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Krise der Universitäten in Europa – was nun?

Tausch, Arno (2010): Krise der Universitäten in Europa – was nun?

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Abstract

This article attempts to develop a perspective for radical reform of the Austrian and European universities. The article takes up anew a simple idea, already presented in an article in the widely circulated European political magazine “Die Zukunft” (Vienna) in 1991, proposing full University democracy, implying free elections of the university governing bodies, combined with a net household income per capita income weighted fully-fledged and credit supported tuition system. Another "pillar" of a European university reform would imply stronger rewards for publications in peer-reviewed international journals.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the continental European university has become the last bastion of the inefficient command economy. Only a thorough Anglo-American reform perspective can nowadays save the continental European University from the abyss of the implosion of the system.

A "Scandinavian" alternative, based on a government-taxation-funded reform would be possible only in principle, but under the present political economic conditions in continental Europe, too many special interests of small stakeholders in the political system block such an alternative. The harsh and bitter predictions of the 1991 article came true all too quickly - the empty “shelves” in the European command economy University system remind us of the all too well-known economics of shortage, Janos Kornai style.

Our empirical multiple regressions, based on OECD and standard international higher education data show that the introduction of tuition fees would have a major impact on the performance criteria of the University system according to different operationalizations of the University of Shanghai global rankings. Our empirical calculations also show that tuition fees and a strong role of the private sector and its contributions to university life are the most efficient strategy to achieve a high number of world class universities and high number of University graduates per age cohort, controlling for the effects of development level.

Additional partial correlations (again keeping constant the development level) also show that the level of annual tuition fees are also highly and significantly associated with other societal performance criteria, like the predictable recovery from the current crisis (based on IMF data), indicators of a liberal society, and indicators of avoiding passive globalization.

It is also true that a high level of social protection (as measured by the OECD statistics on public social expenditures per GDP), does not impede a higher proportion of public educational expenditure on tertiary education. But it is also true that the political culture of social protection almost automatically tends to regard the university system as a preserve of the State, and culturally excludes new models of private funding, oriented at the best-practice Anglo-American model.

Our data also analyse current global entrance examinations regimes to universities around the world, as well as the efficiency ratios of the amount of the estimated purchasing power of salaries of researchers and scientists to the status of a country as a headquarter of global universities (per capita number of "world class Universities"). While the author personally believes that numerus clausus regimes, knock-out tests in the studies orientation phase, and other access restrictions are the wrong way to guarantee a proper university landscape in a mature capitalistic society, the list of international tests and filtering by state authorities already in existence is really impressive, and – paradoxically enough for the proponents of a Scandinavian state oriented alternative higher education policy – includes many Scandinavian countries.

So in effect, there is no alternative to the Anglo-Americanization of our continental European universities. Free access, functioning capitalist universities, paid at least partially by their consumers – the students - are essential to the "normal" functioning of a free, capitalist society. The continental European failure to reform its Universities deepens the societal inertia, parochialism, xenophobia and racism in our continent. The present command economic University system, in addition, excludes an atmosphere of social responsibility, and creates a mentality of the command economy and party cadres.

The reorganization of the continental European and outdated “habilitation procedure”, creating an intellectual climate of serfdom of assistant professors to their masters – the professors - and its substitution by an innovation oriented impact analysis of the intellectual production of candidates in leading peer reviewed journals or international book publishing would be also a major step towards a solution of the continental European University crisis.

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