P. Dobrescu, L. Radu, A. Bârgăoanu

National University of Political Studies and Public Administration (ROMANIA)
The paper aims at analyzing the role played by universities in a post-crisis European Union (EU), where national governments and European institutions are urged to identify viable solutions for equipping tomorrow’s work force with the needed knowledge and skills. Under the pressure exerted by both intra-European (i.e. the dilution of convergence, the polarization of the Member States in a powerful “core” and a weaker “periphery”, the sovereign debt and its corollary – the austerity measures, the dramatic raise of unemployment among young people) and extra-European forces (the pressure of globalization, the emergence of China as a genuine innovator, the creation of new educational paradigms), European higher education area is in the midst of a fundamental reordering. Globalization, innovation and knowledge management, the demographic decline, and budgetary cuts are only a few of today’s realities that European universities must clearly assess and strategically deal with.

How knowledge is distributed, how information circulates, and how innovation is materialized tell us many things about the competitiveness of a certain region. Given their education- and research-oriented nature, universities act as key advocates of competitiveness. They are hubs of innovation and engines of knowledge.

However, the “multi-speed” Europe, understood as a division between the EU-17 (euro zone) and a slower non euro periphery, has been revealed in several instances during the EU’s crisis. The analysts have gone even further and discuss about a periphery of the euro zone, consisting in those member states that did not achieve considerable economic outputs and recovery. This paper is based on the assumption that EU’s member-states are very different in what concerns their innovative potential and that this difference mainly arise from the way universities are managed, positioned, and internationally connected. In the long run, these differences may further aggravate the European convergence issue.
In this regard, the goal of this paper is to shed light on a less visible dimension of the crisis, namely its impact on European universities. The paper also analyses the mid- and long-term impact the crisis-hit higher education may exert on the European competitiveness.

Furthermore, the paper will also provide the audience with a case study consisting in the implementation of a professionally conducted change management process in a Romanian university – the National University of Political Studies and Public Administration (NUPSPA) that is the Romanian “school of government”. Between 2008 and 2012, Romanian higher education has been subject to a belt-tightening exercise, which has had many financial and educational implications. In this context, many universities have been put under scrutiny and have been urged to reinvent themselves. The change management process within NUPSPA involved students, professors, and industry representatives in a constructive process, meant to identify the university’s competitive advantage and its positioning on an ever complex and dynamic market.