American higher education is the most important innovation since World War II, said Stephan Bieri, a former chief executive of the union of Swiss governmental universities' research institutions, but he wonders how long and how many of the institutions that emerged here then can survive now.
As part of an ongoing initiative to infuse a global perspective throughout its curriculum, RU's College of Business and Economics leadership team hosted Bieri, current chairman of the scientific advisory board at Virginia Tech’s Virginia Bioinformatics Institute, on campus for a presentation on Oct. 23 in the COBE conference room.
"I was at Berkeley years ago and again just recently," Bieri said when detailing the toll taken by the recent financial crisis on the University of California's research institutions. "It is no more the Berkeley I knew."
By contrast, Bieri recounted the dramatic transformation of the European higher education system that began with the 1999 Bologna Reforms, a series of ministerial-level agreements among European countries designed to ensure comparability in the standards and quality of higher education qualifications.
"The United States system as we admire it provided us the impetus to our new system," Bieri said. "The entire system is now open to the outside: Europe, Africa and the United States. There are now more choices, and finally research is counting."
Bieri, who started his career in the private sector and was CEO of a utility and president of an international general contractor, called for a "universitas with horizontal access and interfaces between disciplines and a culture not bound by discipline."
The current corporate strategy of buying successful start-ups as opposed to investing in corporate research and development is a worrisome trend, Bieri told his audience of faculty members in the first formal luncheon in the COBE third-floor conference room.
COBE Dean Faye W. Gilbert said, "The global perspective Dr. Bieri shared with us on education issues is invaluable as we at COBE look to make the realities and opportunities come alive for our students who will be competing in the international marketplace."