A new study on “University Systems Ranking: Citizens and Society in the Age of Knowledge” published today by the Lisbon Council finds that European university systems, in particular in “Romano-Germanic countries”, are inadequate to deliver the education needed by modern, knowledge-based economies. It recommend that countries should do more to make their education systems more open, democratic and readily accessible to a broader range of people.

The study is based on a survey of 17 OECD countries. Most importantly, it did not look at excellence but at the inclusiveness of systems suggesting that “a university system has a much broader mandate than producing hordes of Nobel laureates” and should rather “educate and prepare as many citizens as possible regardless of their age, social standing or previous academic record for the very real social and economic challenges we face.”

The following indicators were used to produce a ranking that lists Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian countries at the top and German-speaking countries at the bottom of the list: Inclusiveness (ability to graduate large numbers of students), effectiveness (ability to produce graduates with skills relevant for the country’s labour market), access (ability to accept and help students with low levels of scholastic aptitude), age-range (ability to function as a lifelong learning institution), and responsiveness (ability to reform and change with regard to Bologna criteria concerning cross-border recognition of degree courses and qualifications).

P.S. Well, I get the point about inclusiveness. Innovative societies need a well-educated population that is fit for the knowledge society. But, above that, what I think our University systems need first and foremost, is a more entrepreneurial approach.

Whatever you major in, you should be able to get an entrepreneurship education, because that is a skill that is not only important to get us forward as individuals but to help solve our society’s most pressing problems. University’s should help build ‘T-shaped people’ that do not only have a depth of knowledge in a specific field, but that also have a breadth of knowledge and most importantly the key skills needed to be successful: Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Leadership.

They are usually the „cross-pollinators“ companies and societies need, – and I quote here from a book called “The ten faces of innovation”, see this blog entry about the bookthe project members that translate arcane technical jargon from the research lab into vivid insights everyone can understand. They’re the traveler who ranges far and wide for business and pleasure, returning to share not just what they saw but also what they learned. They’re the voracious reader devouring books, magazines, and online sources to keep themselves and the team abreast of popular trends and topics. Well rounded, they usually sport multiple interests that lend them the experience necessary to take an idea from one business challenge and apply it in a fresh context. They retain the childlike ability to see patterns others don’t, and to spot key differences. But they’ve also honed the very adult skill of applying those subtle differences in new contexts. They often think in metaphors, enabling them to see relationships and connections others miss.

And, I should add, they are the sharers, the networkers, the innovators, the passionate professionals, the lateral thinkers.

By the way, there is a chance for lifelong learners. Standford University, for instance, has great
on entrepreneurship learning and teaching. So, it’s not to late to get into T-shape…

I do think this is where the EU can lead and where our regions can add value through action on the ground (see also my blog entry on ERRIN’s Entrepreneurship Day). And I hope I will see more discussion and awareness raising on these issues during our European Year of Creativity and Innovation 2009.

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