The following appeared in the May/June issue of International Educator magazine.
The global financial crisis has affected governments, corporations, Mom and Pop stores, nonprofit organizations—and even higher education systems. In Europe, some countries have had more publicized struggles—like Greece and Ireland—while others—like Italy and Portugal—have come to the forefront more recently.
What does this mean for the next generation of students and scholars in these nations? Some students and recent graduates, understandably, don't have a rosy outlook of what their futures hold. Some academics are holding onto hope that their nation's higher education system will improve while some are looking for greener pastures overseas.
Whether or not individual Europeans are jaded or still have hope in the higher education system in their countries, one thing is clear: things have got to change. The lesson that has been learned is that what has always been done isn't a guarantee for success—not anymore. Innovation on how to improve these systems is now required.
The possibilities are limitless. Some institutions are increasing fees (or charging them for the first time) for domestic students. Some are focusing more on offering graduate degrees (which brings in more funding), ramping up foreign student recruitment efforts, making better connections to degrees and the workforce, and diversifying sources of funding through collaborations with industry.
"I'm not afraid of storms, for I'm learning to sail my ship." - Aeschylus
So, while the financial crisis has cast a dark cloud that has dampened spirits, it is bound to be short lived. There is a silver lining: moving forward, Europeans will be heading into the future with their eyes wide open for new opportunities for innovation to keep their higher education systems not only afloat but thriving.