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2022-2023: Looking ahead to the new academic year with renewed ambitions

30 September 2022

Coimbra Group Executive Board

September has rolled out again, marking the official start of the 2022-23 academic year across most of European countries. In the increasingly complex and challenging environment our institutions operate in, we greatly appreciate the strong ties Coimbra Group members have established throughout the decades and we deeply value the role our association can play. Continuing to build and strengthening our academic community remains absolutely crucial in our sector.

This is why we will strive this year to strengthen even further our efforts towards community-building and engagement, by gradually instigating positive changes to CG practices and activities. We intend to provide enhanced opportunities for discussions among CG Rectors and Vice-Rectors on critical issues for universities. These should be supported by evidence-based policy monitoring. New proposals for making our annual meeting even more valuable for CG members are in the making. There is even more to come and we will be looking for your feedback.

As regards strategic policies for 2022-23, the Executive Board after consultation of the Rectors’ Advisory Group (9 June 2022, University of Padua) will focus on a renewed set of policy areas as follows:

  • European Universities Initiative: further roll-out and long-term vision

After the results of the Erasmus+ call 2022, more CG members than ever are involved in an Alliance as full or associated partner. Furthermore, five Alliances now include the CG as an associated partner: Arqus, CHARM EU, Circle U, EC2U and Una Europa. We will therefore continue to monitor the initiative and make our voice heard on its roll-out and long-term vision. We will also further facilitate the exchange of experience and dissemination of best practice between CG members, including to those not (yet) involved in an Alliance.

  • European Strategy for Universities

After its involvement in the consultation phase, CG now aims at playing a central role in the implementation of the European Strategy for Universities, always stressing the need to further enhance synergies between higher education and research. As a first step, the next High Level Seminar on Educational Policy taking place at Uppsala University on 9-10 November (“From learning spaces to learning environments”) will carefully look at the ESfU’s orientations in the area of pedagogical innovation.

  • Research Assessment Reform

CG has been closely engaged in the reform process since the early stage of discussions at the European Commission back in Spring 2021, with the objective to both inform CG members appropriately and defend their interests. After taking an active role in the core group supporting the team drafting the European agreement, we are now contributing to shaping the initiative’s future governance. The reform of research assessment is the central theme chosen for the first online closed rectors meeting organised this academic year (20 October 2022).

  • European Research Area (ERA)

After the internal consultation of CG members that took place last June, we have formally committed to the implementation of eight ERA actions for 2022-2024:

  • Action 3. Advance towards the reform of the Assessment System for research, researchers and institutions to improve their quality, performance and impact
  • Action 4. Promote attractive and sustainable research careers, balanced talent circulation and international, transdisciplinary and inter-sectoral mobility across the ERA.
  • Action 5. Promote gender equality and foster inclusiveness, taking note of the Ljubljana declaration.
  • Action 6. Deepening the ERA through protecting academic freedom in Europe.
  • Action 8. Strengthen sustainability, accessibility and resilience of research infrastructures in the ERA.
  • Action 11. An ERA for Green Transformation.
  • Action 13. Higher Education Institutions – Empowering higher education institutions to develop in line with the ERA, and in synergy with the European Education Area.
  • Action 14. Bring science closer to citizens.

CG will keep working closely with other leading European university associations in the context of the ERA Forum established to support the European Commission and EU Member States in developing and implementing the ERA actions. Now that we are entering the execution phase, CG will actively participate in the transnational mutual learning exercises that are foreseen under many of these actions. We will also join expert groups at EU level and make sure to engage our members in the process.

  • Strengthening engagement with society

As a hallmark of CG Universities which, being located in small or medium-sized cities, have a symbiotic relationship with their surrounding ecosystem, the engagement with society remains one of our transversal prioritised focus, again this year. We will further unroll and amplify our cooperation with the Erasmus Student Network (ESN) in order to foster the active participation of international students in the local communities.  We will also continue promoting the Poitiers Declaration which sets objectives and accompanying initiatives for city-university cooperation.

  • Brexit and the association of Switzerland

We are greatly concerned by the deadlock over the United Kingdom’s and Switzerland’s association to Horizon Europe, which is affecting all our members and holds disastrous implications for international scientific cooperation. We will pursue our advocacy efforts in this area for a swift resolution. Furthermore, the CG internal post-Brexit task group will resume its monitoring work to assess the impact of Brexit on CG Universities’ core activities, including student mobility, and help CG members to mitigate them.

These six above policy areas include two transversal issues, which are central to CG work: sustainability and diversity.

With the return to some normality after two years under pandemic times that severely impacted international cooperation, a great diversity of webinars, workshops, conferences, seminars and activities are planned by the Coimbra Group Executive Board, but mainly by the twelve Working Groups: we hope to have many occasions in the coming months to interact with you – virtually or in person, and we invite you to participate, engage, contribute, make community. 

Our very best wishes to all staff and students for the new academic year 2022-23, keep well!