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2019-2020, another crucial academic year for the European Higher Education and the Research and Innovation Areas

30 August 2019

Ludovic Thilly and Jürgen Barkhoff
Chair and Vice-Chair of the Coimbra Group Executive Board


We concluded the July 2019 editorial with a call for a “new deal for European Higher Education and Research Areas” and the best Erasmus+ and Horizon Europe programmes. Indeed, within the next twelve months we will see the final discussion rounds and decisions on these two important programmes and the launch of the second call of the pilot phase for European Universities Alliances. In addition, two major political events will also more or less coincide at the start of the 2019-2020 academic year: the appointment of a new European Commission for the following five years and the extended BREXIT deadline. All these developments will impact, like never before, the European Higher Education and the Research and Innovation landscapes, including the Coimbra Group Universities.

Over the past years, Coimbra Group actors have been involved in the preparation of these important programmes and events: building on all this accumulated experience, the Executive Board decided to extend the 2018-2019 strategic priorities to 2019-2020:

  1. maintaining Coimbra Group advocacy activities, in particular regarding
    • the principles and priorities of Horizon Europe;
    • support for the shaping of European Universities Alliances;
    • a renewed and strengthened role of universities in the Bologna Process;
  2. strengthening Coimbra Group engagement with society; and
  3. develop policies, tools and guidelines to limit the repercussions from the BREXIT (with or without a deal).

The first series of priorities will translate into a continued series of meetings and media campaigns in cooperation with other European university associations, and several events, one of the most important being the third High-Level Seminar on education policy for Rectors and Vice-Rectors on “Universities as Drivers of Socio-Academic Integration in a Multilingual Europe”. This event will take place on 2 and 3 December 2019, at the University of Tartu (more info here). The high-level seminar will also be the occasion to release the results from the Coimbra Group Internationalisation Benchmarking Initiative adopted at the Annual Conference in 2018 in Salamanca. During the academic year 2018-2019, thirteen Coimbra Group Universities from ten countries have completed the Global Education Profiler Staff and Student surveys: 8000 students and 4500 staff have completed the survey, which gives the Coimbra Group an unparalleled rich set of data from across Europe with which to evaluate the state of internationalisation and from which to develop policies.

The second series of priorities will be supported by a High-Level Workshop on the Poitiers Declaration and “the role of universities as driving forces for change in regions and cities”, to take place in Brussels on 8 October 2019 (more info here). This workshop will be held in parallel to and within the framework of the European Week of Regions and Cities. A Rectors’ Seminar is also organised and hosted by the Alexandru Ioan Cuza University of Iași on “Universities in a Changing Europe – 30 years since the Fall of the Iron Curtain” on 24 and 25 October 2019. The 2020 Annual Conference, hosted by the Montpellier Universities in June 2020 will also foster important debates on “ethics and knowledge” as the topic for its public conference.

Regarding BREXIT, the Coimbra Group will continue to follow the situation closely and will mobilise its actors and resources: in particular, we are ready to support mobility with our UK members using our own network of 39 European universities and our own Student Exchange Network (SEN), created twenty years ago and recently revised by our Academic Exchange and Mobility Working Group.

The Executive Board members are looking forward to exchanging views and opinions with all Coimbra Group actors on these important topics. At the same time, we wish you a rich and fruitful new academic year!