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EUA - Council Meeting

EUA Council statement on TTIP and TISA

During its Council meeting of 30th January in Brussels, EUA unanimously adopted a statement on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA).

The statement warns that TTIP and TiSA cast into doubt the ability of national and regional authorities to determine the nature of their Higher Education provisions and calls on the EU to make no commitments in the fields of higher and adult education.

Lesley Wilson, EUA Secretary General, has stressed that Higher Education is not a commodity to be transacted by commercial interests on a for-profit basis nor should it be subject to international trade regimes. Indeed higher education is a public responsibility which not only supports social cohesion but also addresses the growing needs of Europe’s labour markets. 

EUA has also reiterated that while greater global governance is desirable, as far as higher education is concerned, it should develop on the model of the UNESCO-supported academic recognition frameworks, designed and implemented by the sector. The internationalisation of higher education has developed at a fast pace in recent years: collaborative research, staff and student mobility, open and distance learning - to name a few aspects - have all flourished, and have done so without the framework of trade agreements.

The document can be summarised in six points:

1) Higher Education (HE) is a public responsibility to which all citizens must have right of access, and not a commodity to be transacted by commercial interests.
2) TTIP and TISA create uncertainty on the ability of Member States to determine the nature of their HE systems due to the limited scope of legislative action once the agreement has come into force and the requirement that service liberalisation: (a) can never be reduced and (b) all future services must fall automatically within the scope of the agreements.
3) Several HE systems include both public and private providers and many public institutions depend on a mixture of public and private funding. Such hybridity at institutional level means that TTIP and TiSA cannot be conducted with legal certainty and clarity.
4) Domestic policy is threatened by the Investor State Dispute Mechanism (ISDS) which gives corporations the right to sue public authorities if they consider that local legislation obstructs their ability to generate ‘legitimate’ profit.
5) The secrecy of the negotiations prevents the sector from understanding what specific aspects will impinge on its operating environment - not only on learning and teaching but also data collection, research and development, intellectual property and e-commerce.
6) Higher education, unlike trade, is not an exclusive competence of the EU. Any commitments made in TTIP or in TiSA would go far beyond the scope of its complementary competence.


Principles of State Responsibility to Protect Higher Education

At its Council meeting on 30th January EUA endorsed the Principles of State Responsibility to Protect Higher Education campaign promoted by the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA).

The initiative articulates a need for affirmative, public recognition of the ongoing and widespread problem of attacks on higher education. It calls on states to commit to protecting their higher education sectors through existing obligations, in close co-operation with institutions and staff and with due respect for the values essential to quality higher education, including institutional autonomy and academic freedom, to ensure that higher education communities are physically secure and free from improper external influence and intimidation. 

The campaign highlights the many cases around the world where education is a victim of violence, which can have a devastating impact on targeted individuals and institutions, on the quality of research outputs, teaching and on access to higher education, and undermine the core values of higher education – including academic freedom and institutional autonomy, cross-border institutional partnerships and student and faculty exchanges.  

The report Institutional Autonomy and the Protection of Higher Education from Attack, published in October 2013, examined for the first time the interdependence of institutional autonomy and security. The report's recommendations included calls for raising awareness and developing shared principles. This led to the report Education Under Attack, 2014, which documented attacks on higher education in 28 countries. 

More information on the campaign and how to support its initiatives can be found here


European Commissioner for Education Tibor Navracsics meets with EUA Board

EUA was pleased to welcome European Commissioner Tibor Navracsics to its secretariat in Brussels on 29 January, at the beginning of the Commissioner’s term of office.

The meeting, with EUA’s President and Board, focused on trends and priorities in higher education. Given his own academic background, Commissioner Navracsics underlined his eagerness to further deepen cooperation between the European Commission and EUA, as the voice of the European higher education sector. 

EUA President Maria Helena Nazaré and Board members emphasised universities’ role in creating human capital, their contribution to regional development and the importance of university-business cooperation. Topics of common interest and concern discussed during the meeting included the need for sustainable investment in Europe’s universities, the future development of the Bologna Process and the Modernisation Agenda. 

Commissioner Navracsics and the EUA Board agreed to continue their positive exchange at the University-Business Forum on 5-6 March 2015.