is the public responsibility for higher education. Therefore, the CDESR Bureau suggested that the Working Party focus on this and that it include considerations on the public responsibility for research.

Within the framework of the Bologna Process, the issue of public responsibility was first mentioned in the Prague Communiqué:

“.. They supported the idea that higher education should be considered a public good and is and will remain a public responsibility (regulations etc.), and that students are full members of the higher education community. … “

Ministers in Berlin recalled their commitment to the concept of higher education as a public good and public responsibility:

“ … Ministers reaffirm their position that higher education is a public good and a public responsibility. They emphasise that in international academic cooperation and exchanges, academic values should prevail. …”

As a result of its project on Public Responsibility, the Council of Europe organised a major conference in September 23-24th 2004 in the Council of Europe headquarters in Strasbourg with participants from member states, representing governments, higher education institutions and students, as well as international stakeholders.
The literature review by Alain Schönenberger, as the main pre-conference document, the contributions by speakers, the final report and the conclusions and recommendations of the conference are included in the publication “The Public Responsibility for Higher Education”, Council of Europe Higher Education Series No. 2, April 2005.

The Council of Europe will also explore the possibilities of developing a recommendation on the issue to be adopted by the Committee of Ministers or the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

Explanatory memorandum

Available documentation