23 doctoral students have taken part in this year’s Coimbra Group 3 Minute Thesis competition, and we are pleased to announce now the three finalists. Effy Ntemou (University of Groningen), Ignacio Abadía Tercedor (University of Granada) and Omeed Neghabat (Aarhus University) will compete against each other at the live final to take place during the CG General Assembly at the University of Padova on 10 June 2022.

An initiative of the Doctoral Studies Working Group, the CG 3MT competition first round took place in April. All CG Universities were invited to participate by submitting the video of the finalist from their own internal competition. Finalists have been selected by a panel composed by the members of the Doctoral Studies WG, and, in the case of those universities with no representative in the Doctoral Studies WG, the CG Representative on behalf of his/her university. Voters have been requested to assign 3, 2 and 1 point(s) to their preferred top three candidates.

Developed by The University of Queensland (UQ), the 3MT competition consists of effectively explain one’s research in three minutes, in a language appropriate to a non-specialist audience. Competitors are allowed one PowerPoint slide, but no other resources.

Brian Bech Nielsen, Rector, Aarhus University

In the modern university, it is easy to be consumed by the questions of competition. Are we recruiting the best talent? Do our students attain the skills needed in tomorrow’s dynamic labor market? How are we positioned to attract major grants?

These questions are by no means unimportant. In reality they reflect our deep-seated ambitions to seek new knowledge, solve global challenges and improve the lives of our fellow citizens.

But once in a while, we are confronted with events which remind us that even though competition has become part of the natural order for universities, there are also many important issues we must address in unison.

The war in Ukraine is an example. Apart from the war itself, the Russian aggression could also be perceived as a symptom of a more fundamental ailment. Recent surveys – such as the Edelmann Trust Barometer – warn that as autocracies rise, public trust in institutions and political leaders diminishes in many Western democracies. Even before the Russian invasion, the EU Commission wrote in their Communication of a European Strategy for Universities,

Fundamental academic and democratic values are under pressure. Universities have voiced deep concern over threats to academic freedom and university autonomy. Numbers of scholars and researchers at risk in European neighbourhood are on the rise.

A functioning democracy is a prerequisite for academic freedom. Academic freedom is a prerequisite for universities fulfilling their potential and maximizing their impact on society.

If we are truly entering what could be called a democratic recession, we need to recognize our responsibility to act. Not just in our own interest, but in the interest of the societies we serve.

In Keynesian economics, the proper response to a recession is to invest. So that is what we should do. Invest in democracy. Invest in academic freedom.

At Aarhus University, we recently established two new research centers on inequality and digital citizenship. The centers are interdisciplinary, but are spearheaded by researchers from the social sciences and the humanities. This spring, we also adopted a declaration consolidating the right for students and staff to express themselves freely. It underlines that academic freedom entails the right to voice your disagreement as well as the need to tolerate when others do the same. It promotes intellectual curiosity and encourages students and staff to contribute to the public debate.

These are examples of local investments aiming to strengthen democracy both within and outside the university walls. However, they are merely small steps. The giant leaps can only be taken collectively. Through networks such as the Coimbra Group and in cooperation with the EU system as well as national governments.

Acknowledging our dependence on the freedom of thought and expression, we must seek to support and invigorate democracy in a variety of ways. Through our research and education as well as our public outreach. And we must seek to do this in collaboration without regard to the competition that otherwise is a prevalent characteristic of our sector.

On 26 April, the Coimbra Group Executive Board met with European Research Council President Maria Leptin. The meeting was an opportunity to look at current and future challenges for the European research community and exchange views about ways to join efforts in addressing them.

Ludovic Thilly, Chair of the Executive Board, gave an overview of the participation of Coimbra Group universities in the ERC programme. The figures show that CG universities, all European comprehensive higher education institutions, are major players in the field of fundamental research.

The discussion revolved around several issues of common interest such as the research assessment reform, interdisciplinary research, UK and Switzerland association to Horizon Europe and funding for research and innovation. “We are far away from the goal to reach 3% of GDP investment in science in the EU Member States. Covid-19 have demonstrated the value of basic research”, Maria Leptin commented.

The CG and the ERC will continue working together on all these topics. “We want to build a meaningful cooperation with you where we both serve the scientific community”, Ludovic Thilly said. The Executive Board will now follow up on this discussion with the rectors of CG universities at the upcoming Annual Conference and General Assembly in Padova on 7-10 June.

Overview of CG universities ERC results (2007-2022)

Since the ERC creation in 2007 by the European Commission, the Coimbra Group universities have been awarded with more than 1.500 projects in all disciplines, consisting of an investment of more than €2 billion. Overall, CG universities received 10.5% of the budget allocated to the ERC programme in FP7 (€7.5 billion) and H2020 (€13 billion).

Regarding the research areas, in terms of funded projects CG universities have been more successful in the Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH), followed by Physical Sciences and Engineering (PE) and Life Sciences (LS). However, in average, SSH projects have received less funding than PE and LS projects.

According to the latest results published on 15 March and 26 April 2022, the trend in the ERC Consolidator and Advanced schemes in Horizon Europe is similar. CG members have received 33 of the 327 CoG (10,1% of total grants awarded) and 26 of the 253 AdG (10,3% of total grants awarded).

More detailed data can be found through this link (for CG members only).

The Coimbra Group is deeply saddened by the news of the passing away of our dear friend and colleague Ms. Mercedes López Roldán, Director of the International Relations Office at Coimbra Group member the University of Granada.

The charismatic personality of Mercedes, her sympathy, dedication and kindness leave us all with many positive and good memories, and we are very thankful to have shared a part of her life. 

Mercedes will be sorely missed not only in the Academic Exchange and Mobility Working Group where her longstanding commitment was highly appreciated, but also in the whole Coimbra Group family. 

The Coimbra Group Universities, the members of the Executive Board of the Coimbra Group and the Brussels Office staff wish to convey their sincere condolences to Ms. López Roldán’s family, friends and colleagues and to the whole community at the University of Granada. 

The Coimbra Group and 10 other stakeholders, representing most universities, research performing organisations, research funding organisations, research libraries and repositories in Europe, have published a joint statement advocating for an exclusion of not-for-profit educational and scientific repositories, digital archives and libraries from the obligations of the EU Digital Services Act (DSA).

The DSA is a legislative proposal by the European Commission to modernise the e-Commerce Directive regarding illegal content, transparent advertising, and disinformation. While supporting the overarching aim to tackle and remove illegal material online and address citizens’ misinformation and disinformation, we are concerned that the current EU proposal does not differentiate between commercial online platforms and not-for-profit educational and scientific repositories. As a result, universities risk incurring additional financial costs and administrative burdens. This would also be detrimental for the development of Open Science.

