The importance of knowledge and innovative capacity in society is on the rise. Professional practitioners are facing new demands, and this has consequences for universities of applied sciences, both in terms of their curricula and their role in relation to businesses and social institutions. Besides research universities, universities of applied sciences help to train professionals with a research-based attitude, and also help to generate knowledge and make it more accessible, especially in their local area.
Against this background, the Minister has asked the Education Council to make recommendations on how the strengths of higher professional education can be put to good use. The Education Council concentrates on how higher professional education can produce innovative professionals in increasing numbers. To achieve this, the Education Council believes it is necessary to strengthen the core tasks of higher professional education (teaching, research and innovation in professional practice).
Recommendation 1: train people to be professionals with a research attitude
To be able to train highly skilled professionals, it is important that practice-based research in higher professional education is shored up. The Education Council recommends using integrated learning pathways in every study programme to systematically devote attention to the research capacity of students. Practice-based research within higher professional education also demands increases in proportions of teachers with master's degrees and PhDs, and to expand the capacity of professorship posts at universities of applied sciences. Furthermore, higher professional education needs to have access to a readily accessible knowledge infrastructure.
Recommendation 2: strengthen the contribution made by professional practitioners
An optimised interface between education, research and professional practice can only come about if universities of applied science create and maintain more and stronger strategic networks of professional practitioners and also with small businesses within the local area. The Education Council recommends to subsidising the current centres of expertise for the coming period. Furthermore, it also makes sense to encourage other forms of collaboration. Eliminating obstructive regulations, especially for public-private partnership, also needs to be addressed.
Recommendation 3: ensure that higher professional education makes a greater contribution to lifelong learning
Universities of applied sciences could make a more active contribution to lifelong learning. However, greater efforts are needed. Following on from the problem issues identified by the Advisory Committee on Flexible Higher Education for Workers ('Adviescommissie flexibel hoger onderwijs voor werkenden'), the Education Council is in favour of strengthening the offering of education and training for people in work as well as participation in this form of education. This could be done by making better use of the interchanges between education, research and professional practice. Learning in the workplace also needs to be strengthened.