Council of Europe : Recommendation No. R (2000) 12 on the social sciences and the challenge of transition


Recommendation No. R (2000) 12
of the Committee of Ministers to member states
on the social sciences and the challenge of transition

(Adopted by the Committee of Ministers
on 13 July 2000,
at the 717th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies)


The Committee of Ministers, under the terms of Article 15.b of the Statute of the Council of Europe,

Considering that the aim of the Council of Europe is to achieve a greater unity between its members and that this aim can be pursued notably by common action in cultural matters;

Having regard to the European Cultural Convention;

Having regard to the Vienna Declaration of heads of state and government of the member states of the Council of Europe, October 1993;

Having regard to the Final Declaration and the Action Plan adopted by the Second Summit of heads of state and government of member states of the Council of Europe, October 1997;

Having regard to Recommendation 1264 (1995) of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on the social sciences and the challenge of transition;

Having regard to Recommendation No. R (95) 7 of the Committee of Ministers on brain drain in higher education and research;

Having regard to Recommendation No. R (98) 3 of the Committee of Ministers on access to higher education;

Having regard to Recommendation No. R  (2000) 8 of the Committee of Ministers on the research mission of the university;

Having regard to Recommendations of the Committee of Ministers No. R (84) 13 concerning the situation of foreign students, No. R (85) 21 on mobility of academic staff, No. R (90) 15 with a view to fostering the mobility of researchers, No. R (95) 8 on academic mobility and No. R (96) 7 on regional academic mobility;

Considering that the social sciences play a strategic role in guaranteeing an informed public and in building a society based on democracy;

Bearing in mind that the social sciences represent a convergence point in the process of globalisation taking place as a result of major political upheavals and scientific and technological breakthroughs now occurring worldwide;

Recalling that the process of transition from totalitarian regimes to democracy requires efficient and independent social sciences able to contribute to a true democratic citizenship;

Aware that all democracies have a growing need for the social sciences for their economic and social development, to help their institutions to understand and to solve societal problems, to increase the confidence of their citizens in democracy and to enhance the vigour of the democratic process itself, encompassing electoral politics, government, and civil society;

Aware that those countries having recently made the transition to democracy, have especially great needs because of the speed and depth of the political and economic transformations they have undergone, the particular damage done to the social sciences by the imposition of communist dogma and the suppression of critical views, and because of the needs of society for information, transparency, understanding, analysis and adequate responses to situations emerging as a result of the process of transformation within a changing world;

Considering that freedom and independence are vital to the existence and the development of the social sciences;

Aware that higher education with autonomous university sectors can play a key role in responding to the needs of society for autonomous social sciences to help effectively the process of transition;

Considering that the social sciences can stimulate the development of other university disciplines;

Considering that the higher education sector, in co-operation with national and international organisations, should develop programmes in the field of the social sciences and should stimulate networking and the exchange of expertise, especially through the mobility of academic staff and students;

Considering that, despite the important progress made by the social sciences in recent years in the countries of transition, there is still a necessity for measures to be taken by governments and the higher education and research system in order to strengthen the social sciences in a dialogue with society, to prevent brain drain and to make the contribution of the social sciences to society and its institutions more effective;

Considering that it should be a strategic policy objective to raise the social sciences disciplines to international standards where these are not already met,

1. Recommends that the governments of member states:

a. take steps to implement in their policy, law and practice the principles set out in the appendix to this recommendation;

b. promote implementation of the principles and measures contained in the appendix where this is not the direct responsibility of governments;

c. promote implementation of these measures by universities and other institutions of higher education and research;

d. ensure that this recommendation is distributed as widely as possible among all persons and bodies concerned.

2. Instructs the Secretary General of the Council of Europe to transmit this recommendation to the governments of those States Parties of the European Cultural Convention which are not members of the Council of Europe.


Appendix to Recommendation No. R (2000) 12

1. Scope and context

a. For the purposes of this recommendation, the scope of the social sciences covers disciplines aiming at improving the understanding and functioning of society, as well as its welfare: mainly sociology and anthropology, political science, contemporary history, psychology, educational science, economics and law.

b. For the purposes of this recommendation the term “university” refers to higher education and research institutions in general.

2. Principles of government and university action for the renewal of the social sciences

a. Government action, in co-operation with the universities and professional networks, is required to renew the social sciences and to raise the quality and professionalism, and in many cases the quantity, of both teaching and research.

b. This action should be inspired by the principles of:

- the integrity and independence of the sciences, scientists and the higher education and research institutions;

- the responsibility of scholars to develop and communicate new knowledge to the public as well as to their peers;

- the international nature of knowledge;

- the mission of the university to educate citizens (and the specific role of the socialsciences to participate in education for democratic citizenship);

c. In a mixed higher education system comprising both state and private teaching and research institutions, government institutions are responsible for

- defining the goals and priorities of the system;

- providing a legal framework for non-state initiatives;

- creating synergies between the public and the private sectors;

- promoting the process of quality assurance in teaching and research.

