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Behind the HE headlines is one key question – the purpose of universities

The past week’s higher education news demonstrates that there are certain expectations of universities that policymakers, HE leaders and the Augar review are expected to address, says Johnny Rich, Chief Executive of the Engineering Professors’ Council and Chief Executive of outreach organisation Push .

30 VCs sign new Civic University Agreement

Leaders of thirty universities have signed a Civic University Agreement, reaffirming their institution's commitment to their local communities by pledging to put the economy and quality of life in their home towns and cities at the top of their list of priorities.

MEPs urged to oppose cuts in Horizon 2020 research budget

The European University Association has called on the European Parliament to reject proposals that would significantly cut investment in European research.

EUA, representing 850 higher education institutions across Europe, has written to MEPs asking them to oppose European Commission plans to remove 2.7 billion Euros (£2 billion) from the Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme in order to finance a new “European Funding for Strategic Investments” (EFSI) plan.

The organisation has also written an open letter to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, urging the EC not to sideline European research, and to reconsider the funding sources for EFSI.

The Commission proposal, announced in January, is designed to tackle Europe’s investment gap. But EUA said that while it supports efforts to boost job creation and growth, this must not come at the expense of Europe’s research sector which is the backbone of Europe’s future competitiveness.

The diversion of funds would affect the Excellent Science pillar, including the European Research Council and Marie Sklodowska-Curie actions, as well as the Societal Challenges pillar for collaborative research, the EUA says.

It has also called for the inclusion of scientific oversight in the selection of projects that will be administered under EFSI to ensure that research and innovation plays a full part in tackling Europe’s many challenges.

Lesley Wilson, Secretary General of EUA said:

“The proposed cuts to research are a worrying U-turn in the Commission’s approach. In recent years the Commission was a key advocate for further research investment and there was strong support for collaborative research activities that demonstrated their economic impact. EUA is convinced that if the proposal goes ahead the EU will put itself at risk of losing ground against competitors that are investing heavily in research."

jorisvo / 123RF
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