Statsminister Lars Løkke Rasmussens tale til afslutningsceremonien ved European University Association’s årsmøde og 10 års jubilæumsmøde på Aarhus Universitet den 15. april 2011

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President of the European University Assosiation, rectors and university leaders, other distinguished guests.

First of all, thank you José Manuel for your excellent speech.

I would also like to offer my congratulations to the European University Association on it’s 10th anniversary.

I am proud that you have chosen to have this conference here at Aarhus University.

* * *

We all share a vision for Europe. A vision of Europe as a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy delivering high levels of employment, productivity and social cohesion. And as President of the European Commission you, José Manuel, play a very important role in this work.

To fulfill this vision we need excellent European universities, which will make Europe an attractive destination for the best researchers and the best students in the world.

However, in Europe, as in the rest of the world, we face fundamental economic challenges. The economic recovery is gaining ground, but most European countries are still experiencing growth rates that fall well below the levels in Asia and other emerging economic centers.

After the international economic crisis we face a serious growth challenge – and at the same time the challenge of consolidating our public finances.

The answer to both challenges is forward-looking reforms.

To enhance growth we must invest in research, development and education. We must secure excellent universities. But we also need the money before spending them. Therefore we need reforms. To improve our long-term growth potential and to secure sound public finances.

In this week the Danish Government has put forward a Reform Plan which implies fiscal balance in 2020:

We will phase out our voluntary early retirement pension scheme in order to raise the work supply. We will use our state education grant scheme more proactively to encourage students to complete their studies and start working.
We will reform disability pensions and flexi-job schemes.

Also, we will reform our Primary school system to ensure better results through clear national goals and more freedom to schools and teachers.
And we will increase competition in different sectors and improve public-private cooperation in delivering welfare services.

The Reform plan creates room for giving special priority to health, education and research without having to cut core welfare services.

And the Reform Plan ensures that we can maintain the Barcelona target of public allocations to research and development of 1 per cent of GDP also in the future.

I am confident that this Reform Plan will contribute to making Danish universities attractive for the best researchers and students of the world.

* * *

We have set the goal that in 2020, at least one Danish university should be in Europe’s top 10. I believe that having one university in the European top 10 will raise the quality of all Danish universities.

A wide range of European and Danish universities are already making a great effort to become attractive destinations for the best researchers and students in the world. But I believe we can do better.

Let me suggest three guidelines for further improvement:

Firstly, access to education: All talented European young people should have access to educational training at the highest international level. Both in terms of research training and elite programs that target the wider job market.

Secondly, the effort at the universities: European countries and the EU must continue to support the universities' efforts to attract and develop talented young people for their education and research programs. That is precisely what the EU 2020 Strategy points towards.

And thirdly, better cooperation between European universities. Cooperation on joint initiatives for the elite is crucial to enhancing the quality of the European educational landscape. It is crucial to attracting global talent. And it is crucial for mobility between universities and for providing good career opportunities.

Access to education. Continued support to the universities. Better cooperation within Europe. These are my three guidelines to a strategy for Europe as an attractive research destination.

And the foundation of this strategy must be ambitious reforms to secure a healthy economy and a lasting economic growth. Let me stress: Reforming our societies is the sound long-time basis for investment in research, development and education.

Thank you for your attention.

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