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By David Bell (Eds.)

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As paradoxical as it may seem, Europe's universities need to gain in self-knowledge before they can move confidently into the future. A number of examples will illustrate the point. Many European universities do not know enough about their own students, other than as statistics fed to the authorities in return for funding. Administrative staff, in extreme cases, tend to be considered as a functional necessity, rather than recognized as potentially efficient perpetrators of university policy. Even academic staff can be portrayed as victims of a strategy which confounds them.

For example, at the beginning of the academic year, it is the task forces who work out problems, as they arise, with the student unions, in particular where the admissions procedure is concerned. Later on, and throughout the academic year, they intervene on behalf of the vice-chancellor in a number of areas: the tutoring and welfare of new students; the administration of contracts with local or central authorities, or with the private sector; the handling of the consequences of these contracts for teaching and research.

There are a number of countries, like Italy, Holland, and Spain, where teachers are still trained in specialized colleges; in other countries such as Greece, it is becoming far more common for the university sector to cater for such candidates. The most striking, and most recent, example of this are the newly-created French Instituts universitaires de formation des maîtres (IUFM); these are university institutions designed to replace the existing—and highly elitist—écoles normales d'institueurs.

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