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Swedish presidency of the EU: taking the next step in HE and research

Sweden’s presidency of the Council of the European Union began on 1 July and will continue until 31 December 2009. The presidency’s work programme outlines the main priorities for the upcoming six months. Within the field of higher education and research three major priority areas are identified.

Firstly, the presidency envisions a more integrated approach promoting closer links between the policy fields of higher education, research and innovation, i.e. strengthening the so called knowledge triangle. The latter is to be achieved by way of deepening the modernisation agenda for universities and should involve, among other things, increased sharing of knowledge with the public sector and with private enterprises, as well as the transfer of new competencies and skills through well-educated individuals, especially at master’s and doctoral levels.

The second priority is to develop a new governance structure for the European Research Area (ERA) including a new system for more efficient use of resources. The work programme emphasises, in line with the Vision 2020 for the ERA (see ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, December 2008) the importance of intensifying the exchange of resources, knowledge and best practices through large-scale joint research initiatives. Furthermore, it stresses the need for better cooperation and coordination between the Commission and member states, among member states, and last but not least, at the institutional level, between universities, research organisations and industry.

Thirdly, and coinciding with the ongoing review of the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) the Swedish presidency stresses the need to work towards introducing extensive improvements in the structure of the current programme. In a speech, following a conference hosted by the presidency in Lund earlier this month, the new Swedish Minister for Higher Education and Research, Tobias Krantz, argues that the next framework programme should be less bureaucratic and more focused on addressing the ‘grand challenges’ of the future – in the areas of health, energy and climate. The Swedish presidency has already initiated discussions on the role of research and innovation in the development of Europe until 2025. Some of the more important points are outlined in the Lund Declaration of July 2009.

Indeed, a very ambitious programme to be achieved in the lapse of six months, but nevertheless a promising start for the Swedes.