Universities in Transition: Danube Rectors Conference in Krems

International university experts exchanged experiences and perspectives

Krems (kpr). This year, for the first time, Danube University Krems was in charge of staging the annual meeting of the Danube Rectors Conference (DRC) from September 23 to 25, 2007. More than 120 participants from 20 countries embraced the lectures and workshops, which featured highly acclaimed experts. The key terms, which were at the center of attention in the course of discussions regarding structural changes, were diversification, strategic partnerships, and lifelong learning.

In his opening speech, Georg Winckler, rector of the University of Vienna and president of the European University Association (EUA), pointed out the requirements facing European universities today.

According to Winckler, education with more focus on professions, strategic regional partnerships, and clear profiles are the challenges, if European universities wish to remain competitive across international collegiate lines.

University Network of the Danube Region

The Danube Rectors Conference includes 50 universities from 13 central and eastern European nations. Meetings are held on a regular basis in order to develop projects together and to support research and teaching in the Danube Region. In the future, the DRC projects increasing its communication to the members of the universities concerning the activities of this platform, in order to strengthen and further expand the network.

In the course of the annual conference, the DRC presidency is re-determined each year. In 2007/2008, Danube University Krems will chair the DRC, with rector Heinrich Kern acting as president.

The Growth Market in Education

Aside from E-learning, university management, and internationalization, one of the core issues was continuing education. In the USA, e.g., an approximate 4.9 percent of the 35 to 39 year olds are enrolled in lifelong learning programs, whereas a mere 1.8 percent of Europeans of the same age group participate in programs of continuing education. The DRC hopes to provide new impulses during the presidency of Danube University Krems.

In this context, the Danube University presented the status quo of programs in continuing education at Austrian Universities, as well as future models. Market orientation and the development of universities from a "one-stop university" to a "lifelong learning partner" were discussed. Furthermore, the DRC passed a resolution, providing for a separate meeting dedicated to the topic in 2008, and a project platform for continuing education shall be created. All lecturers concurred in stating that continuing education represents an extensive growth market and that it will become a significant part of universities´┐Ż' programs. So far, lifelong learning has not been an issue considered by many universities, Pat Davies of the European Network of Lifelong Learning (EUCEN) pointed out in Krems.

The Challenge of University Management

Aside from measures regarding the contents, the major reforms conducted on a university level during the past years pose a large challenge to the management, especially. The English university expert, John Davies, stressed the necessity of redistributing the parts and tasks of heads of universities, also, questioning the efficiency of certain committees, if necessary. The topics of personnel development, result-based salaries, and coaching on a management level, were discussed during the sessions.

In the area of E-learning, the examples that were presented illustrated that the universities´┐Ż' implementation of new media is still moving along vastly different levels. The participants gained a lot, especially from the exchange of experiences. At the same time, the E-learning experts initiated a common open-source project in Krems, asking all members of the DRC to contribute to the development of the project.

Supporting International Partnerships

The International Relations Officers of the various DRC universities also had the opportunity of exchanging experiences regarding student and teacher mobility, as well as in regard to joint programs.

During the twelve months of its presidency and as central European competence center, the Danube University will host and realize numerous projects and events on all core issues mentioned.

Find more information on the conference at www.donau-uni.ac.at/drc

Homepage of the Danube Rectors Conference: http://drc.uni-mb.si


Please direct your questions to:

Katharina Prager, Ph.D.

Department for Continuing Education Research and Educational Management

Danube University Krems

Tel. +43 (0)2732 893-2512