The statement is signed by the AURORA, CESAER, COAR, COIMBRA GROUP, EUA, LERU, LIBER, SCIENCE EUROPE, SPARC EUROPE, THE GUILD and YERUN.

Read the full statement here

STATEMENT

By Research Organisations, Libraries, Repositories and University Networks

On the exemption of not-for-profit educational and scientific repositories, digital archives and libraries from the Digital Services Act

Brussels, 5 April 2022

The signatories of this statement, representing European universities, research performing organisations, research funding organisations, research libraries and repositories in Europe, call for the exclusion of not-for-profit repositories, digital archives, and libraries from the obligations of the Digital Services Act (DSA).

Introduction

The education and research sector relies on thousands of repositories, digital archives, and libraries to ensure access to up-to-date results and knowledge. The progress and effectiveness of the education and scientific research sectors depend on legislative frameworks that foster scientific advancement and the dissemination of knowledge. Not-for-profit educational and scientific repositories, digital archives, and libraries are instrumental in this context.

These digital infrastructures are hosted by universities and other research performing organisations to collect, use, preserve, and disseminate educational and research material, such as research data. This can involve the upload of text, film, or sound recordings by third parties affiliated to the institution.

Educational and Scientific Digital Infrastructures should be excluded from DSA obligations

Not-for-profit scientific and educational repositories, digital archives, and libraries that allow for the upload of content by students, researchers, and third parties – such as in the context of citizen science projects undertaken by universities or libraries – are likely to fall in the scope of the current version of the Digital Services Act. This is in spite of the fact that the legislation is devised for and targeted at commercial platforms. As a result, not-for-profit educational and scientific digital infrastructures would incur additional administrative and financial costs.

In addition, we consider that the inclusion of not-for-profit scientific and educational repositories, digital archives, and libraries in the DSA scope would create inconsistency in EU legislation. ‘Not-for-profit educational and scientific repositories’ are already excluded from the scope of the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market (Article 2(6)). We consider that legal coherence between the DSA and Digital Single Market Directive should be ensured to avoid confusion within our institutions.

The European Parliament’s position on the DSA would create undue administrative burdens and complexity

The negotiation position adopted by the European Parliament provides a procedure to exempt not-for-profit repositories from the obligations imposed on online platforms. However, it is overly long and complex, and will result in administrative and financial burdens that not-for-profit scientific and educational repositories, digital archives, and libraries will not be able to meet.

Moreover, the definition and assessment of the criteria for this procedure would be mostly left to Member States and Digital Services Coordinators, which could result in legal uncertainty and fragmentation between Member States.

Not-for-profit educational and scientific repositories, digital archives, and libraries should be excluded from the DSA obligations

For the reasons highlighted in this statement, the undersigned organisations, which represent most universities, research performing organisations, research funding organisations, research libraries, and repositories in Europe, call for the exclusion of not-for-profit repositories, digital archives, and libraries from the obligations of the Digital Services Act.

Universities and students propose concrete measures  to ensure support to Ukrainian students and University staff through the Erasmus+ programme

A joint call by the Erasmus Student Network, European Students´ Union, European University Foundation and the Coimbra Group of UniversitiesRead the full document

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we have seen a historic mobilisation across European society to support the Ukrainian population. The response from the Higher Education sector has also been exemplary, developing all kinds of useful measures to support Ukrainian students and scholars and staff fleeing the war. The European University Foundation, the Coimbra Group and the European Students´ Union have gathered many of these support initiatives on dedicated web pages. At the EU level, Commissioner Gabriel has already announced extraordinary measures to support pupils and teachers, and she previously expressed the Commission’s commitment to providing maximum support and flexibility in a previous statement on the 3rd of March. On the 23rd of March, the European Commission reaffirmed its commitment to grant maximum flexibility and support through Erasmus+, as part of a broader package of measures. This document gathers specific proposals on what that flexibility should entail in order to ensure effective support for students and staff.

The Erasmus+ programme is currently proving as a useful tool to support Ukrainian students and University faculty and staff, but more can be done. There is significant funding available that could be used if certain extraordinary changes are made. The measures taken during the COVID 19 pandemic proved how the programme can be adapted to support the higher education community in times of need. It is now time to put in place extraordinary measures to offer help to students, faculty and staff affected by the war. We welcome the Commission’s proposal that Erasmus National Agencies apply the “force majeure” clauses and hope to see them activated. 

Keeping in mind the complexity of the situation, any proposed measures should consider the brain-drain risk. As the emergency response is needed now, it is equally important to plan accordingly for University community members from Ukraine to enable them to smoothly transit back to their alma maters if and when circumstances allow. Young people and a robust academic community are critical for rebuilding countries after the war.

Tens of Thousands of Ukrainian students and academics have fled the country in the last few weeks. Their education and academic careers have been stopped and many of them find themselves with little financial resources stranded around Europe. Many others might be planning to leave the country soon. The concrete measures that Higher Education Institutions can provide should be complemented by financial support at the national and European levels.

At the moment, one of the best ways to support the Ukrainian higher education community is through international credit mobilities, also known as KA107. Ukrainian Universities already have strong links with many Universities of Erasmus+ programme countries. International Credit Mobility scholarships offer substantial financial support that can cover all the basic needs of Ukrainian students and faculty while allowing them to continue with their studies and academic careers.

More European support is needed to help the Ukrainian higher education community affected by the war. Therefore, we ask the European Commission to consider all the possible ways in which the Erasmus+ programme can be used to support them, starting with the ones laid out in this document. This document includes measures that can be implemented in the coming weeks and months, making a remarkable impact on the situation of thousands of students and academics complementing national measures.

The Erasmus+ programme can channel funding to Ukrainian students to grant them Erasmus scholarships using external policy funds from heading 6 of the Erasmus+ budget that comes from the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument – Global Europe. These changes could apply to the current funding calls of the 2019 and 2020 calls, that are still running and where there is still funding available, but also the 2022 call that closed in February.

Providing EU financial support to the Ukrainian Universities community is a matter of European solidarity. At the moment, neighbouring countries are shouldering most of the humanitarian responsibility towards fleeing Ukrainians. Since solidarity with Ukraine must be a European issue, there is a need to provide tools to all member states so the pressure on these countries is alleviated. 

International Credit Mobility with countries non associated with the programme, such as Ukraine, is funded with external policy funds coming from the NDCI instrument. The necessary adjustments should be made so available funding can be fully used to support Ukrainian students, faculty and staff, even if it was originally planned for different regions.

