Fostering creativity in European higher education

Fostering creativity and innovation through education, it would appear, is the sine qua non for the development of knowledge-based economies and societies. National governments, firms, international agencies and regional organizations, like the European University Association (EUA), have all generated a swag of policies and programs intended to contribute to knowledge creation at the high end of the value chain.

The EUA have recently released their report, Creativity in Higher Education, on the EUA Creativity Project that ran over 2006-2007. The report offers an implicit critique of approaches to learning in higher education establishments, arguing that “the complex questions of the future are not going to be solved ‘by the book’, but by creative, forward looking individuals and groups who are not afraid to question established ideas and are able to cope with the insecurity and uncertainty this entails”. The Report also adds that creativity is linked to creative individuals, but it also results from interaction among individuals.

The Report goes on to offer a number of key challenges and recommendations to higher education institutions. These include more interdisciplinary learning opportunities; greater exposure of those within the academy to the outside world and to risk taking; to engage in more forward looking activities rather than being preoccupied with the past; to promote the idea of the university as a learning organization; and to promote creativity through local, regional, national and European policies.

This is a very particular formulation that not only eschews the value of knowing from and about our past, but it is caught in the paradox of how to promote both sharing and competitiveness. Higher education institutions, along with the faculty and students who study in them, are governed to be highly competitive and increasingly individualized through assessment and benchmarks. So, if creativity and innovation is linked to the development of sharing and other cooperative learning practices, then there are major pedagogical as well as governance challenges ahead facing higher education institutions.

Susan Robertson

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