In an opinion drafted by Emil Boc (RO/EPP), Mayor of Cluj-Napoca, the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) underlines the importance of anchoring the European strategy for universities at local level. It points out that universities have a crucial role in addressing global challenges: by generating new research knowledge and promoting new innovation, they support the green and digital transitions and the EU's other key policy goals. Universities can also provide solutions and tools for tackling some of the major problems facing the EU, such as brain drain and rural exodus.
"A civilisation that strengthens European democratic values can only endure if it invests in human capital. Universities play a crucial role in society and contribute to the sustainable, resilient and inclusive development, founded on democratic values, of Member States, local communities and regions alike", rapporteur Emil Boc stresses.
Mr Boc's opinion, which was adopted at the CoR plenary session on Thursday, flags the importance of raising the standard of European university education and research and boosting local and regional support for the strategy's objectives. The Committee calls for an investment strategy taking account of regional, national and European financing and proposes to strengthen cooperation between the public, private and non-profit sectors. From their part, cities and regions can promote active networking between them, universities, businesses and industry, as well as support cross-border cooperation.
"Strategic partnerships need to be built between local and regional authorities and universities, including as regards framing local and regional development strategies. Universities play a crucial role in the development of place-based ecosystems, for which regional smart specialisation strategies have provided a good basis", Mr Boc says.
"Local and regional authorities must act as initiators and facilitators in these ecosystems, identifying opportunities for cooperation, allocating resources for networking and cooperation activities, and supporting the establishment of hubs such as education clusters at local and regional level", the rapporteur explains.
The Committee points out that the presence of universities generally gives a significant competitive advantage to the communities hosting them, attracting investment and generating income at local level. In this regard, local and regional authorities can support universities locate some of their activities and structures in smaller towns.
The opinion suggests developing, again with the support of local and regional authorities, hybrid campuses that are genuinely accessible to all eligible young people, promote social integration and drive forward the digital transition. In partnership with cities and regions, universities can also develop green campuses and get involved in urban renewal.
Finally, when evaluating the progress made towards meeting the objectives of the European Education Area, the opinion points out the need for indicators measuring success at local and regional level.
The opinion was already adopted by unanimity during the SEDEC meeting on 1 April, and was sent to the French Presidency ahead of the adoption of Council Conclusions on 4-5 April. The adopted Council Conclusions contain several strong references on the importance of the local and regional authorities, which is exactly what the opinion called for.
Tel. +32 473536887