Challenge for Europe

Globalization and the extension of the European Union to new geographic, political and economic frontiers has yet to change the depth of training in administrative careers and in the responsibility of public affairs in member states. Most European schools and universities continue to build their own curricula and to hire their teaching staff in response to national administrative needs. They are in fact reproducing a divided training system in a unitary field of study, ignoring the new interdependencies between the public sector, the private sector, and the third sector. They are only very partially taking the European scale into consideration, almost as if they were not striving to free themselves from a norm unique to a nation-state that no longer corresponds to the necessities of the common management of political, environmental, and cultural challenges of the 21st century. We are not helping, or at least not yet, in the recent shift among these schools and universities conducted by business schools.

To better understand the evolutions and to pool information, three European Institutions, IDHEAP of Lausanne (Institute for Higher Education in Public Administration), IRG (the Institute for Research and Debate on Governance) and the Master of Public Affairs of Sciences Po Paris, have set up the International Observatory for Training in Public Affairs (OFAP) which has, up to now, taken a census of around 150 institutions and training courses in public affairs worldwide and analyzed them in a database
( They have also begun to reflect across their curricula.

Is it possible to further the achievement of Europe’s need for intercultural training? In any case a start with, a clear objective, is forms part of the very art of governance, defined by Pierre Calame in La Démocratie en Miettes as the art of articulation of great unity amongst great diversity.


Define, put in place, and reproduce common curricula for training adapted to the new realities of European Governance. The wide diversity of national political and administrative cultures of EU27 has thus far made it impossible to set up a European model of public administration that strengthens the European bureaucracy. As Jean-Loup Chappelet and Patrice Porcheron have noted, “cross-fertilization between the programs of ‘old’ and ‘new’ Europe is rare… as none of the administrations in Europe can ignore community law or the operational rules of the EU without harm any longer. Tens of thousands of civil servants from member states are confronted with them daily, but this evolution is slow to find a translation in the content of training programmes in public affairs.” It seems to us that the definition of a common curriculum is one direction in which European pedagogic structures should rapidly evolve, well over those that are already taking place under the framework of existing exchange programmes (Erasmus, Socrates, Jean Monnet…). We ought to promote a shared vision and common references to train national leaders fully integrating the European dimension and implications of their work. We should also train European civil servants capable – beyond the dry formulas of “new public management” – of constructing a new European civil service open to the world, and by refusing to allow a constitution which Pierre Calame calls a “grand hereditary robe, a microcosm of Brussels made up of European civil servants and lobby representatives,” to develop. Civil servants should also be capable of opening up beyond their borders. The initial training of future leaders of public affairs or the permanent training of practitioners of administration and concertation cannot ignore the maturing of European problematics in national policies and the place of Europe in a radically interdependent world.

Decompartmentalize training and open the notion of public affairs to all sectors of economic activity and on all scales of governance. The “public being” and the organizational devices (notably public administration), are too often assimilated and superimposed by the people in charge of training in European countries. Erhard Friedberg denounces this implicit rule. There are few more damaging caricatures than that which posits a rigid divide between ‘public’ and ‘private’ domains at a time when the greatest urgency is to favour spaces of collaboration between different sectors of society. It is becoming necessary to train for public action in real connection to society, and to enlarge the audiences and markets for public affairs training beyond the circles of the public administrative service: practitioners of international relations of industrial and commercial firms, leaders of volountary organizations, and the third sector more generally.

The opportunity to take on a Masters of Public Affairs, Masters of Public Administration, or Masters of Public Policies that offers a training which goes beyond that which is offered by large public administration schools is still rare in Europe. They attempt, in our opinion, to establish a salutary empowerment with respect to public administration, wanting to train, like E. Friedberg proposes, “Not just for a career, but to create a state of mind and public affairs expertise that society a whole desperately needs.” From a governance perspective which promotes the idea of development of multi-actor partnerships, the definition of needs and practical details of public affairs training cannot be left in the hands of just one of these actors: administration. It needs to include the contributions of all the other sectors. This definition does not need to be made under the framework of a single level of governance. It strikes us as essential that the content taught in these types of public affairs training adapts itself advantageously to global scales and interdependencies, overtaking the traditional division between internal and international affairs. They need to integrate the contributions of a diversity of visions, whether they be intra- or extra-European.

Accentuate courses training practitioners rather than technocrats. The training courses of civil servants in Europe are disproportionately devoted to legal disciplines and quantitative approaches. This leads to the production of generations of national or community civil servants convinced of the potential of laws, decrees, and rules to bring solutions that we cannot often solve without the help of concertation, collective action and, in a general sense, real adaptation. “Respect for procedure,” recalls Pierre Calame, “is a demand so pressing in Europe today that we have lost sight, like in all bureaucracies, of the very objectives that are being followed. The means are substituting for the ends. For example, the heavy machinery of invitations to tender or the functional separation between those who are in charge of the definition of policies and those responsible for implementing them. This destroys the capacity for innovation, learning, and long term steering of these processes.” A Europe which does not condemn itself to opposition to change demands more: for civil servants to be as trained in the process policy implementation as in the policy definition, the systematic accounting of needs, possibilities and limits of everyone; to train civil servants in the delicate descent of the steps of a dais.

Determine the curricula which will help prepare for the management of cultural diversity. The development of intercultural skills by leaders of public affairs at different levels – local, national, European – appears today like one of the greatest issues in training:

An issue on the European map to overcome this quasi-evacuation of diversity in Europe. Currently, the community plan appears to assume that everything can be resolved by judiciously choosing pivotal languages and by guaranteeing a system of translations that is both quantitatively and qualitatively satisfactory. Significantly, even the project of the European constitution, which was supposed to bring all of Europe a dose of urgency, does not say a word about diversity, apart from pointing out that the text is translated into 25 languages… Each country and each region of Europe is certainly linked to a common history, but it is also the carrier of its own culture, of particular representations of notions assumed to be common, but which are not necessarily. The same for the rapport with history, religion, the weather, money, hierarchy, norms and rights, collective action, work, “progress,” etc.. Could they be very different from one country to another, from one sub-region to another? The linguistic difference is not just a matter of semantics and lexical equivalency. It also involves deep differences in methods of working, visions of the world, and the architecture of thought. And yet these differences are not just obstacles. A growing number of businesses are reflecting today on the opportunities stemming from cultural diversity if it is well-managed like a factor to increase productivity. Likewise, intra-European diversity could help the European Union to move forward.

An issue at the heart of each of our societies. The differences in representation and approach that we have mentioned on the geocultural map (time management, representation of progress, the question of language and the meaning of words) could also be graphed onto the socio-professional map: finding a common language between a technocrat and a farmer or a researcher is not necessarily easier than finding one between a German and a Chinese person. For example, agreeing on time management, taking into account differences in professional culture in the organization of work so as to not sink concertation processes, is an intercultural dimension of training that we appear to have largely neglected in current curricula.

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