The Ritzen Manifesto translated

A Manifesto of influential European technocrats, lead by Dutch politician Jo “Op onderwijs kan best nog flink bezuinigd worden” Ritzen, calls for neoliberal reforms in European University system, making universities more hierarchical and tied to business interests.
On June 16th 2010, a group calling themselves the “Expert group on European Universities” wrote a manifesto based on Jo Ritzens (see who Jo Ritzen is below) book “A Chance For European Universities”. This manifesto calls for “urgent action to be taken by universities, EU member states, the European Commission and civil society to empower universities so that they can fully utilize their innovative potential.” Since this group consists of very influential characters in European academia and politics, their ideas might actually be put into practice and in fact are already implemented in many ways by many universities over the last decades. We post it here for you to read and judge yourself. For those unfamiliar or uncomfortable with the expert groups language, I tried to translate it as best as I could into a less complicated vocabulary (written in bold). Please correct me in the comments below if you notice any erroneous translations.



Empower European Universities

Europe is in many respects in a crisis: a financial crisis, one of sustainability and one of demography. For universities there exists also an intellectual crisis, as the complexity of the present world — and how to cope with it – is insufficiently transmitted through teaching to the next generation.

We believe that universities are an important force to address these crises and to find new ways to surmount them.

It’s crisis everywhere in Europe! Governments have difficulty paying their creditors. Investments are risky these days. The labor force is growing old and unwilling to work. Universities can and should help fix these problems, but they can’t if they don’t change some old ways of doing things.

The undersigned plead for urgent action to be taken by universities, EU member states, the European Commission and civil society to empower universities so that they can fully utilize their innovative potential.

Luckily, we have some good ideas about this, which we recommend to Europe. They can easily be remembered with the simple word IMAGIN.

  1. Increase mission differentiation within higher education, along with differentiation of strategies, new governance and financial arrangements. Much of today’s diversity is stuck in regional or national contexts. Increased differentiation is needed in order to integrate the full spectrum of students who aspire to adequate participation in the emerging innovation society. This includes a substantial part of presently untapped talent, like underrepresented groups and life long learners. But European universities must also become more attractive to the best and brightest in order to maintain Europe’s competitive position in a globalizing world.

Innovation: first, let’s make universities focus on their core businesses, which works pretty good for any other enterprise. It eliminates many existing inefficiencies in the universities of today and prepares them for the future: the current crises won’t be fixed by an oversupply of art- and cultureprogrammes or historyclasses in every university; it’s in-no-va-tion we need. So, let’s work towards a division of research&education…and try to braindrain the rest of the world a little bit while we’re at it (everyone’s doing it!)

  1. Mobilize the full potential of universities to engage in innovative teaching and learning and in research. This requires their full autonomy. A professional management approach by universities makes it necessary to separate academic leadership, responsible for high academic standards, and a (supervisory) Board of Trustees. The latter must be independent and responsible for the strategic pursuit of the mission and appoints an independent university leadership for the day-to-day management. The arrangement for public funding of higher education should be assigned to support such autonomy, which includes risk-taking and innovation as well as public accountability.

Management: beware of any participation of the academics in the decisionmaking process. Exclude them as as much as possible. Their participation leads to the obvious results: ivory towers and too much futile education and research, unfit to fix the crises Europe is facing today. It would hinder meaningful academic progress in universities and full utilization of their innovative potential. So, let’s make the academics accountable to rational, professional managers and supervisors — who of course will be subject to public accountability, as long as it doesn’t mingle with their autonomy.

  1. Make European universities and HE systems much more international. This means attracting more students and researchers from Europe itself, but also from other parts of the world. Education should be based on effective learning and geared towards problem solving, preparing them for a global labor market embedded in responsibility for a sustainable future. The development of broad, general education in the introductory part of renovated curricula has the potential to enhance cultural awareness and democratic citizenship among students. Universities themselves need to develop a stronger culture of placement, a sense of responsibility for the destiny of their students in society and in the labour market. In short, European universities should train for globalized leadership.

Global Leadership: If we really really want to maintain and expand Europe’s globalleadership, European universities should take their responsibility and train tomorrows leaders of the world. Taking the best men and women of Europe, or any other place, teaching them a shared set of doctrines at the beginning of their study programme (including preferably a European dimension, as we agreed in the Bologna process ten years ago), we’ll have a chance in creating a worldclass leading citizenship. We really need more of this kind in the labor market.

These recommendations can be better realized when European Governments commit themselves to a financing of universities which is balanced with the social and economic returns.

INcentives: To speed things up; let’s reward the universities financially when they put our plans into practice — and cut their budget when they don’t.

Time has come for creating a differentiated world class system of higher education within the context of the European Higher Education and Research Area. Governments and the EC are requested to take further steps in this direction e.g. by portability of (students) grants and loans over national borders and the introduction of a European Statute for a limited part of European universities.

To sum up: IMAGIN simply means we need to focus on Innovation, MAnagement, Global leadership and INcentives to stimulate these reforms. Now’s the time to create this world class European education system. We kindly request the authorities to convert these ideas into rule of law (for some universities to begin with).

The undersigned are in full agreement on these points, led by a wish to promote the empowerment of Europe’s higher education. We hope to produce a basic guideline to assess the performance of EU member states to empower European universities by June 2011. A first progress report is scheduled to be prepared by June 2012, to be followed by successive progress reports. These documents shall be produced by an NGO (Empower European Universities — EEU) for which the undersigned act as founding members in collaboration with independent correspondents in each of the 27 EU countries.

So, dear member states of Europe; we, the undersigned, will check on you continuously (we have eyes working for us inside your countries as well) to see if you’re implementing these recommendations. Indeed, we already planned to give out a report in 2012, showing the progress each of you made. So, speed is of the essence. Let’s transform these universities quickly!

Educate the next generation so as to cope intellectually, morally and politically with the messiness and complexity of the world”(Yehuda Elkana)

There’s this wise old respected Yugoslavian historian and he agrees with us.

Brussels, June 16 2010


Find the original manifesto here

Who is Jo Ritzen? He is:








Jo Ritzen



A 65 years old economist, social democrat for the Partij van de Arbeid (Labour), former boardmember of various Dutch universities (mainly Maastricht), former Dutch Minister of Education, Vice President of the World Bank’s Development Economics Department from August 1999, and author and co-author of eleven books like the recent book “A Chance for European Universities”, on which the above manifesto is based.

In 1989 he wrote his well-known manifesto “Op onderwijs kan best nog flink bezuinigd worden” (“There’s no problem in cutting the budget for education much more”) – and shortly after the PvdA hired him as Minister of Education. His reputation was somewhat damaged when word got out and parliament asked questions about a huge “hello-bonus” he received in 2003 at the beginning of his term as boardmember of University of Maastricht: 372.000 euros (NRC, 2007). Supposedly this bonus compensated for lost pension years referring to the period he was working as a vice President of the World Bank. However, at the World Bank he continued contributing to his pension, and actually took this 200.000 euro of accumulated pension home to Holland tax-free. The hello-bonus was donated at the same time faculties of Maastricht University were cutting their budgets.

Rumours abound that he is now hired by the Greek government as part of an international advisory committee to advice them how to cut their budgets in education, as part of the EU-imposed austerity programme.

1,213 thoughts on “The Ritzen Manifesto translated

  1. Pingback: “Topsalarissen hoger onderwijs flink gestegen”, in tijden van bezuinigingen « Kritische Studenten Utrecht | 2010

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