“The Paris declaration of March 2015 promoting citizenship and the common values of freedom, tolerance and non-discrimination through education underlines the important role of security in education and to the benefit of social inclusion. I call on all stakeholders to help implementing the goals of this important Declaration. I am confident that sharing best-practises in this Conference contributes to that effect.”

Jet Bussemaker, Dutch Minister of Education Culture & Science

The attacks in Paris, Copenhagen and Brussels have placed the issue of safety and security firmly on everyone’s agenda, including those of the Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in Europe. The Paris declaration reaffirms the mobilisation of education to safeguard the shared fundamental values in our societies and calls for further efforts to strengthen the key contribution education can make towards personal development, social inclusion and participation. Openness and accessibility are intrinsical values of the Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) of Europe. Consequently, we must clearly define our social remit, the core values associated with it and how far we can and wish to go to protect them.

Safe and Open?

The transfer of knowledge and values, personal growth and scientific progress require an open approach and the courage to experiment. It also requires a safe learning and working environment. The crucial but complex question therefore is how on the one hand you foster this openness and on the other provide a secure environment. Which risks do we consider acceptable and which are we on no account prepared to take?

This means that these choices must be made. Do we know why students drop out? What do we do if people act in a way which gives us cause for concern? Do we want to know what goes on online? How far do we want our security measures to go? Which experts do we listen to, what does this actually cost and is it effective? Do we simply respond to an emergency situation or incident or are we prepared for such an event? How do we explain and justify this? In this current climate, more than ever it is time to share and exchange knowledge to a greater extent. And for us as the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) to decide how to proceed in the context of current threats that go beyond our national borders or are even without borders.

The Dutch approach

Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) have a unique ‘open’ character, due to their social assignment, both in physical space and in mentality. This open character is vital to create the optimal setting to learn, teach and research. At the same time HEIs have to offer a safe environment to their students, teachers, researchers and staff. In the Netherlands, this challenge is, since 2010, addressed by the program ‘Safe and Open Higher Education’, a cooperation of HEIs throughout the Netherlands.

This program aims to support HEIs with an integrated approach to security issues by combining expertise, acting in concert, and providing resources, tools and processes to monitor risks and making them manageable in a sustainable way. Often incidents and measures result in the simultaneous existence of multiple management systems for various security aspects within the same institution and no general overview, hindering an approach based on cohesion and synergy. However, different safety & security aspects share common ground and affect one another.

Therefore, the participants in this program have developed an integrated safety & security management system for HEIs can use to help design their security systems with wich board members can carefully weight choises to balance safety and openness. The manual can be seen as a framework that provides references to practical approaches for various sub-areas where synergy can be achieved via activities including risk analysis, selection of measures, organisation, implementation, documentation, evaluation and reporting. It also contains a questionnaire for self-assessment.