Maximum flexibility with remaining funds from the 2019 and 2020 KA107 calls

Universities can still spend the remaining funds from the 2019 KA107 call, but only until the end of July 2022. At the moment, due to the pandemic situation, many Universities still have not been able to use those funds for international credit mobility in some of the different priority countries. The Commission should provide maximum flexibility to Higher Education Institutions to allocate all that unused funding to support Ukrainian students and academics arriving in Erasmus+ programme countries, regardless of whether they were initially allocated for mobilities with Ukraine. 

Similar flexibility should be applied to funds from the 2020 call. There, Universities have more room for manoeuvre as the funds can still be spent the next academic year. They should be able to direct those funds to Ukrainian higher education community members. A particular example could be the funds secured for the mobility with HEIs in Ukraine for this semester and the next academic year. In the case that the mobility is not fulfilled due to the war, the flexibility for relocating these funds would be beneficial to support Ukrainian students, faculty and staff arriving in Erasmus+ programme countries. 

UK Universities are still implementing Erasmus mobilities until 2023, despite the fact that the UK has withdrawn from Erasmus+. Thus, these measures can be also applied at UK Universities until then. 

Fast track Nomination processes to allow for an immediate start of new mobilities

Swift action is needed to ensure that available International credit mobility funds are not left to waste. Maximum flexibility should be given to nominating students and faculty as Erasmus+ grantees as they arrive at their hosting cities, or even before if they communicate that they are planning to arrive – for instance, for family relocation reasons. This can be an effective way to grant them immediate financial support with funding that is already available. 

At the moment, Universities are working around the clock to find ways to address these situations, but clear guidance and flexibility from the Commission will give clarity and make sure that available support reaches as many students as possible.

The nomination process can be done in a simple way using the available IT tools. Even if Universities do not have inter-institutional agreements with their Ukrainian counterparts, an exception can be made considering the nature of the circumstances, including some flexibility for signing the mandatory mobility documents. This would allow students and faculty to officially start their mobilities as fast as possible, using funds that are already available in many Universities.

Work programme amendment – Expanded fund for Ukrainian students in the 2022 KA107 call

On the 9th of March, the Commission published the amended text of the Erasmus+ 2022 Work programme. A further amendment can be done swiftly to boost available funding for Ukrainian higher education community members coming to Erasmus+ countries. Along the same line, Member States could ask for a transfer of resources from other funding programmes. Mobilities funded under the 2022 call can start to be used from September 2022 onwards, when it is foreseeable that there will be a considerable number of Ukrainian students and academics in Erasmus+ programme countries.

A specific funding call to support students who were completing their degrees in Ukraine when the war started and faculty from Ukrainian universities

Besides the use of International Credit Mobilities, the creation of a new, temporary, and specific funding line to support Ukrainian students who have fled the conflict should be considered. This specific funding should also be available to international students who were completing their studies in Ukraine. Universities could apply for funding to cover the University fees of the students (if those have not been lifted), and to provide them with a scholarship for the rest of their expenses. Besides this, it should also cover language support to learn the local language and the language of instruction.

Students would be enrolled as full-time students in the hosting Universities, making the procedure easier. A fast track and flexible procedure should be planned to allow for recognition of their current level of studies, allowing them to resume their degrees in the smoothest possible way. 

This specific funding line would essentially provide support in the likely event that the current circumstances in Ukraine will not allow for a return of students to Ukraine. We, therefore, recommend asking applicant institutions to outline how they will contribute to preventing a long-term brain drain from Ukraine and use these funds to train future graduates who will be encouraged to return to Ukraine and rebuild the country’s infrastructure and society. Hence, the objective would be to both support Ukrainian students to pursue their studies and prepare them to contribute to rebuilding their country.

Specific funding should also address the scholarships to cover the salaries or/and living allowance as well as additional adaptation and reskilling needs for faculty members who worked at the Ukrainian HEIs when the war began and fled the country. Similar to the students’ case, a complex approach should be applied, including coverage of language courses when needed and training and conference/research materials allowance.

Reinforced access to Erasmus+ opportunities for Ukrainians 

The Ukrainian people have expressed their willingness to become a member of the EU, and EU solidarity is more needed than ever. As a sign of EU commitment to Ukraine’s youth, the Commission should start the process to bring the country to the Erasmus+ programme in the near future, and in the meantime, the allocated funds should be boosted. These measures can be considered as a “starting package” that can help students and academics to adapt and grow in a new University environment and become more independent.

This should come with specific support measures that can be included in subsequent work programmes, ensuring that Ukrainian students and faculty receive quality scholarships that can support them in times of need. Strengthened participation in Erasmus+ could provide a framework to ease the relocation of students across Europe, an important point considering the pressure in neighbouring countries. Funding could come directly from the EU budget, as opposed to the association of other third countries in the programme where national contributions of third countries are determined in the negotiations.

Additionally, the scholarship spots for students should be complemented by the traineeship opportunities within the Erasmus+ financial support and/or database of student and campus jobs. These should be considered both – a scheme for complementing the number of available scholarships and an opportunity to continue financing after the scholarship is completed. This way the overall number of opportunities available to Ukrainians can be increased using several tools.

Access to language learning opportunities through OLS

Already during the 2015 refugee crisis, the EU made efforts to make the Erasmus+ Online Linguistic Support available to refugees. We recommend building upon this experience and providing Ukrainian students access to online language courses. Higher Education Institutions located in neighbouring countries are confronted with high demand for language courses. We ought to set the path to contribute to this need and at the same time accompany the redistribution of the flow of refugees towards other countries by anticipating the language course requirements in these countries.

The call is supported by the following organisations:

Erasmus Student Network 

European Students’ Union

European University Foundation

Coimbra Group of Universities

Coimbra Group Executive Board

Like the whole of society, Universities are still in the process of adapting to the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic when they now witness the military invasion of Ukraine, another event that will have long-lasting and global consequences. The University sector has reacted swiftly to the situation in Ukraine, responding individually and through networks and associations with numerous statements, as well as putting in place concrete measures to respond to the immediate emergencies created by the war.

The invasion of Ukraine by Russia is an aggressive act that presents a significant challenge to the values and ideals of the globally interconnected academic world. International university cooperation developed on the basis of freedom of expression and collaboration and has always aimed at building bridges that provide opportunities for partnership and connections among researchers to grow. Such understanding lets us strongly reaffirm the Coimbra Group’s commitment to creating strong academic and cultural ties in order to promote, for the benefit of its members, internationalisation, academic collaboration, excellence in learning and research, and service to society.

