Scottish universities and SNP meet EU education commissioner in Brussels

30 May 2006

Scottish Universities will today (Tuesday) join Scottish National Party MEP Alyn Smith and Shadow Education Minister Fiona Hyslop MSP for a private round-table with the European Education Commissioner Jan Figel.

Mr Smith has arranged the meeting to demonstrate to the Commissioner the role played by Scottish Universities as European leaders in research and development.

Speaking in advance of the round-table Mr Smith said

"The EU wants to see Europe's Universities be the best and promote the best in new technology and new developments. I want to see Scotland's Universities at the front of that.

"Scottish Universities are world leaders, our scientists and academics are referenced more than those of any other country and the GDP invested in our University based research is the highest per capita in the EU.

"This is a valuable opportunity for individual Scottish Universities to speak directly to the Commission, to explain the high quality work that takes place in Scotland. These Universities will have the chance to make their case for increased funding, on plans for an Institute of Technology and on general reform of Higher Education EU wide.

"Europe is looking for a way forward in Education and in Research and Development. Scotland has a good story to tell the EU. I believe our Universities have a lot to offer that debate and a lot to gain from being here in Brussels. If I can make that happen then hopefully I'm doing a decent shift for Scotland."

Shadow Education and Life Long Learning Minister Fiona Hyslop MSP joined Mr Smith in Brussels for the meeting. Speaking from Brussels she said

"The Commissioner is very keen to meet the Scottish Universities and recognises the potential we have in Scotland.

"Our Universities are some of the best in the world and certainly among the best in Europe. We must aim to retain that standard of excellence across the board and to continue to develop vibrant and innovative Universities and sustain a competitive edge.

"We must address the shortfalls in Scottish Higher Education, though. Not enough Scots students take time to study in other EU countries, and not enough Scots learn the languages they need to work with their European counterparts.

"It is vital that when the EU proposes changes to higher education, changes which only the goodwill of Universities can implement, that Scottish voices are heard clearly at the heart of Europe."

The meeting will discuss European proposals for Education, including the plans for a European Institute of Technology, funding for Scotland from EU's new seven year research programme and the development of a European Higher Education Area.