In February 2014 r. Conference of Rectors of Academic Schools in Poland, French Rectors’ Conference (CPU) and German Rectors Conference (HRK) addressed questions concerning fundamental issues on higher education and science to parties delegating their representatives to European Parliament.
Questionnaire of CPU, Responses of CPU
Questionnaire of HRK, Responses of HRK
Questionnaire of CRASP, Responses of CRASP
Commentary of CRASP President, prof. W. Banys
The questions concerned the key issues related to the future developments in higher education and the future of Europe. In February, CRASP asked these questions to all those political parties in Poland which delegate their representatives to the European Parliament.
So far we have received the responses from three parties: Polish Peasants Party, Democratic Left Alliance and Civic Platform. All these responses demonstrate the engagement of all the parties in in the development of higher education and science in Poland and in Europe. Generally, the answers follow a similar direction, but in many cases do not provide enough details to draw concrete conclusions.
The first observation that can be made after having read the proposals of the three parties is that perhaps we need more determination in convincing our partners in the European Parliament and in the European Commission to our objectives and our arguments, and not seeing that what has already been observed (e.g. the lack of political will to make more decisive financial and legal moves that would support the development of higher education and science in the European Union) as something that cannot be changed.
Our ability and determination in convincing opponents – at the national and European level – to our arguments, to the idea of future investments in education and science being a necessary condition for modernized of Europe and its competitive advantage in all aspects, will determine the directions of future developments: whether the Horizon 2020 budget will increase or decrease, whether or not financing of higher education and research in individual countries will reach an adequate level, whether or not legal and financial barriers hampering student and staff mobility, being a necessary condition for the development of the European Research Area, will be overcome.
In this context, it is worth to note that only one party speaks about the need to set a minimal level of financing of research and development in the EU member countries, so that it could be possible to obtain the financing at the level of 3% of GDP. Also only one party speaks about the need to exclude investments in higher education and research and innovation from the calculation of the 3 per cent of GDP deficit limit for the annual budget.
All the parties generally support an idea of European Research Area, one of them proposes however to postpone their finalization until 2020. None of the three parties refers to the specific problems related to the development of the European Research Area, such as mobility of staff, remuneration, health and social insurance during the period of staying abroad, and the impact of mobility on the pensions – all these being fundamental and difficult to overcome barriers to the increase of mobility in the European Research Area.
None of the parties addressed the issue of a proportion between the funds supporting basic research and the funds supporting applied research in Horizon 2020. Only one of the parties sees the need for wider participation of the representatives of organizations like the European University Association, and not only individual members of research community, in a dialogue on higher education and research in the European Union.
All the parties propose to increase the funding for research and development to the level assumed for 2020, but only one of them speaks about legal guarantees of such an increase, which is one of the aims of our Conference. Two parties speak about tax exemptions for companies that invest in innovations so that to increase the level of non-budgetary funding for research and development.
All the parties speak about the need to increase the mobility of students and staff, but only one of them speaks about the need to set up a national student exchange agency, which refers to the proposal of CRASP dating back to 2007, to establish – following the experience of DAAD or Campus France – the Polish Academic Exchange Agency, necessary to increase the level of internationalization.
We are satisfied with a generally positive approach to the idea of changing the method in which the higher education institution are financed, i.e. to move away from the system based on quantitative indicators, including the number of students, only. However, none of the parties speaks about the need for a long term higher education policy (we are still missing a strategic plan for the development of higher education and research and a related plan that assumes obligatory stable financing of higher education). The response of one party seems to indicate that a legal guarantee for adequate funding of higher education could be considered.
Similarly, we are satisfied with a generally positive approach to the idea of research universities and to the consolidation and modernization of higher education institutions, which is one of the ideas promoted by CRASP. Unfortunately, the need for essential (like in Finland), and not just symbolic financial support and legal support for such initiatives has not been mentioned.
Responses of two parties emphasize an essential financial effort of the country to increase salaries of higher education institutions staff in 2013-2015. The wider financial context is however missing. No information on a low reference amount used for the calculation of the level of salaries, staying unchanged since 2006, and on unfavourable change of regulations regarding the taxes paid by most active members of academic staff is given. It is likely that, in effect, the net income of many members of academic staff in 2015 – in real value – will stay at the same level as in 2008.
Our common goal is to make education, including higher education, and science to become a foundation of even faster modernization of our countries and Europe as a whole and to assign the highest priority to the developments in education, including higher education, science and culture, which should become driving forces of that modernisation. This determines the pace of the economic growth of the European Union and the level of our competiveness among developed and emerging economies.
As academic community we create solid foundations for a fast development of our countries, Poland and the European Union. And what we achieve acting in cooperation, future generations will inherit.
After the election to the European Parliament we plan to organise a series of seminars to which the newly elected Polish members of the European Parliament will be invited. At these seminars we will present and discuss in more detail the above mentioned issues.