“A civilisation that strengthens European democratic values can only endure if it invests in human capital. Universities play a crucial role in society and contribute to the sustainable, resilient and inclusive development, founded on democratic values, of Member States, local communities and regions alike”, Emil Boc, Mayor of Cluj-Napoca (Romania) made these remarks when presenting his opinion on the ‘European Strategy for Universities’ during a European Committee of the Regions (CoR) plenary session.
Boc remarked that we are living in a knowledge economy and hence cities and regions which have a University must use it as a golden mine. The CoR’s opinion points out that the presence of universities gives a significant competitive advantage to the communities hosting them, attracting investment and generating income at local level. In this regard, local and regional authorities can support universities locate some of their activities and structures in smaller towns. The opinion suggests developing, again with the support of local and regional authorities, hybrid campuses that are genuinely accessible to all eligible young people, promote social integration and drive forward the digital transition. In partnership with cities and regions, universities can also develop green campuses and get involved in urban renewal.
Boc’s opinion points out that universities have a crucial role in addressing global challenges: by generating new research knowledge and promoting new innovation, they support the green and digital transitions and the EU’s other key policy goals. He also added that investing in education can provide concrete solutions and tools for tackling some of the major problems faced by cities and regions such as rural exodus and for converting brain drain into brain gain.
Moreover, through Boc’s opinion, the CoR calls for an investment strategy taking account of regional, national and European financing and proposes to strengthen cooperation between the public, private and non-profit sectors. From their part, cities and regions can promote active networking between them, universities, businesses and industry, as well as support cross-border cooperation. “Strategic partnerships need to be built between local and regional authorities and universities, including as regards framing local and regional development strategies. Universities play a crucial role in the development of place-based ecosystems, for which regional smart specialisation strategies have provided a good basis”. Mr. Boc says “Cities and regions act as initiators and facilitators in these ecosystems, identifying opportunities for cooperation, allocating resources for networking and cooperation activities, and supporting the establishment of hubs such as education clusters at local and regional level”, the rapporteur explains.
Finally, when evaluating the progress made towards meeting the objectives of the European Education Area, the opinion points out the need for indicators measuring success at local and regional level.
MEP Michaela Šojdrová (EPP Group) thanked Boc for his contribution and stressed that education is important at the local and regional level.