The continuity of education and research is of utmost importance to our community as the ability of the Universities in Ukraine to carry out their normal academic activities has been severely disrupted. The Coimbra Group’s first call was for peace and democracy affirming our longstanding commitment to fundamental human rights. This was followed by a second statement urging the EU institutions and Member States to include in their emergency responses affected non-European students and academics. Furthermore, the CG united with other European organizations to work on specific proposals for adapting Erasmus+ to support Ukrainian students and staff. The resulting joint paper by the CG, the Erasmus Student Network (ESN), European Students’ Union (ESU) and European University Foundation (EUF), calls for maximum flexibility in the programme’s funding. It also points to the need for an EU comprehensive support framework for Ukrainian students and faculty who have fled the conflict as well as international students who were completing their studies in Ukraine.

We welcome the prompt reaction of the European institutions, such as the announcement by the European Commission that it is working with Erasmus+ National agencies to address many of the points raised in our joint advocacy with ESN, ESU and EUF. The rapid launch of the ‘European Research Area for Ukraine’ (ERA4Ukraine) is also an essential step towards securing the continuity of scientific progress and cooperation in the international community.

CG members who neighbour Ukraine have by far been the most impacted in their day-to-day activities, engaging in unprecedented efforts to assist refugees since 24 February. At the same time, CG Universities across Europe have been mindful of the specific needs of Ukrainian and Russian nationals in their respective academic communities. With the rapid development of the situation, University access programmes, scholarships and fellowships are now being set up by CG members. Drawing upon the strength of the network, the CG is keeping track of these opportunities and resources and doing our upmost to increase their visibility.

The purpose of higher education institutions has often been perceived as being at a crossroads, evolving under the changing philosophical ideals, policies, and trends. In the light of current tragic events, a deeper reflection on higher education’s fundamental values is needed more than ever. It seems not only timely to reflect on these values and their role in moments of uncertainty and turbulence, but also, and above all, it links to the fundaments of European university traditions.

We very much look forward to meeting with all Coimbra Group members for an essential debate on this issue at the upcoming 2022 CG Annual Conference, which will be hosted by the University of Padua from 7-10 June 2022. We take this opportunity to invite all of you to join us in the discussion on values, engagement and responsibility in university cooperation in Europe during the public conference placed this year under the theme “«Universa Universis»: Academic Freedom in a Transforming World.”

Recommendation 2022

The 2022 Laureate is Ms Marie Bakken from the University of Bergen (Norway). While a final year Master student in Law, she spent a six-month Erasmus study period at the University of Salamanca (Spain). The new courses she attended there, and the vivid intellectual interactions entailed by such academic exchange, directly inspired her for the subject of her Master thesis which European dimension has been very much welcomed by the Prize selection committee.

“I am so grateful for this recognition, and this gives me even more motivation to keep working for the legal protection of human rights across Europe”, Marie said when learning about her award. Of all the nominees, she made the most comprehensive and convincing case for the added value of the Erasmus experience. In her particular situation, this included for example actively engaging with the European Law Students’ Association.

This year there have been nineteen nominations from fourteen Coimbra Group Universities in a wide array of disciplines. The other nominees were commended for providing other excellent examples of the impact an Erasmus mobility experience can have on one’s academic journey.

The selection committee consisted of Professors Lenka Rovná from Charles University in Prague (chair), Cláudia Cavadas from the University of Coimbra, and Dorota Malec from the Jagiellonian University in Krakow. You can find their recommendation below:

Award ceremony, 29 June 2021

The 2021 Arenberg-Coimbra Group Prize for Erasmus students was officially awarded to Katharina Wenderott (University of Göttingen, Erasmus+ exchange at the University of Granada) during a virtual ceremony held in presence of the Duke of Arenberg on 29 June 2021.

Recommendation 2021

The Selection Committee established by the Executive Board for the 2021 Arenberg-Coimbra Group Prize for Erasmus Students is pleased to unanimously nominate Ms. Katharina Wenderott from the University of Göttingen (Germany) for this year’s award.

Ms. Katharina Wenderott spent her 5-month Erasmus exchange at the University of Granada in Spain in the academic year 2018-2019. In August 2020 she obtained a Master’s degree with distinction in Psychology from the University of Göttingen.

In her application, Ms. Katharina Wenderott has very well described the multidimensional experiences and benefits of her Erasmus stay. 

She has articulated clearly about the transformative impact of the new pedagogical settings she got to know during her studies at the University of Granada: group projects, work in multicultural teams, inspirational young women as lecturers who she now sees as role models, etc

Ms Katharina Wenderott has shown that the value of the Erasmus experience is particularly significant for expanding research interests, reaching academic excellence as well as for gaining linguistic and intercultural skills. During her studies in Spain, she voluntarily selected academic subjects that were not offered at her home university such as community psychology and health psychology. This has eventually led her to write her master’s thesis on the job demands of nurses and particularly the stress that they are exposed to. Such topic has become increasingly relevant in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.

While studying in Granada, Ms. Katharina Wenderott completed a B2.1 Spanish course and joined the local scout group as a volunteer for full immersion. At the time of her nomination to the Arenberg-Coimbra Group Prize, she was volunteering for three months at the World Centre of the World Organisation of the Scout Movement (WOSM) in Kandersteg, Switzerland, while also preparing applications for Ph.D. studies in a field of research that is directly inspiring from her academic experience at the University of Granada: the mental health of people interacting with new technological systems.

The Selection Committee would like to congratulate Ms. Katharina Wenderott on this year’s Arenberg-Coimbra Group Prize and wish her a successful career based on her European educational experience.

We should also like to commend the other nominees; the standard was very high and their testimonials also provided excellent examples of the impact of their mobility experience and academic qualities. We are pleased to recognize also the commitment to the Erasmus project of the Coimbra Group Universities where they were awarded their degrees and undertook their exchange periods of study.

Laureate article:

It is with great pleasure that we can announce the result of the work of the selection committee established by the Executive Board to assess the nominations from member universities for the Arenberg-Coimbra Group Prize for Erasmus Students.

The 2022 Laureate is Ms Marie Bakken from the University of Bergen (Norway). While a final year Master student in Law, she spent a six-month Erasmus study period at the University of Salamanca (Spain). The new courses she attended there, and the vivid intellectual interactions entailed by such academic exchange, directly inspired her for the subject of her Master thesis which European dimension has been very much welcomed by the Prize selection committee.

“I am so grateful for this recognition, and this gives me even more motivation to keep working for the legal protection of human rights across Europe”, Marie said when learning about her award. Of all the nominees, she made the most comprehensive and convincing case for the added value of the Erasmus experience. In her particular situation, this included for example actively engaging with the European Law Students’ Association.

This year there have been nineteen nominations from fourteen Coimbra Group Universities in a wide array of disciplines. The other nominees were commended for providing other excellent examples of the impact an Erasmus mobility experience can have on one’s academic journey.

We heartily congratulate Marie Bakken on winning the 2022 Arenberg-Coimbra Group Prize and thank all candidates, and their host universities, for their great participation.

