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Class Of 2012: Diploma Dilemma For Europe Grads

Recently, a group of overwhelmed instructors at Paris University published an open letter to France's education minister in daily newspaper Liberation to voice their frustration and call for the repeal of a reform that decentralized university control, which they blame for many of the universities' woes.

In Spain, where universities are in even more dire financial straits, the heads of around 50 state-run universities recently made a joint statement warning of "irreparable deterioration" in education as crisis cutbacks choke academic institutions and threaten to hold back economic recovery.

Officials recognize the problem.

The European Commission, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the Federation of European Employers all have studies under way to examine why the continent's universities are failing. The research aims to identify ways to better match universities' output with the needs of employers, and hopefully help improve the job prospects of Europe's graduates.

The failure of Europe's universities is also reflected in their weak showing in the most closely-watched barometer of university performance â¿¿ Shanghai Jiaotong University's annual ranking of the world's universities, which places only two European universities, Oxford and Cambridge, in the top 20. The Shanghai Ranking focuses on research, looking at things such as the number of Nobel Prizes and citations in top academic journals, but experts see a correlation between a faculty's academic caliber and quality of education.

And it's precisely the failings of European university teaching that are now increasingly being put under the microscope.

A recent study in Britain showed that an increasingly large number of graduates are failing to find graduate-level jobs. The Futuretrack survey by Warwick University's Institute for Employment Research showed that the number of graduates still without graduate-level jobs two years after leaving university nearly doubled to 40 percent last year compared to 10 years ago.

Much of the blame can be placed on Europe's economic crisis, but experts say the problem also lies with the universities themselves, which are often accused of imparting theoretical abstraction with little practical application in the real world.

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