Doc. 8120

18 May 1998

Access of minorities to higher education

Reply to Recommendation 1353 (1998)

from the Committee of Ministers

adopted on 12 May 1998 at the 631st meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies

The Committee of Ministers has noted with interest Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1353 (1998) on access of minorities to higher education adopted by the Assembly on 27 January 1998.

At its meeting on the following 18-19 February, it brought the Recommendation to the attention of the member States Governments and gave ad hoc terms of reference to the competent committee, namely the Higher Education and Research Committee (CC-HER), to give its opinion on the Recommendation.

The CC-HER’s opinion, the substance of which is shared by the Committee of Ministers, is forwarded to the Assembly as an appendix hereto. It has also been forwarded to the Council for Cultural Co-operation (CDCC) to be taken into account in preparing its programme-budget for 1999.

Appendix to the reply

Opinion by the CC-HER on Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1353 (1998)

on the access of minorities to higher education

1. The CC-HER welcomes Recommendation 1353 and would like to underline the importance of securing equitable access to higher education for members of minority groups.

2. Improving access to higher education particularly for under-represented groups was the goal of the CC-HER project on “Access to Higher Education in Europe” (1992 – 96). The concerns addressed by Recommendation 1353 correspond to those addressed through the Access Project, and the CC-HER is pleased that the Committee of Ministers adopted, on 17 March 1998, Recommendation No. R (98) 3 on access to higher education, which is an important outcome of the project (para. 7.iii). The CC-HER notes with pleasure that good account has been taken of the results of the Access Project in the work on the Parliamentary Assembly recommendation.

3. As for problems concerning the recognition of qualifications held by members of minority groups (para. 3), the CC-HER would like to point out that the methodology of the Council of Europe/UNESCO Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education in the European Region, adopted in Lisbon on 11 April 1997, is also applicable to qualifications issued within parts of national education system directed at special groups, such as minorities.

4. The CC-HER supports the affirmation, in line with the Charter on Regional and Minority Languages, that linguistic policies in higher education take adequate account of the rights of national minorities to use their own language to the widest extent possible and that policies aimed at the assimilation of national minorities into the majority culture be avoided.

5. Recommendation No. R (98) 3 on access to higher education states that steps should be taken “to reorganise curriculum content where appropriate and modify its delivery as necessary to reflect the diversity of a multicultural society, taking account of the views of those from minority cultures”, “to employ flexible language policies in the delivery of the curriculum, where there are large national or regional linguistic minorities” and “to promote a climate of tolerance, solidarity and democracy”. On the specific issue of language policies, it is also worth recalling that Recommendation No. R (95) 8 of the Committee of Ministers on academic mobility states that “States are encouraged to reconsider any laws preventing the use of non-national languages in its higher education institutions”.

6. The language issue is crucial, and the CC-HER would welcome a strong commitment to the teaching of and in regional and minority languages. Education for members of minority groups should have two essential goals: to help preserve and develop the cultural heritage of their group and to allow them to function successfully within the larger society of which they are a part. For this reason, it is also important that members of minority groups have access to the culture and language of the majority groups. The exact balance of teaching in the majority and minority languages will vary from case to case, depending on the size of the minority in question as well as the subject taught. Where entrance examinations are required (para. 6.vi), these should be adapted to take account of the linguistic and cultural background of national or regional minorities. Where the higher education programme in question is given in another language than that in which the applicants have received their primary and secondary education, a possibility should, however, exist to verify their competence in the language of the programme. Countries should be encouraged to make provision for remedial language courses for members of minority groups, where this is required.

7. The CC-HER fully supports the recommendations of paragraphs 6.iii and iv aimed at removing any legal obstacle for minorities to establish their own higher education institutions and the recognition of their qualifications, provided these institutions meet the same quality requirements as other higher education institutions of the country in which they operate. Countries should be encouraged to consider minority institutions meeting these requirements as “belonging to their higher education system” (cf. the Lisbon Recognition Convention, articles VIII.1 and VIII.2).

8. The CC-HER welcomes paragraph 6.ix, which underlines the importance of special courses in minority languages and cultures in the curricula of teacher training institutions. These courses should be aimed not only at members of minority groups, but at all teachers planning to work in minority areas.

9. The CC-HER also welcomes the suggestion in para. 6.xi on monitoring the access of minorities to higher education, as well as their subsequent participation, on the basis of data voluntarily given by the students and in conformity with data protection principles. This corresponds to chapter 9 of Recommendation No. R (98) 3 on access to higher education.

10. The CC-HER is prepared to provide expert assistance to universities and governments on minority access to and participation in higher education (para. 7.i). In this, the CC-HER can draw on the very valuable experience of its Legislative Reform Programme. Any extensive mission in this sense would, however, require additional funds.