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Beyond 2010 - Priorities and challenges for higher education in the next decade


December 2007 - October 2008


The context:

2010 was an important date on the European calendar. It did not only mark the first decade of the twentieth century, but in education policy terms, the first decade of advancement on the European Lisbon goals, and a significant benchmark for the European policy Education and Training 2010 and the Bologna Process. Tracing back the policy trail, the Barcelona European Council (March 2002) ambitiously called on European systems of education to become a ‘world reference’ by 2010. Since, a plethora of initiatives and advancements cascaded down from the ministerial to the institutional level by means of the Bologna Process, a 40-country wave of higher education structural reform, supported in turn by the European Community with cross-national policy and programmes. In the Communication ‘The role of Universities in a Europe of knowledge’, the more ambitious Bologna goals reverberate: adequate and sustainable university income, autonomous university management, resources and research excellence, bridging universities and enterprise, globally competitive higher education - all these issues placed higher education at the heart of the Lisbon strategy, to become the strongest global economy by 2010. Subsequently, a May 2006 Communication ‘Delivering the modernisation agenda for education, research, and innovation’ stressed that a ‘major effort needs to be made to achieve the core Bologna reforms by 2010’ and that universities needed to grasp the Lifelong Learning agenda with an entrepreneurial mindset.

Yet none of these goals are finite, and many of the goals cited above will not have been wholly accomplished across Europe by 2010, despite the ambitions. While the institutional, national, and European levels were working fastidiously on the individual components related to the Bologna Process, whether it be degree structures, mobility, vocational learning, adult learning, graduate attainment, social access, internationalisation of the campus, quality assurance, or the like, as well as on the achievement of the education related benchmarks of the Lisbon agenda, it was deemed important not only to step back and reflect on the cross-cutting nature of these ambitions, but on their longevity. What is the future of Education and Training 2010 beyond 2010? Where will European higher education go in the next decade?

Project actions and outcomes:

The project had one overarching aim: to reflect upon and analyse the future perspective of university modernisation beyond current policy benchmarks, and rekindle a debate on certain Lisbon agenda-related goals that may have been less tangible, less easily benchmarked, and more challenging, in order to support the realisation of a European area of lifelong learning.

Support for policy development is best achieved by a substantive conflation of comparative research, structured reflection, and communication and information dissemination between multiple layers of actors.


The main concrete outputs of the project were threefold:  

1) three 20-page policy focused concept papers (on access and alternative learning paths; financing of HE institutions; and student and staff mobility);

2) an international conference for 250 people on the same themes which took place in Tallinn, Estonia, from 15 to 17 June 2008; and

3) a monograph comprising the concept papers and a selection of articles based on the conference presentations published in the ACA Papers on International Cooperation in Education in October 2008.