Read more here

Universities and students propose concrete measures  to ensure support to Ukrainian students and University staff through the Erasmus+ programme

A joint call by the Erasmus Student Network, European Students´ Union, European University Foundation and the Coimbra Group of Universities. Read the full document

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we have seen a historic mobilisation across European society to support the Ukrainian population. The response from the Higher Education sector has also been exemplary, developing all kinds of useful measures to support Ukrainian students and scholars and staff fleeing the war. The European University Foundation, the Coimbra Group and the European Students´ Union have gathered many of these support initiatives on dedicated web pages. At the EU level, Commissioner Gabriel has already announced extraordinary measures to support pupils and teachers, and she previously expressed the Commission’s commitment to providing maximum support and flexibility in a previous statement on the 3rd of March. On the 23rd of March, the European Commission reaffirmed its commitment to grant maximum flexibility and support through Erasmus+, as part of a broader package of measures. This document gathers specific proposals on what that flexibility should entail in order to ensure effective support for students and staff.

The Erasmus+ programme is currently proving as a useful tool to support Ukrainian students and University faculty and staff, but more can be done. There is significant funding available that could be used if certain extraordinary changes are made. The measures taken during the COVID 19 pandemic proved how the programme can be adapted to support the higher education community in times of need. It is now time to put in place extraordinary measures to offer help to students, faculty and staff affected by the war. We welcome the Commission’s proposal that Erasmus National Agencies apply the “force majeure” clauses and hope to see them activated. 

Keeping in mind the complexity of the situation, any proposed measures should consider the brain-drain risk. As the emergency response is needed now, it is equally important to plan accordingly for University community members from Ukraine to enable them to smoothly transit back to their alma maters if and when circumstances allow. Young people and a robust academic community are critical for rebuilding countries after the war.

Tens of Thousands of Ukrainian students and academics have fled the country in the last few weeks. Their education and academic careers have been stopped and many of them find themselves with little financial resources stranded around Europe. Many others might be planning to leave the country soon. The concrete measures that Higher Education Institutions can provide should be complemented by financial support at the national and European levels.

At the moment, one of the best ways to support the Ukrainian higher education community is through international credit mobilities, also known as KA107. Ukrainian Universities already have strong links with many Universities of Erasmus+ programme countries. International Credit Mobility scholarships offer substantial financial support that can cover all the basic needs of Ukrainian students and faculty while allowing them to continue with their studies and academic careers.

More European support is needed to help the Ukrainian higher education community affected by the war. Therefore, we ask the European Commission to consider all the possible ways in which the Erasmus+ programme can be used to support them, starting with the ones laid out in this document. This document includes measures that can be implemented in the coming weeks and months, making a remarkable impact on the situation of thousands of students and academics complementing national measures.

The Erasmus+ programme can channel funding to Ukrainian students to grant them Erasmus scholarships using external policy funds from heading 6 of the Erasmus+ budget that comes from the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument – Global Europe. These changes could apply to the current funding calls of the 2019 and 2020 calls, that are still running and where there is still funding available, but also the 2022 call that closed in February.

Providing EU financial support to the Ukrainian Universities community is a matter of European solidarity. At the moment, neighbouring countries are shouldering most of the humanitarian responsibility towards fleeing Ukrainians. Since solidarity with Ukraine must be a European issue, there is a need to provide tools to all member states so the pressure on these countries is alleviated. 

International Credit Mobility with countries non associated with the programme, such as Ukraine, is funded with external policy funds coming from the NDCI instrument. The necessary adjustments should be made so available funding can be fully used to support Ukrainian students, faculty and staff, even if it was originally planned for different regions.

Maximum flexibility with remaining funds from the 2019 and 2020 KA107 calls

Universities can still spend the remaining funds from the 2019 KA107 call, but only until the end of July 2022. At the moment, due to the pandemic situation, many Universities still have not been able to use those funds for international credit mobility in some of the different priority countries. The Commission should provide maximum flexibility to Higher Education Institutions to allocate all that unused funding to support Ukrainian students and academics arriving in Erasmus+ programme countries, regardless of whether they were initially allocated for mobilities with Ukraine. 

Similar flexibility should be applied to funds from the 2020 call. There, Universities have more room for manoeuvre as the funds can still be spent the next academic year. They should be able to direct those funds to Ukrainian higher education community members. A particular example could be the funds secured for the mobility with HEIs in Ukraine for this semester and the next academic year. In the case that the mobility is not fulfilled due to the war, the flexibility for relocating these funds would be beneficial to support Ukrainian students, faculty and staff arriving in Erasmus+ programme countries. 

UK Universities are still implementing Erasmus mobilities until 2023, despite the fact that the UK has withdrawn from Erasmus+. Thus, these measures can be also applied at UK Universities until then. 

Fast track Nomination processes to allow for an immediate start of new mobilities

Swift action is needed to ensure that available International credit mobility funds are not left to waste. Maximum flexibility should be given to nominating students and faculty as Erasmus+ grantees as they arrive at their hosting cities, or even before if they communicate that they are planning to arrive – for instance, for family relocation reasons. This can be an effective way to grant them immediate financial support with funding that is already available. 

At the moment, Universities are working around the clock to find ways to address these situations, but clear guidance and flexibility from the Commission will give clarity and make sure that available support reaches as many students as possible.

The nomination process can be done in a simple way using the available IT tools. Even if Universities do not have inter-institutional agreements with their Ukrainian counterparts, an exception can be made considering the nature of the circumstances, including some flexibility for signing the mandatory mobility documents. This would allow students and faculty to officially start their mobilities as fast as possible, using funds that are already available in many Universities.

Work programme amendment – Expanded fund for Ukrainian students in the 2022 KA107 call

On the 9th of March, the Commission published the amended text of the Erasmus+ 2022 Work programme. A further amendment can be done swiftly to boost available funding for Ukrainian higher education community members coming to Erasmus+ countries. Along the same line, Member States could ask for a transfer of resources from other funding programmes. Mobilities funded under the 2022 call can start to be used from September 2022 onwards, when it is foreseeable that there will be a considerable number of Ukrainian students and academics in Erasmus+ programme countries.

A specific funding call to support students who were completing their degrees in Ukraine when the war started and faculty from Ukrainian universities

Besides the use of International Credit Mobilities, the creation of a new, temporary, and specific funding line to support Ukrainian students who have fled the conflict should be considered. This specific funding should also be available to international students who were completing their studies in Ukraine. Universities could apply for funding to cover the University fees of the students (if those have not been lifted), and to provide them with a scholarship for the rest of their expenses. Besides this, it should also cover language support to learn the local language and the language of instruction.

