MPs tell Europe: Leave higher education alone

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The European Commission (EC) must stop 'bureaucratising' plans to improve the continent's higher education provision, MPs have said.

Today's report from the House of Commons' education and select committee tackles the Bologna process, Europe's plan to create a European higher education area.

While urging the British government to engage in the Bologna plans, MPs are forthright in their insistence that the EC must stay out of the development of the higher education initiative.

"I am deeply concerned about the expanding influence of the EC. The role of the EC must be constrained if the Bologna process is to be successful," committee chairman Barry Sheerman said.

"The Bologna process must be led by higher education institutions, not the EC, and must keep the principle of university autonomy at the heart of the process."

The report's criticisms of the EC have been widely welcomed by lecturers, students and the Europe Unit, a government-linked body representing the UK's higher education sector.

Professor Drummond Bone of the Europe Unit backed the principle of "institutional autonomy", saying it was "central to the success of the process".

"We are pleased the committee champions the benefits of UK participation in the Bologna process," he added.

The University and College Union (UCU) added its support to the report's findings, but warned that consultation of workers on the ground was required to make sure the Bologna process delivers its goals successfully.

"Only the full involvement of academic and support staff can deliver the Bologna goals where it counts, at institutional level where our members work," UCU joint general secretary Sally Hunt said.

Meanwhile the National Union of Students' education spokesperson, Wes Streeting, said that students stood to benefit from the Bologna process.

"Students today and in the future will be competing for jobs in a global market place and so it is vital that engaging them in the Bologna process is prioritised," he commented.

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