Promoting the civic and democratic role of higher education: the next challenge for the EHEA?

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Over two decades, the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) has developed reforms on higher education on the basis of the values of freedom of expression, academic freedom and institutional autonomy, independent students’ unions, and free movement for students and staff. The challenge was not helped by the economic crisis which created challenges for public funding of higher education institutions, pressure for enhanced accountability, and pressure on institutions to directly respond to economic priorities. In recent years, we have also been faced with a political crisis which has witnessed the growth of anti-establishment populist politics and a level of political volatility that has not been seen for generations. This has led to a fear we are in the midst of ‘post-truth’ politics in which appeals are based on raw emotion amplified uncritically through social media. Higher education institutions, from their cloistered origins to their current more public role, have always had knowledge and understanding at their heart, but that role now has to focus on more than the knowledge economy and refocus on its civic and democratic role. The paper will argue that, in the face of current challenges, the EHEA should renew its commitment to its core principles by recognizing the importance of its civic and social role, and restating the importance of the free and informed exchange of ideas and knowledge that lie at the heart of democratic culture and society, and are central to the third mission of universities.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEuropean Higher Education Area: the impact of past and future politics
EditorsAdrian Curaj, Ligia Deca, Remus Pricopie
Place of PublicationUSA
Number of pages9
ISBN (Electronic)9783319774077
ISBN (Print)9783319774060
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jul 2018


  • higher education
  • Europe
  • Bologna Process
  • civic role
  • democratic education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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