Universities and the EU have different approaches to enhancing research

LERU, the League of European Research Universities, is not in favour of the establishment of a European Institute of Technology (EIT).

 LERU’s remedy to enhance research is to increase resources. LERU agrees with the Commission’s diagnosis that Europe’s research performance must be improved and that its impact on industry must be enhanced. However, Kari Raivio, Chancellor of the University of Helsinki and Chairman of LERU, says that establishing an EIT would not bring about the desired change.

“A new, competitively strong institution cannot be achieved by a decree from above. The creation of such an institution takes at least two decades of evolution and investment, for which the EU lacks the funds and the interest.”

The EIT proposed by the European Commission is modelled on the U.S. institution the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Raivio points out that there are several world-class universities of technology in Europe, equalling MIT scientifically, such as Cambridge in England, ETH Zürich in Switzerland and Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands.

“If the EU particularly wishes to invest in technology, the right way would be to support the existing institutions. It is also important that research funds are not channelled to one predetermined project. Instead, research should be evaluated and research funding should be subject to competition.”

It has also been suggested that EIT should be a network of top European universities. LERU feels that a virtual university network would not be able to respond to new challenges fast enough.

“Networking sounds more like an escape, when there is not enough courage to make major decisions affecting individual universities,” says Raivio.

LERU’s remedy to enhance research is to increase resources that would only be distributed on the basis of scientific competition. Furthermore, LERU wants universities to have more autonomy and latitude.

Text: Heidi Ekelund
Photo: Veikko Somerpuro

Translation: Valtasana Oy

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