Higher Education and Research

Universities as Sites of Citizenship

The concept of sites of citizenship originates with the Council of Europe project on Education for Democratic Citizenship (EDC). The project, the operational phase of which ended in 2000 was launched in 1996 and was adapted in the light of the Council of Europe Second Summit of Heads of State and Governments (1997).

The concept of Education for Democratic Citizenship was taken a considerable step further through the Budapest Declaration for a Greater Europe Without Dividing Lines, adopted on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Council of Europe (May 1999), and in particular through the Declaration and Programme on Education for Democratic Citizenship, based on the Rights and Responsibilities of Citizens.

The Declaration and Programme adopted in Budapest underline, among other things, the fundamental role of education in promoting the active participation of all individuals in democratic life at all levels, the importance of learning about democracy in school and university life, including participation in the decision-making process and the associated structures of students and teachers.

As a follow-up to one of its preliminary contributions to the definition of the concept of citizenship, the CC-HER (Higher Education and Research Committee, predecessor of the CDESR) adopted, at its 6th plenary session on 16-18 March 1999, an outline project called “University as site of citizenship” and instructed its Bureau and its Secretariat to develop the project further.

At the same time academic circles in the United States of America became involved in the development of projects concerning citizenship within higher education institutions. The CC-HER Bureau established close links of cooperation with those circles. In addition to the importance of such cooperation, it is worth underlining the fact that the United States now has general observer status with the Council of Europe, including observer status with the CDESR.

As a result, two parallel projects were launched in Europe and in the United States under the responsibility of the Higher Education and Research Committee of the Council of Europe and a consortium of European and US researchers and institutional representatives.

The project was established:

  • to consider the actual activities of institutions of higher education in Europe and the USA, that support democratic values and practices;
  • to assess their capabilities and dispositions to promote democratic political developments;
  • to make recommendations and dissemination of resources in order to improve the contribution of higher education to democracy on the campus, and to the local community, and the society.

Fifteen European Universities were selected among new and old democracies and 15 collaborating researchers (making up a Contact Group) were appointed who were responsible for conducting the case studies. They reported their findings through monographs to the General Rapporteur, Mr. Frank Plantan who was responsible for producing the final report.