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History of ENOHE 2002-2013


It all started with an e-mail on February 18 when Kristl Holtrop, the Ombudsman of the Universiteit van Amsterdam, wrote to Josef Leidenfrost, the Student Ombudsman at the Austrian Ministry of Higher Education: “At the moment I am trying to get names and addresses of European ombudsmen working at universities and other institutions of higher education in order to find out whether people are interested in a European network of educational ombudsmen”


The result, about a year later, was the first meeting of what soon became known as the European Network of Ombudsmen in Higher Education (ENOHE) at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Some 40 people from several European countries and from the United States participated in the event in mid-February. The goals were clear: higher education ombudsmen exchanging their experiences through a network.


Colleagues from Spain organised the second annual conference which took place in Madrid at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid and the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid. It was especially the emergence of a European Area of Higher Education which was presenting new challenges to students (and teachers) and hence to ombudsmen across the continent at that time. It was here we had our first sighting of an Australian delegate!

An ENOHE core group meeting in Amsterdam later in the year covered all the essential details of a more formalized organisation such as finances and organisational structures.


“The core group” also prepared the next annual conference in Vienna. Delegates included a representative from our US partner organization, the University and College Ombudsmen Association (UCOA), and from Association of Canadian College and University Ombudspersons (ACCUO). The Reading-based new Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA) had its first public appearance in continental Europe.


The early years were very much characterized by spontaneity. So it was a big relief when at the end of the Vienna conference, Hans Eppenberger from the ETH Zürich and Eugen Teuwsen from the University of Zurich invited ENOHE to come to Switzerland in 2006. This was the first ENOHE conference to have its own homepage and the chance to register electronically - welcome to the 21st century!


It was at the annual conference at the University of Antwerp that we had our first guests from Mexico.  Antwerp also offered the first pre-conference workshop. Occasional papers have been published on the Vienna, Zürich and Antwerp conferences and hence made conclusions accessible for a greater community, in print and via the web.


The second five years in ENOHE’s history made a flying start with the 6th Annual Conference in London in April, entitled “Universities, Students and Justice”. London was yet one more landmark in the history of ENOHE events. With more than 50 parallel sessions and a conference venue some hundreds of meters above sea level in the exclusive Canary Wharf district of London’s East End, the event and the programme were indeed very ambitious.  New participants came from Croatia, France, South Africa and China.


The annual conference – in Hamburg - brought us to the city on the Elbe and to the University of Hamburg where the co-host was a different member of the European “ombudsman family”: the ombudsman of the German Research Council. There was still no avoiding the subject of Bologna, therefore  the conference theme was “Lost in Transition? Defining the Role of Ombudsmen in the Developing Bologna World”.  


A year later ENOHE made another stop in Vienna for its eighth annual conference. This was the first conference organised jointly, in this case by ACCUO, our Canadian partner and, in Austria, the Ombudsman of the National Agency for the Life Long Learning Programme. There were some 100 participants and yet another new country represented - Peru.


For the first time ever, a private university, the Universidad Europea de Madrid, hosted an ENOHE conference. No less a man than the Spanish Minister for Higher Education, Angel Gabilondo, opened the event, making it indeed a very special one. The venue was the Villaviciosa de Odon campus some 30 km outside of Madrid.


Oxford, a city dating back to the Saxons and home to a university since at least the 12th century, was the highlight at the end of the first decade of ENOHE. There were several high-profile speakers, including the Minister for Universities and Science, Rt Hon David Willetts MP.

The half-life of Bologna-related issues is remarkable. Whereas in the 2000s almost everybody was talking about “Bologna” and its daily impact on university life, conversation on higher education is now dominated by the negative consequences of the economic crisis since the banking scandals in 2008 and their mid-and long term impacts also on higher education. Hence the general topic at the Oxford conference was “Rising Tuition Costs, Rising Complaints: Alternative Approaches to Dispute Resolution”.

On 11 April 2013 the "Oxford Resolution" was overwhelmingly passed by the conference delegates.