Governance of higher education institutions in the European Higher Education Area
- Parliamentary Assembly
- Assembly debate on
5 October 2012 (36th Sitting) (see Doc. 12964 and Addendum, report of the Committee
on Culture, Science, Education and Media, rapporteur: Mr Flego). Text
adopted by the Assembly on 5 October 2012 (36th Sitting).
1. The Parliamentary Assembly reaffirms
the fundamental importance of higher education for each individual
and for society. The right to education, guaranteed by Article 2
of the first Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights
(ETS No. 9 and ETS No. 5), encompasses the right to have access
to higher education, which is also protected under Article 10.1
of the revised European Social Charter (ETS No. 163).
2. Highly educated people are a key factor for individual and
collective welfare as well as for economic, social and democratic
stability. It is therefore of strategic importance for member States
to pursue the progressive introduction of free higher education
accessible to all on the basis of ability, in accordance with Article
13 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural
3. Autonomy of higher education institutions, academic freedom
and freedom of scientific research and the arts are fundamental
principles for the functioning of higher education institutions
as well as for democratic and pluralist societies. These principles
go hand in hand with public responsibility for higher education
and research, as expressed in Committee of Ministers Recommendation
CM/Rec(2007)6 on the public responsibility for higher education
and research. In this respect the Assembly welcomes the recent work
of the Committee of Ministers on the responsibility of public authorities
for academic freedom and institutional autonomy.
4. Because of the crucial importance of higher education institutions
and individual and societal dependence on university research and
the education and training of experts, the basic strategic decisions about
further development of higher education institutions should be made
on a four-part basis – among the representatives of the academic
community (including students), of the labour market (employers
and trade unions), of civil society organisations and of government
(executive as well as legislative).
5. Academic freedom and autonomy of higher education institutions
require that the latter can, within the framework of national higher
education policies and domestic law and with due respect for human
rights, determine for themselves their academic curricula and degrees,
student admissions, research, administrative organisation, financing
and staff employment.
6. The Assembly deplores the continued violation of university
autonomy and academic freedom in Belarus. Until higher education
institutions in this country fulfil these universal principles,
they cannot be regarded as valid partners of higher education institutions
in other countries within the European Higher Education Area. The
Assembly welcomes the recent decision by the ministers participating
in the Bologna Process not to admit Belarus, as well as the decision
by the European Union not to grant entry visas to five university
rectors from Belarus.
7. In line with the objectives of Article 165 of the Treaty on
the Functioning of the European Union, the Assembly reaffirms the
competence and responsibility of national parliaments to determine
higher education policies and legislation. This should be done in
close co-operation with higher education institutions.
8. Higher education institutions should actively participate
in the decision-making process concerning governance of national
higher education systems, according to the subsidiarity principle.
In this respect, the Assembly welcomes the activities of representative
organisations such as the European Students’ Union, the European
University Association and the European Association of Institutions
in Higher Education.
9. The Assembly stresses the importance of participatory governance
within higher education institutions. It wishes governance to be
organised around the notion of collegiality and encourages universities
and higher education institutions to associate students, graduates,
teachers and researchers with the internal evaluation and decisions
on the learning process, but also to find adequate modalities to
get them involved in strategic decision-making.
The Assembly attaches particular importance to self-regulatory
initiatives and, in particular, the Magna Charta Universitatum Observatory
in Bologna. Recalling paragraph 13 of its Recommendation 1762 (2006)
freedom and university autonomy, the Assembly welcomes the invitation
by the observatory to increase co-operation and to be represented
at its meetings.
The Assembly recommends that member States and public authorities
preserve and protect the autonomy of higher education institutions
and academic freedom and therefore:
11.1 promote equal access to higher education institutions
on the basis of ability and, to this end, provide financial support
– to institutions as well as students – to overcome socio-economic
barriers, particularly in times of financial difficulties and social
11.2 agree upon transparent funding principles, make them publicly
available and ensure that direct or indirect funding schemes do
not result in undue advantage to individual higher education institutions;
11.3 in accordance with the Convention on the Recognition of
Qualifications concerning Higher Education in the European Region
(ETS No. 165) and the Bucharest Communiqué of the ministers participating
in the Bologna Process, set quality standards for the recognition
of study periods, degrees and diplomas without external restrictions
of courses, degrees and diplomas offered by higher education institutions;
11.4 prevent political and economic interference in the internal
management of higher education institutions, irrespective of whether
they are privately or publicly held, while ensuring full application
of relevant national legislation;
11.5 support the co-operation of higher education institutions
as well as student and teacher mobility across borders;
11.6 duly respect the right to freedom of association of students,
teachers and researchers;
11.7 involve students in decision-making processes concerning
11.8 develop projects for students and teachers from Belarus
who have been excluded or dismissed from higher education institutions
for political reasons; such projects should include national scholarships
and university grants to these students and teachers.
12. The Assembly invites the Standing Conference of Ministers
of Education to reinforce its working links with the European Students’
Union, the European University Association, the European Association
of Institutions in Higher Education and the International Association
of Universities, and to increase its impact on, and voice within,
the Bologna Process.
13. The Assembly invites the Joint Council on Youth and the European
Youth Parliament to discuss higher education policies.