Students would be enrolled as full-time students in the hosting Universities, making the procedure easier. A fast track and flexible procedure should be planned to allow for recognition of their current level of studies, allowing them to resume their degrees in the smoothest possible way. 

This specific funding line would essentially provide support in the likely event that the current circumstances in Ukraine will not allow for a return of students to Ukraine. We, therefore, recommend asking applicant institutions to outline how they will contribute to preventing a long-term brain drain from Ukraine and use these funds to train future graduates who will be encouraged to return to Ukraine and rebuild the country’s infrastructure and society. Hence, the objective would be to both support Ukrainian students to pursue their studies and prepare them to contribute to rebuilding their country.

Specific funding should also address the scholarships to cover the salaries or/and living allowance as well as additional adaptation and reskilling needs for faculty members who worked at the Ukrainian HEIs when the war began and fled the country. Similar to the students’ case, a complex approach should be applied, including coverage of language courses when needed and training and conference/research materials allowance.

Reinforced access to Erasmus+ opportunities for Ukrainians 

The Ukrainian people have expressed their willingness to become a member of the EU, and EU solidarity is more needed than ever. As a sign of EU commitment to Ukraine’s youth, the Commission should start the process to bring the country to the Erasmus+ programme in the near future, and in the meantime, the allocated funds should be boosted. These measures can be considered as a “starting package” that can help students and academics to adapt and grow in a new University environment and become more independent.

This should come with specific support measures that can be included in subsequent work programmes, ensuring that Ukrainian students and faculty receive quality scholarships that can support them in times of need. Strengthened participation in Erasmus+ could provide a framework to ease the relocation of students across Europe, an important point considering the pressure in neighbouring countries. Funding could come directly from the EU budget, as opposed to the association of other third countries in the programme where national contributions of third countries are determined in the negotiations.

Additionally, the scholarship spots for students should be complemented by the traineeship opportunities within the Erasmus+ financial support and/or database of student and campus jobs. These should be considered both – a scheme for complementing the number of available scholarships and an opportunity to continue financing after the scholarship is completed. This way the overall number of opportunities available to Ukrainians can be increased using several tools.

Access to language learning opportunities through OLS

Already during the 2015 refugee crisis, the EU made efforts to make the Erasmus+ Online Linguistic Support available to refugees. We recommend building upon this experience and providing Ukrainian students access to online language courses. Higher Education Institutions located in neighbouring countries are confronted with high demand for language courses. We ought to set the path to contribute to this need and at the same time accompany the redistribution of the flow of refugees towards other countries by anticipating the language course requirements in these countries.

The call is supported by the following organisations:

Erasmus Student Network 

European Students’ Union

European University Foundation

Coimbra Group of Universities

The Coimbra Group actively participated in the High-Level ESFRI Stakeholder Forum Launch event that was held on 24 March 2022 with the objective of stimulating an open dialogue among the different European research infrastructure communities.

Coimbra Group Executive Board Chair was invited to present the views of the network during the stakeholders’ dialogue moderated by Jean Eric Paquet, Director General of DG Research and Innovation at the European Commission. Ludovic Thilly shared specific insights on how universities can better engage with Research Infrastructures.

He highlighted the following key messages:

Comprehensive universities facilitate access to research infrastructures for many interdisciplinary researchers. Therefore, CG believes that universities should remain at the very foundation of ESFRI.

· ESFRI roadmap should be closer to daily work of researchers.

· Small and medium research infrastructures hosted at CG universities play a very relevant role but do not receive enough attention at EU level.

· More resources could be directed towards supporting university staff required to manage facilities to improve professional management, business outreach, knowledge of the market, etc.

· Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) research infrastructures are key and CG universities participate in many excellent examples directly connected to broader research community, to industry for the development of applications and to public dissemination.

The concept for the ESFRI Stakeholder Forum was presented in the ESFRI White Paper adopted in 2020 in order to reinforce the position of Research Infrastructures as an essential pillar of the European Research Area. The Stakeholders Forum aims to engage different actors such as researchers, educators, policy makers, citizens, businesses and others and facilitate regular discussion among them.

On 24 March 2022, Dorota Maciejowska represented the Coimbra Group at the Westminster Higher Education Forum policy conference entitled “Next steps for the Turing Scheme – implementation so far, growing international partnerships  and the role of FE, and widening social and economic benefits”.

The Coimbra Group is strongly committed to maintaining and strengthening academic cooperation between the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom (UK). Dorota Maciejowska, Chair of the Academic Exchange and Mobility Working Group (AEM WG), intervened at the conference as representative of the CG Task Group on post-Brexit UK-EU exchange.

She outlined some of the key findings gathered by the CG Task Group about the effects of the UK’s withdrawal from Erasmus+ in the short- and long-term. These findings result from a first series of consultations held with a wide range of stakeholders, among which the European Commission, the Turing Scheme, the British Council, the Erasmus Student Network (ESN), the University Council of Modern Languages, Universities UK International, the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at Durham University, the UK Department for Education, as well as CG AEM WG members. 

Dorota Maciejowska emphasized some crucial implications for EU universities related to the loss of Erasmus+ and a non-reciprocal Turing Scheme, namely:

  • The Turing Scheme’s lack of inward mobility has resulted in perception that the benefits are one-sided, and that there are no incentives for EU students or institutions to engage. UK universities need to become proactive in encouraging EU partners to choose UK study destinations for their outbound students.
  • EU higher education institutions will be facing a decrease in outgoing mobilities to the UK in comparison with past years, and they will not be able to prioritise the UK as a destination due to the criterion of geographical distribution.
  • EU-UK partners will have to identify creative solutions for developing new types of engagement beyond standard reciprocal exchanges – e.g. summer schools, short exchange and study programmes.
  • While the Turing Scheme does not currently provide identical replacement to Erasmus, with appropriate lobbying it could evolve into a scheme that would allow for bilateral exchange.

The full picture of short- and long- term implications and issues identified by the CG Task Group is available in the following policy paper: https://www.coimbra-group.eu/wp-content/uploads/Takeaways-from-the-CG-task-group-on-post-Brexit-UK-EU-exchange.pdf

The Westminster Higher Education Forum policy conference gathered a number of representatives playing a crucial role in Turing Scheme implementation, among whom British Council member Steve Woodfield. Mr Woodfield depicted progress in the Turing Scheme roll-out so far and lessons learnt. According to the data presented, 139 higher education projects were awarded funding (£67M), involving 28,997 individual HE mobilities to over 150 destinations in the 2021-2022 academic year. The scheme was over-subscribed, although demand (esp. for mobilities to the EU) was distorted by the availability of remaining Erasmus+ funding until 2022-2023. Almost half (48%) of funding was dedicated to students from disadvantaged backgrounds, and to those with special education needs or disabilities. There has been additional advice and flexibility to support mobilities impacted by Covid-19 restrictions – reduced mobility length (from 4 to 2 weeks), start dates, flexibility in destinations and blended mobilities.