Instruments of this action are outlined below.

3. The disciplines

a. Special care should be taken by universities, subject to rigorous planning, to widen the offer of teaching and research opportunities, by taking advantage of new technologies and by encouraging an interdisciplinary approach.

b. Teaching and learning

i. The full range of the main schools of thought should be taken into consideration in preparing new curricula based on foreign experience.

ii. Quality assurance mechanisms including internal and international evaluation procedures, should be introduced or made more effective in all universities and courses of study.

iii. Transparency and fairness should be ensured in the evaluation of students' performance.

iv. International co-operation in introducing distance learning and multimedia-based programmes and in adapting them to local conditions is an effective route for the modernisation of curricula.

v. Undergraduate students should be offered both specialised and multi-disciplinary programmes of study. Moreover the uncertainties of the labour market and the need for flexibility in studies and careers justify a measure of priority for the latter.

vi. Such broad undergraduate studies should be complemented by specialised postgraduate preparation for careers both in academia and in other areas of work.

vii. Short courses and specially devised programmes including courses of a vocational character should be developed within a lifelong learning perspective.

viii. A new pedagogical approach stressing student-centred education and promoting active student participation in the study process should be promoted.

c. Research

i. Governments should have evaluation and funding procedures to support research in the social sciences.

ii. Funding of research should be based on the following principles:

- equal opportunities should be given to researchers to apply for funding;

- selection should be made by bodies consisting of highly respected experts;

- procedures should be transparent.

iii. Special encouragement should be given to interdisciplinary research focused on the major problems of society, or with prospects of narrowing the differences between disciplines.

iv. Teamwork at local, national and international level should be promoted.

v. Research data must meet high quality requirements and must be collected, processed and distributed according to the scientific community’s standards. Existing information should be available to governments and to the scientific community - subject to the requirements of data protection.

vi. Research funding should include incentives or requirements for the professional dissemination of research results to the public as well as to academic peers.

4. Human resources

a. Staff and experts

i. Governments and universities should be responsible for the availability of high-quality academic staff, which is the single most important condition for the achievement of the goals set out in this recommendation.

ii. In order to attract and keep high-quality staff, governments should provide attractive working conditions able to compete with offers in the labour market.  Special attention is needed for the working conditions and career opportunities of female staff.

iii. As the age pyramid of staff is often top-heavy, it is vital to increase the number of young academic staff by the postgraduate training and recruitment of young academics and researchers.

iv. Young teaching staff should be offered transparent career paths and researchers should be given better research contract opportunities.

v. Special support (including special remuneration schemes) should be provided for young lecturers/researchers who have clearly demonstrated their talent.

b. Students

i. Efforts should be made to meet the heavy demand of students for courses in certain areas of the social sciences, in so far as such courses meet the overall needs of society.

ii. Special care should be taken to improve opportunities for post-graduate students.

iii. Efforts should be made to improve career information and guidance in secondary and higher education.

iv. Advanced doctoral students from central and eastern Europe, training in leading western universities, should be encouraged to carry out research work on their home countries. Doctoral students from western universities should be invited to spend time in carrying out research at central and eastern European universities.

5. Organisation and funding

a. Funding arrangements for the social sciences should reflect the particular public interest in their contribution to the non-market needs of society and particularly to the democratic process.

b. Special funding arrangements should be made to promote restructuring, setting up of libraries and documentation centres.

c. Attention should be given to the training of university administrators.

6. International co-operation in a European and global context

a. International and especially European co-operation should be encouraged as it is vital to overcoming the current problems hindering the renewal of the social sciences. Co-operation should be two-way and should respect the essential intellectual traditions of the new members while encouraging a joint contribution to meeting the challenges of the common future.

b. In their programmes of assistance and co-operation with the new member states in higher education and research, older member states and funding agencies are asked to give the social sciences a status and priority which meets the needs of both the public and private sectors.

c. All possibilities offered by mobility schemes/programmes for academic co-operation such as the European Union programmes (Phare, Socrates, Leonardo, Vth Framework Programme, Tempus), other European organisations' programmes (such as CEPES-Unesco, ESF, CRE, etc.) and regional co-operation programmes (such as Ceepus, Nordplus, Norfa, Eucor, etc.) should be utilised and extended.



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