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Future Visions on Europe's University - Based Research

Marcel Van de Voorde 

University of Technology Delft, Rotterdamseweg 137, Delft 2628 AL, Netherlands


Universities need to be restructured: “the life in an ivory tower belongs to the past”! The University structures and operation from the last centuries do not comply anymore with the needs imposed by the consumer, technology, and society of the 21st century.

Visions for the University of the Future will be described and essential changes in structures and management are highlighted, on the basis of the following themes:

i) The educational system in Europe still relies on two paradigms: the classification of the different sciences according to Auguste Comte and the hierarchy of lectures/tutorials/practices in our pedagogic practices. The real need is for young students/scientists to know who to move forward when faced with a real-world problem (on a scientific- and/or technical topic), they have never met before, on a real-world-time-scale, and a real world budget. The rigid faculty structures need to be dismantled with the creation of small- and medium sized clusters for education and University Centres of Excellence for Research.

ii) The trans-disciplinarily principle will occupy an important role in future Universities, Research Centres and Industry. In future, post graduates have to operate in a trans-disciplinary environment, unknown in the past! The inter/trans-disciplinarily of to day is the “specialty” of to morrow!

The University leaders should recognize that 1) teaching is largely for students who will not become future academics, and for careers that don’t exist yet and 2) research and teaching must be linked so that students will be ready for the new ideas of knowledge that research will provide.

The new millennium will see us enter an era of novelties in medicine, transport, society ….. With new tools, new insights and understanding, and a developing convergence of the disciplines of physics, chemistry, materials science, etc we may dear to dream of novel and superior products and systems that were, until the 21ste century, the stuff of science fiction.

iii) The traditional models of Governance and Management of Universities are no longer appropriate; we need to consider new models.

The managing autonomy at institutional level and the leadership for entrepreneurial and innovative Higher Education Institutions (Rector + Senate) must be linked to accountability and control of use of public funds tostakeholders (Executive Council).

In future, the actors should be taken at 1) EU-level, 2) National level and 3) Institutional level.

There is a pressing need for drafting “Principles of Governance and Management” that provide a European reference underlying the academic and social responsibilities of Universities.

iv) The University will become the “thinking tank” of the future European Industry; the academic research should be curiosity driven. To be excellent, competitive and wealth creative on an international scale requires:” strong science” – “strong industry” -and “well connected”. This will result in frontier research, mobility of scientists and technologists and effective knowledge sharing but it requires the creation of new partnerships between Universities and Industry, to develop innovations and discoveries. Multiple models for collaboration and technology transfer will be presented.

v) The role of the European Union – 7th (2006 – 2013) Framework Programme + European Research Council, National- and Regional Governments in this important matter will also be mentioned.


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Related papers

Presentation: invited oral at E-MRS Fall Meeting 2005, Round Table Discussion, by Marcel Van de Voorde
See On-line Journal of E-MRS Fall Meeting 2005

Submitted: 2005-06-22 11:29
Revised:   2005-08-18 06:48