G7 University: Erasmus produced European generation-Burkhart

Nobody should be excluded from higher-Siegen University rector


Rome - The rector of the University of Siegen, Holger Burkhart, told ANSA in an interview that nobody should be excluded from higher education based on the lack of resources and that Germany's dual education system offers excellent employment opportunities.

The rector was speaking ahead of the event "G7 University - University education for all. Actions for a sustainable future", scheduled to take place in the northern city of Udine on June 29-30.

Over 150 deans, lecturers and students from the G7 countries are expected to take part in the initiative, which is part of the Italian festival of knowledge - 'Conoscenza in Festa'.

Q: Which results do you expect from this G7?

A: I expect a network of university projects, tips for internationalization strategies for my university, new cooperation contacts and a clear signal to Europe from the heart of science.

Q: The motto of the summit of rectors is "university for all" but the German model shows that academic education is not indispensable to access the labor market. What do you think about this slogan?

A: I like the slogan because it urges us to reflect on how far this "for all" can and - in a perspective of fairness - should go. Its function is to push us to discuss openly and rationally the specific elaboration and selection of requirements and limits to access university education.

Q: Building a global citizenship is one of the objectives of academic training, according to the G7: can you explain how university will respond to this challenge? Do you believe that Erasmus made European youths? Can university build Europe?

A: The category of global citizenship, from the perspective of my discipline (practical philosophy) is problematic. We need awareness in civil society and an international network of democratic countries. And each university and each science needs to contribute.

Q: The Erasmus program is said to have produced a generation of young Europeans. Do you think this is true? Can university build Europe?

A: This is true: but it wasn't just the Erasmus program. The many experiences matured along the way have to be added to this. Obviously, university can't make Europe. Nor can politics, without sciences and without universities. And the market alone surely can't do it.

Q: A study by political scientist Cas Mudde sheds light on the fact that it was mainly non-graduates who followed the populists Marine Le Pen and Donald Trump in French and US presidential elections. How do you evaluate this data, does university have a role in helping democracy today and how do you think it should be confronted?

A: Safeguarding and amplifying democratic cohabitation is a duty of the individual and of civil society. From my standpoint, it is also the duty of sciences and in particular of universities. Democracy legitimizes itself through free elections based on a rational process of decision-making. Rational decision-making is not possible without adequate information. For this reason, universities must work harder on the preservation and restoration of connections in democratic cohabitation through the transfer of knowledge.

Q: Italian university is suffering from the lack of adequate resources for research and the brain drain is a well-known phenomenon. What is the situation in Germany?

A: Obviously, increasing incentives is always positive. A significant increase of basic funding is especially necessary for German universities, for many reasons of a political and scientific nature. However, I am convinced that, even without data at hand, the situation in Germany is by far better than the one in Italy. We also lose many young, talented and highly qualified academics who go abroad. But we also see many youths from central, eastern and southern Europe who come to Germany or would like to come.