The ‘Top 10’ destination countries for 2021/2022 within the Turing scheme higher education component were as follows:

CountryNumber of participants
1. United States3,911
2. China1,857
3. Canada1,766
4. Australia1,405
5. France1,212
6. Spain1,169
7. Japan1,171
8. Hong Kong SAR1,012
9. India1,002
10. Germany933

Year 2 of the Turing Scheme will be administered by the private firm Capita. Funding has been confirmed for the next 3 years, including £110 million for the 2022-2023 academic year. There are still some key questions to be addressed in future Turing Scheme rounds, such as:

  • Will Turing embrace staff mobility?
  • Will there be any geographical prioritization for mobilities, and future reciprocal agreements that can support mutuality?

CG members are looking forward to finding ways to sustain existing levels of mobilities between EU and UK universities. The Task Group will continue to monitor further developments of the Turing Scheme as well as its compatibility with other mobility schemes.

The Coimbra Group Executive Board issued two statements, on February 25 and March 2, on the unprovoked war against Ukraine launched by the government of the Russian Federation.

The Rector of St. Petersburg State University (SPbU), a member of Coimbra Group, co-signed on March 4 a public statement by the Russian Union of Rectors backing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and going explicitly against the values that the Coimbra Group stands for, among which are academic freedom, institutional autonomy, democracy and peace.

Therefore, the Coimbra Group Executive Board unanimously decided at an extraordinary meeting today to suspend the membership of SPbU for an indefinite period of time. This suspension will apply until SPbU complies again with the values of the Coimbra Group.

This unprecedented decision in the history of the Coimbra Group targets the SPbU institution only. The Coimbra Group believes that individual cultural, academic and scientific cooperation should remain the very last bridge between our communities no matter the geopolitical circumstances. This decision does not jeopardize in any manner Coimbra Group’s inclusiveness and solidarity with all those individually impacted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as well as those opposing the war, whatever their nationality.

The Coimbra Group firmly stands with its members in support of all efforts aimed at ensuring safety, humanitarian assistance, care and continuity of education, learning and research activities of students, academics, university staff and citizens in general.

Read the PDF Statement here

The Coimbra Group Office is compiling initiatives taken by its member universities to support those affected by the invasion of Ukraine, more particularly students, researchers and staff.

We have a dedicated webpage where you can also find relevant statements and resources from our members. Other important activities developed by different organisations that could be useful to the academic community are also listed.

This page will be regularly updated.

The Coimbra Group Executive Board reiterates its solidarity with Ukraine and all its people, as well as with all who are affected by Russia’s military invasion.

We are in contact with our member universities to identify which actions we could implement together to complement efforts already undertaken by Coimbra Group members and the rest of the international academic community to address the needs of impacted university students and staff.

Ukraine was also a popular destination for international students. According to available figures, the country was hosting about 80,000 incoming international students from over 150 countries in recent years, the largest numbers being from India, Morocco, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Nigeria.

Like for all Ukrainian students, the war brutally interrupted the studies of international students preparing a degree at Ukrainian higher education institutions. First and foremost, their individual safety and security should be unequivocally guaranteed. Our thoughts are with the families of those killed by the attacks.

With this statement we urge the EU institutions and Member States to include in their emergency responses all non-European citizens directly impacted by the war.

We call for as much flexibility and support as possible in trying to mitigate the effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on the academic success of all students affected, both Ukrainian students and international students in Ukraine. Some were in their last years of studies. Reenrollment at universities, either in Europe or in the home country when this is the student’s choice, should be a priority.

The Coimbra Group Executive Board also condemns in the strongest possible terms today’s Russian missile attack on Kharkiv National University in Ukraine. Education institutions must be protected and remain places of safety.

Read the PDF Statement here

Professors Margareth Hagen, Pilar Aranda Ramírez, Cisca Wijmenga, Hester Bijl, Daniela Mapelli, Milena Králíčková, Linda Doyle, Anne Fraïsse and Virginie Laval, respectively Rectors of the Universities of Bergen, Granada, Groningen, Leiden, Padova and Charles in Prague, Provost of Trinity College Dublin and Presidents of the Universities of Paul-Valery Montpellier 3 and Poitiers

Marie Skłodowska-Curie (1867-1934) was the first woman to be awarded a Nobel prize in 1903, and she is among the extremely few who have achieved the distinction of becoming a double Nobel prize winner. Her story is an example, remarkable for her time, of social mobility – from governess to Nobel Prize Laureate – but also a demonstration of scientific success brought about by a combination of extraordinary intellect, hard work, and curiosity. She has been, and still is, an inspiration for women all over the world, both inside and outside of academia.

The achievements of Marie Skłodowska-Curie are a striking demonstration that a lack of inclusion and equal opportunity in research and innovation is unjust and a waste of human resources. It is therefore a paradox that we still struggle with achieving gender parity in our research and innovation systems. Although the situation is improving at the level of doctoral graduates in Europe as a whole, where the EU She Figures 2021 reports that there is almost gender parity, the numbers are much lower in the STEM fields, and in all fields the proportion of women gets lower the higher you climb the career ladder.  

We risk losing talented researchers and research leaders, we risk losing great research, and we need to uncover what the main obstacles for gender equality in research are. The causes are no doubt complex, and various cultural and structural factors play a role. It is positive that the Horizon Europe programme raises awareness of such factors by the requirement of a Gender Equality Plan at participating institutions, but is this sufficient?

We need to make research careers attractive and compatible with a good work-life balance also for women; only in this way will we make it possible for everyone, regardless of gender and background, to fulfil their potential and contribute to the research and innovation we need to meet the societal challenges we all are facing.

To succeed in this task a broad cooperation between several actors in the research and innovation system is needed. We welcome the initiative taken by the European Commission to reform how researchers are assessed. We hope the Commission will include a gender-sensitive perspective in this work.

Marie Skłodowska-Curie reportedly stated that she was taught that progress is neither swift nor easy, and one might think she was all too right regarding gender equality. Although it is frustrating that positive change comes slowly, we should, however, notice that our efforts also are successful; there has been improvement since 2016 in Europe with regard both to the proportion of women in positions at the highest level in academia and to the proportion of women among heads of institutions. In addition, in 2021 The European Innovation Council celebrated a ten-year anniversary for the EU Prize for Women Innovators with a record high number of 264 applications coming in from 35 countries. The prize was established to raise awareness of the need for more women entrepreneurs in Europe, and to encourage women to take the lead as role models for other innovators. We know for a fact that game changing innovations need diversity in perspectives. The responsibility lies on our universities to create incentives for research driven innovation which is inclusive and encouraging in particular for female researchers.

