This is (more or less) a speech I gave as part of a panel on ‘The Academic Values of the European University and Its Contemporary Relevance’ last week. The conference was organised by the Holy See as part of a seminar within the Bologna Process in European higher education. A longer version will be published in Higher Education in Europe (forthcoming). I was there as a representative of ESIB, the association of students’ unions in Europe.


The culture of the university is something that is ever-evolving, and is moulded by changing events inside and outside the institution. Every generation of students, every intake of staff, contributes to the affirmation and modernisation of the values of their own institution. Thus, through not just our local efforts but also our collective endeavours (academically and in terms of representation), we are simultaneously beneficiaries and contributing collaborative authors of academic values. My intention over the next few minutes is not to define those values in absolute agreed scientific terms – an impossibility, you might say – but to consider some prominent questions from the point of view of the student movement in Europe. I see the usefulness of this morning’s discussion as a chance to reflect on what aspects of university culture transcend the transient, and rise to the status of inter-institutional and transnational values.

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