A Short Survey of the 10 Year History

and Activities of EURASHE

Dr. Edward Dhondt

EURASHE

Director of Academic Affairs & Policy

 

Introduction

You can hardly consider a conference about the 10th anniversary of an organization -national or international - without looking into the history of this organization or association.

 

EURASHE - the European Association of Institutions in Higher Education - brings together a great variety of countries, disciplines and levels (undergraduate, graduate, professional universities, etc.).

So EURASHE reflects very distinctly the differentiation and richness of the complicated landscape of Higher Education in Europe.

The creation of EURASHE coincided more or less with the first phase of the internationalization process in Higher Education. Undoubtedly internationalization meant a new approach and strategy and at the same time a challenge for the great range of disciplines EURASHE represents and reflects.

So last week I did a lot of research about the weal and woe of EURASHE. I explored the EURASHE archives (more or less 20 binders) in which the daily events, facts, meetings, conferences, accountancy reports and other vicissitudes were carefully collected and reported.

But quickly I came to the insight that to go into detail would lead to a too much time absorbing exodus and the outcome would generally not be relevant for the majority of people not familiar with EURASHE "kitchen secrets". So having only a limited time I can only refer to the most important stepstones in the history of EURASHE. Unfortunately omitting or neglecting a lot of lively and colourful details which soften the sometimes inevitable boring seriousness of daily internationalization.

But on the other hand I must say - in all objectivity - that I can consider myself as a privileged witness, spectator and genuine player in the 10 year history of EURASHE. As a founding member and based in Brussels - in the heart of Europe - successively as vice-president, president and secretary-general, I have had the honour and pleasure to play a substantial role in the householding of EURASHE. So you can easily imagine that EURASHE meant and means a significant milestone not only in my international career but in my daily life and care too.

Before diving into the historical facts I want to express my sincere gratitude and appreciation for the many interesting and excellent people I met in the various countries and contexts for the real and warm friendship I experienced and for so many unforgettable moments of intellectual and emotional enrichment.

Founding and first years

It all happened and started when two pioneers - Yves Beernaert (B) and Kees van Gageldonk (NL) - people with international interest and focus-were convinced that besides the "liaison committee" - representing the interests of the universities for so many years - a second organization reflecting the interests of some other forms of Higher Education (colleges, polytechnics, universities of professional education) was necessary.

A correct and relevant vision specially as many of those fairly young institutions had no expertise at all in internationalization or were just in the embryonial phase. They could not rely on any support or experience in the representative educational organizations in international context.

The many contacts and efforts of the two initiators resulted in a couple of preparatory meetings and eventually in a founding conference which took place in Patras (Greece) on the 2nd and 3rd February 1990. Finally, the new association was called EURASHE and was based (secretariat) in Brussels. The conference was supported and funded by the European Commission (Task Force) represented by Sandra Pratt who replaced V, Papandreou.

Besides the representatives of the member countries observers from other countries (e.g. France, Spain, Italy) and the secretary-general of the Liaison Committee (Mr. Luttikholt) attended the meeting. The first location of EURASHE was Brussels.

 

Activities

1991: Directory of Higher Education Institutions in Europe (Task Force)

1992: Study: Participation of Higher Education (Colleges, Polytechnics and Professional Universities) in Erasmus Programme (basis for info campaign - Task Force)

1993: Involved in a project about the establishment of a New sector of Higher Education in Czech and Slovak countries (cf. Holland - 12 schools of second education.- DG XXII)

1994 - 1995: Information Campaign in 10 countries in Europe to stimulate cooperation in internationalisation (DG XXII)

1994 - 1995: Execution of 4 projects (DG XXII):

- Staff mobility (IRE)

- Networking in Higher Education (P)

- Training the Academic Managers (DK)

- Liaising Higher Education and the socio-economic world (GR)

1996: European Conference (Brussels) about the new programmes Socrates and Leonardo (B) - (DG XXII)

1998 - 1999: SPA-project: Performing Successful Project Applications

8 seminars: - Praha (CZ) - Tallinn (E) - Katowice (PL)- Viborg (DK) - Antwerp (B) - Osnabruck (GE) - Galway (IRE) - Lisboa (PT)

2000: - Health Education Project

- Quality Assurance Project

 

Other Activities

- Presidium Meetings (2-3)

- Executive Council Meetings (2-3)

- Plenary Council Meeting (1)

 

- Socrates Subcommittee on Higher Education (Commission - consultation)

- Participating or attending Conferences: CRE - EAIE - UNESCO - OECD - CIEE -ACA - etc.

