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Žiga Turk on the role of universities at the European University/Business Forum conference in Brussels: “Leading universities can emerge only from a competitive environment”

The Slovenian Minister responsible for development and growth, Dr Žiga Turk, today addressed the European University/Business Forum conference, organised by the European Commission's Directorate-General for Education and Culture with a view to promoting cooperation between universities and the business community.

Dr Turk began his address by underlining that the placement of European universities on the Shanghai list ranking the world's top universities shows that European Governments have been quite successful at creating average universities but not at creating top ranking ones, which, he believes, emerge only in a competitive environment. He therefore judged that countries needed to create competitive environments in which universities have greater freedom in terms of operation, salaries, recruitment and entrepreneurial activities, and stressed that “Openness, innovation and excellence form the basis for the development of universities.”

The Slovenian Minister also spoke about cooperation between universities and the economy, saying, “Cooperation with the economy will develop spontaneously when universities are able and willing to behave more like businesses and less like monasteries.” He also commented on the over-industrialisation of university studies, “Dispensing university studies in an industrial fashion is turning universities into commercial trade schools that blunt the intellect.”

Dr Turk sees the key role of universities as providing that community and interaction which is established between student and teacher through questioning and reflection. Mere knowledge is just as accessible outside universities, via the internet for example.

This forum was organised in response to initiatives from both universities and enterprises in favour of stepping up regular dialogue, exchange, cooperation and mutual learning between the two sectors. This is the first event of this kind; the European Commission is planning to organise further events. Future events will also be dedicated to exchanging best practices. The conference is host to about 150 participants representing the academic and business communities of the European Union.


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Date: 03.03.2008