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Lesley Wilson

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UPMC Facts and Figures

  • 31,000 students of which 20 percent are international
  • 3,000 doctoral candidates
  • 9,600 in staff, of which 3,750 are professor-researchers
  • 100 research laboratories
  • 8 main teaching hospitals
  • 8,500 publications per year (approx. 11% of the publication in France)
  • Ranked the top university in France and 6th in Europe by both Shanghai and Taiwan.
  • 4th in the world for mathematics
  • Member of three of the five the European innovation networks, in: Climate, ICT, and Health


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Lesley Wilson

In Her Own Words

That Magic Moment

In 1988-89, I was in the right place at the right time to really make a difference. With the Berlin Wall coming down, I was in Brussels, and was asked to look into establishing TEMPUS—a program similar to ERASMUS—focused on universities in the new democracies of Central and Eastern Europe. Things were changing quickly, and the visionary leaders were often from the universities. They were exciting times.

The Challenges to Come

Today we have cooperation and excellence-driven competition in a more diversified higher education landscape within the EU. However, we are facing global issues that require globally cooperative research and the development of a worldwide research community, in the interests of all, especially during these difficult economic times.


I started working with UPMC in the mid-90’s, with the development of the Romanian higher education system during my years as Director of UNESCO’s European Centre for Higher Education. Over the last decade, there has been close cooperation with Jean Chambaz, who established and chaired the EUA’s Council for Doctoral Education, tirelessly promoting a more structured doctoral education in Europe. I was also privileged to serve on UPMC’s Strategic Orientation Committee for a short period.

For the Up & Coming

Do what you’re passionate about, but get out and see the world! Learning about a new culture, language and context will give you a more open mind. This in turn will better equip you to acquire new skills, manage your career and other opportunities.


Lesley Wilson

Presented by Danielle Seilhean, Vice President International Relations


Lesley Wilson has dedicated her life to building the European research and higher education.


A British citizen, though first and foremost Scottish, Lesley Wilson obtained a Master of Arts in History, French Language and Literature, and Political Science at the University of Glasgow. She was then given an award that included an academic stay at the University of Aix en- Provence. At the end of this master’s, she joined the Institute of Advanced European Studies at the Robert Schumann University in Strasbourg and immediately started leading a research project on the labor market for young researchers in Europe, under the supervision of Guy Ourisson.


She joined the German research board, where, for eight years in Cologne, she was a scientific advisor responsible for various analysis and evaluation.


In 1988, Lesley Wilson participated in the implementation of the ERASMUS program in Brussels for research projects and support for European networks. In 1989, she became the first director of the TEMPUS Office, established by the commission after the fall of the Berlin Wall to manage large budgets for European cooperation in the field of higher education. More than twenty years later, the program continues with the procedures she put in place at the time. What a beautiful—and rare—continuity, which also proves its efficiency.


She went back to Strasbourg in 1994, to create a strategic science policy unit within the European Science Foundation, and then on to Bucharest to lead the European Centre for Higher Education at UNESCO. For four years, she would be responsible for the strategy development and cooperation projects. Her cross-European career continued in 1999, when she joined the European Foundation for Vocational Training in Turin as director of strategy and planning where she was in charge of relations between the Turin agency and the institutions in Brussels.


This international career of more than twenty years has allowed her acquire an intimate knowledge of the European landscape of higher education and research that is both accurate and comprehensive, and encompasses its upheavals and debates on the Bologna process or the Lisbon Strategy. She could have become discouraged, skeptical, cynical or a fatalist, as many observers did….but not Wilson. She has an unshakable belief in the necessity and possibility of building Europe, not on normative bureaucratic plans that are disconnected from reality, but on projects based on its historical, cultural, and institutional diversity, and by giving voice to those on the ground.


It is this conviction which probably led to her responding positively to Eric Froment’s offer to become the new secretary general of the European University Association, EUA, created in 2001. Rectors and university presidents, the members of the board of the EUA, are very busy people. Lesley Wilson would play a key role in bringing these universities together to discuss and identify key positions in respect to each of their histories, their cultures, and therefore their diversity.


With Wilson at the helm, the EUA has rapidly established itself as the voice of European universities in the EU institutions and in the international arena. The association has more than 850 universities in 46 countries of our continent. It has become a major player in European politics in education and research. Its main purpose is to contribute to the development of a common space for higher education and research.


Supported by Andrée Sursock, John Smith and a small team, Lesley Wilson has been extremely active in the service of European universities during the last 10 years.


The credibility of the EUA is based on an analysis of field studies that prepare its strategic positions. Every two years, the Trends reports are the most reliable reports on the exact state of the application of the Bologna reforms, with a response rate of over 80 percent.


Under her leadership, the EUA has completed and published a large number of studies on essential topics for European university policy. She played a key role in European quality policy, working with partners to write common quality standards. Lesley Wilson also played an essential part in the creation of a Charter for Continuing Education in Europe.


On the basis of a project involving 59 universities in doctoral education, the EUA has been a major player in the development of the Salzburg principles for the doctorate in 2005, by defining a common framework while recognizing the diversity of models to be implemented, as opposed to using a single European PhD model. Following this, Lesley Wilson worked to create, within the EUA, the Council for Doctoral Education (CDE) discussion platform and service for the university doctorate, which she asked President Jean Chambaz to lead. These actions accelerated the revolution in doctoral studies at the continental scale. In a few years, we have gone from 10 percent to more than 50 percent of universities that have doctoral schools.


The role of the EUA is also crucial for: sustainable funding and university governance, voicing our criticisms of simplistic and biased university rankings that continue to multiply, and the necessary diversification of establishments for which Lesley Wilson is a dedicated advocate.


Traveling the world, she has built strong connections with university associations in Asia, Australia, Latin America, Africa and North America in a transatlantic dialogue marked by coopetition—a combination of cooperation and competition—a favorite of Debra Stewart, president of the American Council of Graduate Schools , and also a Doctor Honoris Causa of UPMC.


Lesley Wilson has consistently ensured the participation of French universities and the contribution of the French point of view in defining the principles of EUA, though with limited success due to insufficient awareness within French universities of European activity.


The wellspring of Lesley Wilson’s energy remains a mystery. Perhaps her short visits to the South of France have something to do with it. Her affability and self-control hide a political sense and a determination that is complemented by her remarkable knowledge of cultures and political systems. You should see her drafting a declaration, hunting for just the right words to avoid misinterpretations in English, French and German.


The title of Doctor Honoris Causa distinguishes this European citizen and activist for the role of universities as a lever for economic, social and cultural development in Europe. She has adopted France and is a friend to UPMC.