Thomas Ekman Jørgensen
European universities are increasingly focused on contributing to sustainable development and, in particular, the green and the digital transition. There is a notable change from the earlier paradigm where universities pointed to their contribution to economic growth and competitiveness. Now, attention is being focused on the broad scope of their missions and how they provide solutions to the sustainability challenge.
The green and digital transition are especially pertinent for Europe’s universities. These two topics form the red thread of European Union policies, and they are broadly perceived as the main challenges, as is clear from the European contributions to this report.
This focus is not only about universities as suppliers of societal demands: it also includes the dynamic between universities and their framework conditions. These conditions are shaped both by commercial and political stakeholders, and universities shape them in the continuous development of their missions: innovation in learning and teaching – including digitally enhanced learning – interdisciplinarity, international cooperation and Open Science are some examples that have been mentioned in the contributions.
European university policies have been extraordinarily dynamic in recent years. Transnational alliances between universities are deepening, and there is a renewed sense of purpose in the European Union as well as in the Bologna Process. The pandemic has also given many European countries an impetus to invest in developing their education and research systems. Political initiatives combined with the universities’ awareness of their responsibility in the common challenges could be an accelerator of change for the years to come; this is definitely a space to watch.