EU affairs are - par excellence - a field where practice always triumphs over theory. Sure, but now, the Lisbon Treaty changes everything. Or at least it makes everything more complicated. From now on, universities must add case studies to their degree courses, whilst professionals must with humility learn again the legal ground rules of the post-Lisbon European Union.
When I recruit a young graduate for a job or a traineeship, I tend to tell him or her rather abruptly to "forget everything you've learned". With age I keep myself from saying this, but these words do reflect the truth to a certain extent. Universities - or the top ones at least - indeed offer students a good command of the fundamentals' and of linguistic skills (or multi-linguistic, which is certainly a plus); a respectable array of IT skills (internet research, use of spreadsheets and other IT tools); and a global and clear understanding of how the Union functions between the Commission, the Parliament and the Council.
But students have three shortcomings: too much legalism, a lack of communication skills and few personal ideas
European lobbying is not law. At the best it is law in action. An EU lobbyist does not apply law; he uses it to defend his file. He uses his knowledge of procedures to identify actors, understand the chain of events, and raise the pertinent argument with the right person, at the right moment and in the right place.
Of course, university does not prepare for this. Not more than for communication. It is always a surprise to read the very first drafts of my young colleagues: the texts are always very scholarly, very long, without titles or subtitles or message. Pure academia! Nowadays communication is an integral part of lobbying: one must talk simple, talk clear, adapt messages to interlocutors, and be concrete.
Younger colleagues also give in (bar some rare exceptions) to the most consensual views. Personal ideas? Absolutely none - or few - and a general conviction that "things aren't so bad and it'll go better tomorrow."
It seems clear that universities are nowadays aware of the necessity to reinforce their degree courses with case studies entrusted to professionals. These cases bring the latest technologies (video conferences, online exercises and corrections) into the frame; oblige students to pick sides (NGO or industry advocacy), lead them to identify actors, build a strategy and present it with a view to communicate professionally.