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Higher Education Series

The European Research Area

Teaching and research are considered to be the key elements of higher education. This can be seen from the Council of Europe’s project on The Heritage of European Universities or the Recommendation of the Council of Europe’s Council of Ministers on the Research Mission of the Universities.

However, not until the Berlin Communiqué was the issue of the European Research Area addressed and seen as one of the two pillars of the knowledge society:

“ … Conscious of the need to promote closer links between the EHEA and the ERA in a Europe of Knowledge, and of the importance of research as an integral part of higher education across Europe, Ministers consider it necessary to go beyond the present focus on two main cycles of higher education to include the doctoral level as the third cycle in the Bologna Process. They emphasise the importance of research and research training and the promotion of interdisciplinarity in maintaining and improving the quality of higher education and in enhancing the competitiveness of European higher education more generally. Ministers call for increased mobility at the doctoral and postdoctoral levels and encourage the institutions concerned to increase their cooperation in doctoral studies and the training of young researchers.
Ministers will make the necessary effort to make European Higher Education Institutions an even more attractive and efficient partner. Therefore Ministers ask Higher Education Institutions to increase the role and relevance of research to technological, social and cultural evolution and to the needs of society.
Ministers understand that there are obstacles inhibiting the achievement of these goals and these cannot be resolved by Higher Education Institutions alone. It requires strong support, including financial, and appropriate decisions from national Governments and European Bodies.
Finally, Ministers state that networks at doctoral level should be given support to stimulate the development of excellence and to become one of the hallmarks of the European Higher Education Area. … “

This move towards greater attention to research mission of universities was to a large extent the consequence of activities of the EUA, which on several occasions stressed the importance of the topic:

and also adopted a policy on the establishment of the European Research Council.

In the meantime, the European Union also provided an impetus for the establishment of the European Research Area by publishing its Communication on the European Research Area in 2002 and by asking for greater investments in research in its communication “More Research in Europe – towards 3% of the GDP”.

For further information on the topic, please check the European Science Foundation position paper as well as the European Commission website on the European Research Area or the actual European Research Area – CORDIS web site.