- Newsletters

- Support, consult, advice, lobbying

- cf. brochure, etc.

 

Annual Conferences

1991: Setúbal: Role of Higher Education in the Development of Human Resources

1992: Portsmouth: Credit Transfer and European Collaboration

1993: Copenhagen: Higher Education in Europe after Maastricht

1994: Dublin: Accessing Academic Partnership in Europe

1994: Bruges: Education and Economic Life: Living Apart or Together?

1995: Cyprus: Innovation in European Higher Education

1996: Galway: Quality Assurance in Higher Education

1998: Budapest: Changing Relations between Government and Higher Education in terms of Autonomy, Quality and Finance

1999: Vienna: Quality Assurance in Higher Education

2000: Chania: Higher Education in the 21st Century, Challenges and Potentials

 

Conclusion

According to the list of activities and conferences, EURASHE, being a young and small organization, can be proud of what it has performed in these ten years of existence.

Do not underestimate the quantity of work involved in conducting international projects, seminars or conferences. Generally, it implies hard work, a substantial dose of personal commitment, many times of voluntary nature.

A partial explanation lies in the fact that EURASHE disposes only of a limited staff and limited financial means which reduce seriously its working radius. E.g. the most recent project EURASHE executed - the SPA-project - was a hard enterprise to undertake. This challenging project absorbed all the working forces of EURASHE and left almost no place for other initiatives.

Another striking example of less recent date illustrates the difficulties a small staff organizaton has to face. In the beginning of 1995 - Kees van Gageldonk (NL) the secreary-general at that time fell ill. I was vice-president of EURASHE at that time but my actual job was Director of the International Relations of the Free Higher Education, based in Brussels. So, it was obvious that I took over the secretariat. But at the same time I was in charge of the important and demanding Erasmus campaign in 10 countries in Europe. On top, I had to organize the annual Conference in Bruges (B). You can easily imagine that the combination of all those jobs was too much. But due to a limited staff and financial means it seemed to be the most "plausible" - but certainly not the easiest solution.

But this situation got a permanent character when a year later the Netherlands - as a consequence of personal and internal strategic differences - left EURASHE.

I continued in managing the different responsibilities. But this was only possible for someone based in Brussels, acquainted very well with the European headquarters of education (e.g. DG XXII) and whose income was totally independent from EURASHE support. But obviously this situation was exceptional and far from ideal and could only have a temporary character.

From these examples we can conclude that any organization of certain influence and representation must have at least some staff members to take part in the activities on the educational scene, to conduct some studies and analyses and to fullfill its important representative task. The fact that the great majority of EURASHE representatives (e.g. presidium, executive council) have generally a highly responsible and demanding job in their own country makes it almost impossible to them to take an active part in EURASHE activities although this is of great importance.

So allow me, finally to make some pragmatic recommendations:

. More cooperation in the sense of projects, proposals, seminars, conferences, etc. between the members seems to me necessary to strengthen the internal and external position of EURASHE and to broaden its working horizon. E.g. the information campaign and the SPA seminars prove the positive impact of these activities.

. Therefore, to underline and fortify the cohesion within and the international strength of EURASHE each member should take a cooperation initiative according to national and European needs and supported by EURASHE secretariat.

. EURASHE should try to rely more on qualified cooperators or expert groups -preferably of younger age - who are able to set up and work out expertise sessions etc. (on payment basis).

. A full time secretariat would be of great help to support all activities together with the publication, e.g. 3 times a year, of a newsletter to disseminate relevant EURASHE and other international information among its members.

. Besides we should explore the possibilities of sponsoring. But what can we offer to potential sponsors?

Dear EURASHE friends, I thank you and the many others who were not able to be here today for your comprehension, support and sympathy. My only goal was and is to make EURASHE stronger so that we can cope better with international challenges. Colleges and polytechnics and other EURASHE type institutions deserve a strong EURASHE to explore and develop better its obvious and indeniable opportunities and abilities. I am convinced that EURASHE has not reached its full potential yet.

I like to express my thanks and appreciation to so many among you who served and promoted EURASHE during all these years. So let us start a new decennium. I hope it will be a creative and prosperous one.

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