21-22 June, Piran. For centuries, universities have been considered the main societal hubs for knowledge and learning. For much of their history, the way knowledge is produced and disseminated has been relatively constant. In the recent decades, and even more in past years with the increasing pace of change, these existing tools are being seriously questioned. Nowadays, it seems assured that the sector of higher education is poised to undergo a fundamental transformation. At the same time, higher education institutions are resisting reforms in view of an uncertain future.
Primarily, technological progress and an ever-growing competition in the higher education sector are shaking up the status quo. Not only there are more universities, but also the higher education sector is being diversified. At least in part, the mission of a traditional university is being implemented by a variety of higher education institutions, non-profit distance learning providers, private free online course platforms, and training centres specializing in particular professions. These newcomers to the world of universities are expanding the traditional higher education marketplace. But not only that: when they push for more individually customised and modular degrees or address immediate market needs, they are challenging the existing concept of degrees. Finally, they are disrupting the delivery of knowledge with their use of more or less sophisticated technology. Overall, technology offers incredible opportunities in terms of availability of resources and reducing costs, but it also threatens to undermine some values, such as personal interactions, that have been engrained in traditional universities and indeed societies as we know them. All of this comes at a time when education is expected to prepare for a more prosperous future, as demonstrated for instance by the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations (goal number 4) and the targets contained in the EU’s Europe 2020 Strategy.
Another key pattern characterising the higher education sector globally is the increasing internationalization of higher education institutions. This entails on the one hand, an ever-closer cooperation between them (via mobility programmes, research collaborations, joint degree programmes etc.), but on the other hand also implies a major competition among them.
This conference examines the above outlined trends in the context of the Euro-Mediterranean region. It seeks to engage with the state of the art of the higher education sector in the Euro-Med, explore the interaction between the challenges that preoccupy the South (e.g. massification of higher education, low levels of student mobility flows) and those faced by the North (e.g. diminishing returns on higher education) and outline the ways for overcoming some of the common challenges, such as youth unemployment.
This conference will take place on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the UfM and the EMUNI university, which was established in the Paris Summit for the Mediterranean (2008) as one of priority areas of the UfM with the aim of creating a more integrated higher education area in the region.