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2023-2024: Coimbra Group priorities in a year of changes and high expectations

29 September 2023

Coimbra Group Executive Board

In the lead up to the new academic year, the members of the Executive Board met in Turku where EU and worldwide experts debated the future of Europe at the city’s renowned annual “Europe Forum”. The board reflected on new initiatives and strategic priorities for the Coimbra Group (CG) in 2023-2024. We looked back to the past year, and forward to ongoing EU policy developments that are expected to impact on our universities. We tried to focus on CG’s identity and approach to defining the specific contribution we can commit to provide.

With the European elections (6-9 June 2024) just around the corner, the academic year 2023-2024 will undoubtedly bring about change and some uncertainties. We would like to see the challenges at stake for universities – hence for the future of our societies as a whole – prioritised in the upcoming electoral debates and programmes.

September saw the following two important new appointments:

  • Iliana Ivanova was appointed as new European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth.
  • Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen took over as the new Director-General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture at the European Commission.

We very much look forward to the opportunity to meeting both of them very soon and we hope to develop the same level of trust and engagement as was the case with their predecessors.

Very importantly for all our communities, a political agreement was eventually reached towards the association of the United Kingdom (UK) to Horizon Europe and Copernicus, a highly welcomed decision. We firmly believe that these possibilities for enhanced cooperation across the Channel will strengthen both programmes. And it is our hope that UK universities one day get reintegrated back into the Erasmus+ programme as well.

The political changes in the European Parliament and European Commission next year will occur amidst intense negotiations on the next EU multi-annual financial framework (MFF 2028-2034) and parallel discussions on the shape of the future funding instruments, Erasmus+ and the next framework programme for research and innovation (FP10). By leveraging the power and reach of the Coimbra Group, it is our priority to inform and convince EU policymakers to commit to bold decisions for education and research.

In 2023-2024 we will also further internally reflect on the evaluation of the potential evolution of the network, preparing for celebrations of CG’s 40th anniversary in the year 2025.

Considering this analysis and after consultation with the Rectors’ Advisory Group, it was agreed that the Executive Board will focus this year on three sets of priorities:

  • Play the role of a scientific scene-setter of themes and articulate a solid vision in societal engagement and open science

Two topics come to the fore when assessing CG’s own identity and strengths:

Civic and societal engagement: with the adoption of the Poitiers Declaration back in 2016, CG has been a pioneer of emphasizing the role of the University in the City. In the context of the European elections, CG will continue to foster activities that contribute to strengthen universities’ engagement with society and universities’ social responsibility, with the view to promote a more holistic approach of excellence in higher education.

Open Science: we want CG to play an active role in shaping the emerging understanding of ‘excellence’ in the context of Universities and Open Science. The High-Level Seminar on Research Policy that we are organising on 13-14 November in Brussels is an important first step in this area.

  • Help shaping and pioneering EU policies that are relevant for its members:

Coimbra Group will continue to intensify its presence and influence in the following European policy-making processes and initiatives, as well as its contribution to the development of the following programmes:

EU Multi-Annual Financial Framework (MFF)

European Education Area (EEA)

European Research Area (ERA): continuation of the implementation of the eight ERA Policy Actions to which CG has committed

European Strategy for Universities

European Universities Initiative

Erasmus+ and Horizon Europe

Research Careers and Research Assessment: participation in the new CoARA Working Group on Multilingualism and Linguistic Biases.

Impact of Brexit on academic and scientific cooperation with the UK and further efforts on strengthening cooperation with Switzerland

International cooperation: increased engagement of CG Development Cooperation and Latin America Working Groups in bi-regional policy dialogues.

      • Drive CG’s internal  development through new initiatives:

      – We aim to deepen our connection to CG members and the professional communities we represent. In that respect, 2023-2024 will see the launch of two pilot calls for the allocation of targeted funding to Coimbra Group Working Groups. This new initiative will also fulfil the longstanding objective to enhance inter-WGs cooperation.

      – We will provide space for continuing the discussions on the future of the network initiated at the General Assembly in Cologne in June 2023. The aim is to reach a consensus on our collective vision ahead of the celebrations of CG’s 40th anniversary in 2025. This year we will also make proposals about membership enlargement.

        As we conclude this editorial, we have special thoughts for the Ukrainian academic and student community who are beginning the first semester of 2023-2024 under conditions of war and conflict for the second consecutive year, and we would like to extend our best wishes to all those who have suffered through this terrible time.

        To all colleagues and friends, and to all our readers, we wish you the best for this academic year and we look forward to seeing you around at one of the many Coimbra Group’s meetings and events taking place these coming months.