Evolution of Priorities in Higher Education and R&D in the European Union: Case of Poland

Article excerpt

After joining the European Union, many aspects of economic and social development are changing in Poland. Change is necessary in many areas, including the areas of research and education and their links to practice as it is broadly understood practice. Some areas seem neglected by the policy-makers. This article will refer to the question of "two cultures," showing the development priorities present in strategic Polish documents, with the focus mainly on research and higher education policies. It will comprise the following aspects: priority setting referring to "two cultures," identification of different sources of finance, expenditure on particular research areas in Poland, as well as the impact of the Europeanization process on the policy making.

Introduction

C.P. Snow's distinction of two cultures still inspires many academics and practitioners. [Snow C.P., 2007] Arts and humanities, or science, that is a question, one may paraphrase. However is this necessarily a real clash between those two? Are they rather two parts of one complexity? This complexity one may name "knowledge". Nowadays, the world is knowledge-based. In today's globalizing world, knowledge is the real factor of economic and social progress. It is perceived as a chance to sustain development for better developed countries or groups of entities or a chance to achieve better results for less developed ones. Knowledge can be accumulated in the form of human capital, more efficient capital goods, organizational methods, in innovative products or production techniques. [Soete L.; 2006].

Such understanding of knowledge and its forms led to formulation of many policies in different regions of the world. In Europe a new instrument was created--the Lisbon Strategy (revised in 2005) which aimed at strengthening the knowledge based economy and protecting the environment. The set of postulates referring to innovation, research and development, entrepreneurship, competitiveness and environmental protection was incorporated by all European Union Member States in their national policies.

The Lisbon goals also created a higher education area. The so-called Bologna Process, based on the method of open coordination, touches each university in the European Union. The process is deep-rooted in European tradition, history and identity.

Two processes, one aimed at creating the European Research Area (ERA) and another at the European Higher Education Area (EHEA), strongly influenced the choice of priorities in majority of European countries. The creation of those two areas is supported by legal and financial instruments, and each of them includes its own list of objectives. In order to be within a mainstream policy, the Member States (including the New Member States) have to balance and adjust the education and research priorities in their own countries to compliment those set up at the European level. The following section of the article will refer to the European Union solutions adopted in the higher education and research and development areas.

1. The European Union Context

1.1. European Higher Education Area and the Bologna Process

The European Union continuously integrates different policy areas, including education policy. That policy includes at least three aspects: one related to the knowledge, competences and skills gaining by each individual, the second related to labour market needs and the knowledge-based economy and the third related to the delivery of education as a public good and service.

In the 1990s one major problem started to dominate the EU economy: jobless growth. Besides, insufficient competences and skills of employees were identified as well as the relatively low level of entrepreneurship in some Member States when compared to some non-European countries. In order to answer to the problem of insufficient job creation and mobility of workers in Europe, legal and financial instruments were provided. …