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17 September 2016

The HECTIC project was formulated and presented to the European Commission as an attempt to bridge the gap between EU policies and university strategies.

This explains the title of the project ‘EU Policies and Strategic Change for eLearning in Universities’. We got Commission approval and started working at the end of February 2001 when the project preparation group elaborated the design into a project plan. A group of university rectors or senior academics associated with the rectors would meet together with experts in ICT/ODL in Higher Education, officers of relevant offices of the European Commission and the project group in an intensive two-day workshop (realized 16-18 September 2001) to discuss successively the actual situation with regard to the introduction of ICTs in universities, and how far this has proceeded compared with some years ago; the developments in university tasks and performance which the participants expect to be needed in the coming 5-10 years with respect to the recently established European policy objectives; whether universities would be able to manage such change; and what is lacking to achieve change; the workshop would then be asked how to deal with the challenges defined and how the European Union and National authorities can assist in facilitating universities to respond. These discussions would result in conclusions and recommendations which will be circulated to a wider group of 150-200 university leaders and ICT/ODL experts to check the validity of the work in the small group of some 40 workshop participants. After this check the report will be revised, published and presented to the European Commission and to the European universities.
The workshop concluded that very important work has been done, without and with national or EU support, by many enthusiastic academics in many subject areas, but that most of these results had failed to have a sustainable impact outside their subject areas and on their institutions’ policies.
The conclusion followed that most European universities are still far from having implemented the use of ICTs in their teaching and learning and other main processes, and this certainly if strategic issues like considering the pedagogic opportunities and effects of the use of ICTs are taken into account. These would enable universities to cater for new student populations including adult learners in addition to better serving the usual ones. Strategic decisions include setting of priorities and will need strategy implementation usually of a longer duration than the terms of office of rectors. On the other hand they will position the university in its local, regional, national and international context which fit the strengths and values of the university: in its market niche.
The workshop also concluded that expectations of national and EU politicians and the capabilities to respond of the universities are still far apart. Universities are accused of not wanting to respond while in reality the situation is much more complex. A permanent dialogue with real commitment from both sides, between political authorities and university leaders resulting in the identification of the real obstacles and finding ways to take them away would be needed to arrive at the situation that all actors aspire: a European Higher Education fully capable to educate and train all in need of such education, inside and from outside Europe, in open competition with market players from USA, Australia, etc, but loyal to the practices, norms and values that have made European universities unique.

Coordinator: Coimbra Group: knudsen[at]coimbra-group.eu ; J.haywood[at]ed.ac.uk ; P.Floor[at]BB.Leidenuniv.nl