We are ourselves representatives of this development; most of us are the first female rector or president at our distinguished research and teaching institutions. We therefore wish to encourage everyone to engage in a renewed effort to promote inclusion and gender equality in higher education, research, and innovation and we wish all of you a Happy International Women’s Day on March 8th.

Sadly the world changed dramatically since this editorial was prepared. We utterly condemn the military invasion of Ukraine and stand in deep solidarity with the Ukrainian people and all who are impacted. Our individual institutions are currently organizing themselves to provide assistance and support to those in need as well as exploring already ways to prepare for longer-term consequences of the war.

Statement by the Coimbra Group Executive Board

We are deeply concerned and distressed by the tragic consequences of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. We urge all to work for peace and to respect democracy and fundamental human rights.

The Executive Board of the Coimbra Group sends its strongest solidarity to the people of Ukraine and all who are affected. 

Many Coimbra Group Universities have a tradition of welcoming Ukrainian students and staff on their campuses. They also maintain active student exchange programmes and educational and scientific cooperation with both Ukraine and Russia. 

Our thoughts are with all the members of the academic community and their families who are impacted while trying to continue their education and work. 

We would like to recall our longstanding commitment to fundamental rights, more particularly the right to education and academic freedom. Universities in all countries must be protected in their efforts to provide opportunities for everyone to continue their education and research. 

The Coimbra Group remains inclusive and welcoming to all. We extend our support to all students and academics affected by the conflict who are currently present at Coimbra Group Universities.

We call on the University community to stand together and will continue monitoring the situation closely to see where we can provide assistance.

25 February 2022

Ludovic Thilly (University of Poitiers), Chair
Cláudia Cavadas (University of Coimbra), Vice-Chair
Beatrix Busse (University of Cologne)
Daniel Donoghue (Durham University)
Dorota Malec (Jagiellonian University in Kraków)
Coco Norén (Uppsala University)
Lenka Rovná (Charles University in Prague)
Efrem Yildiz Sadak (University of Salamanca)
Elmer Sterken (University of Groningen)
Luca Verzichelli (University of Siena)

Read the PDF version

The Coimbra Group is working closely together with other leading European university associations in the context of the new European Research Area (ERA) Forum established to support the European Commission and EU Member States in developing and implementing the ERA actions.

The following ten associations (in alphabetical order) have currently joined forces through an “ERA University Associations Group” coordinated by the European University Association (EUA): AURORA, CESAER, Coimbra Group, ECIU, UNICA, EUA, EuroTech Universities Alliance, The Guild, UAS4EUROPE and YERUN.

The open, inclusive and informal group aims at coordinating the advice from the European university sector following the publication of the Commission communication A new ERA for Research and Innovation in September 2020, the Council recommendation ‘Pact for research and innovation in Europe’ and the Council conclusions on the ‘Future governance of the European Research Area’ in November 2021. The “ERA University Associations Group” also serves the purpose of ensuring a coordinated representation of the European University sector in the new ERA governance.

In its conclusions, the Council defined twenty ERA Actions in an ERA Policy Agenda for 2022-2024 and introduced the ERA Forum as “the body, established by the Commission, responsible for enhancing coordination towards the effective implementation of the ERA Policy Agenda, supporting the Commission and the Member States in the delivery of the ERA Actions”.

The Council further defined that the ERA Forum should “ensure representative involvement at its relevant meetings of EU-level umbrella organisations or other appropriate representative organisations relevant at EU level of the following seven types of stakeholders: universities and other higher education institutions, research and technology performing organisations, R&I-intensive businesses, including SMEs, individual researchers and innovators, including at early- and middle stages of their carriers, research infrastructures, R&I-funding organisations and academies of sciences”.

The discussions with the Council and the Commission clarified that one individual from each of the seven types of stakeholders identified may be present at the meetings of the ERA Forum. The first meeting of the ERA Forum for Transition with stakeholders is taking place on 25 February 2022. Stephane Berghmans (EUA) is participating for the European University sector.

The sixth European Union – African Union Summit took place in Brussels on 17-18 February 2022. It was preceded by a series of events organised by international organisations and umbrella associations within the framework of the Africa EU Week.

The European Union and Africa will work together to tackle common challenges. This can be possible through massive investments in infrastructure as well as investments in people. More specifically, the EU and its 27 Member States will invest at least €150 billion in Africa to:

  • accelerate green & digital transitions
  • boost sustainable growth & jobs
  • strengthen health systems
  • improve education & training for all

Youth involvement has been flagged as a crucial component of this strategy. This aligns with the latest recommendations from the Coimbra Group on students’ and youth’s role in international cooperation, as outlined in the report “Universities’ response to the Covid-19 crisis: What have we learnt so far? Key messages and recommendations from Coimbra Group Universities”. In analysing the feedback collected from Coimbra Group universities in the second half of 2021, the good practices shared have highlighted that youth is better prepared for virtual environments and keen to contribute to sustainable development challenges. It is for this reason that the report recommends to further increase the involvement of students in development cooperation projects in order to foster their leadership skills. For the same purpose, it is advisable to advocate at donors’ level for funding programmes to include a budgetary provision specifically dedicated to equipping partners in the Global South (when applicable) so as to enable them to be fully operational in virtual environments.

This chapter of the report, which was written by some of the members of the Development Cooperation Working Group of the Coimbra Group – Julien Bobineau (University of Würzburg), Filippo Sartor and Livia Mercatelli (University of Bologna) – makes the following additional suggestions to higher education practitioners and policymakers, regarding the design and budgeting of projects:

  • The pandemic has brought a tremendous change in the use of digital technologies and virtual environments within capacity building and cooperation for development projects. Considering the positive effects of this change, it is desirable to design future development projects combining, in a balanced way, collaborative and innovative virtual components in between face-to-face activities.
  • Project design should include, simultaneously, 1) contingency plans to promptly tackle those emergencies that would put on hold in-presence activities, 2) an accurate analysis of how well equipped the partners involved are to ensure they are able to reach the expected results while operating within virtual environments, 3) an analysis of the external factors that are likely to impact virtual activities.
  • In order to promote effectiveness and efficiency of the use of digital technologies and virtual environments within projects and sustainable inclusive development, higher education institutions should advocate for the increase of structural support to build up solid infrastructures in the Global South (e.g. internet connection as per coverage and costs, electricity networks, etc.), and for the promotion of equity and inclusion in terms of access to critical resources for vulnerable groups and for those institutions located in remote areas.