European Association of Institutions in Higher Education (EURASHE), as a voice of the professional higher education in Europe, released a Statement for the European Higher Education Area Ministers’ Conference in Rome which takes places 19 of November 2020. The Statement indicates the principles of the European Higher Education Area (hereafter – EHEA) should build upon and highlights the priority areas for the professional higher education sector.
With the Rome conference, the EHEA is entering a new decade, one which will rethink the existing patterns in higher education, bring new impulses based on societal, economic, technological, but also climate and demographic changes. According to EURASHE, the EHEA should be based on 1) academic freedom and necessity of institutional autonomy with close links to stakeholders; 2) key tools and principles for transparency, quality and recognition; 3) promoting inclusiveness and diversity.
Universities of Applied Sciences and professional higher education in Europe support the renewal of the social pact through the following engagement:
1. The enhanced dialogue between key stakeholders and academic experts to respond to future skills and learning pathways.
2. The flexible learning pathways within a new vision for the concept of life-long learning which identifies and accommodates a variety of learning needs for professional or personal development. This includes micro-credentials, short-cycle higher education, work-based learning focusing on Smart and Future Skills, recognition of prior experience.
3. Digitalisation plays a key role in opening new solutions in learning, mobility and governance. Higher education has to reflect on the growing role of digital skills across all human activity by providing flexible provision for the delivery of curricula. EURASHE considers the digitalisation agenda to be among our key priorities for the coming years and will support its members in advancing on the issue. Digitalisation strategies should take into account the inclusiveness & diversity, quality, cooperation.
4. Regional engagement and serving the needs of regional innovation ecosystems fall within the mission of professional higher education, specifically that of universities of applied sciences which can contribute to the recovery of regional economies hit by the recent recession. EURASHE advocates a stronger integration of professional higher education in regional smart specialisation strategies and are committed to further develop policies and tools for the regional engagement agenda and its promotion.
5. Closer links between learning and research will make it possible to renew the existing patterns of learning in order to address future skills through multi-disciplinarity and the adequate engagement of students in research activities, from short-cycle higher education to the necessary development of Professional doctorates. Support of research activities will allow professional higher education to build upon its strong links with the world of work and reflect them in applied, user-inspired research and innovation.
The coming decade opens with a great number of challenges and opportunities. EURASHE thinks they can’t be dealt with at national level only: they call for joint European solutions and require the ever-stronger internationalisation of higher education.