• Joint statement on the exemption of education and research sector from EU Digital Services Act

    05 April 2022

    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.

  • Adapting Erasmus+ to support Ukrainian students and staff

    04 April 2022

    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 Statement on the Rolling out of the European Universities Initiative after the pilot phase

    07 June 2021

    The Coimbra Group has been a major actor of the co-design of the European Universities Initiative since the earliest stage of its development and remains fully engaged in its roll-out, with 32 of its 41 members involved in an alliance. The Coimbra Group is also Associated Partner to four selected alliances, CHARM-EU, Circle U., EC2U and Una Europa.

    In light of our experience with this initiative, and after carefully considering the recent proposals put forward by the European Commission for the next steps in its development, we are making the following proposals:

     

    • We call on the European Commission to reflect on the initial rules of the initiative – which were all about flexibility, creativity, bottom-up approach, inclusiveness, implementing an ambition with respect to fostering the quality of higher education and research – and not to change ‘the rules during the game’;
    • We support the proposal that the funding period be extended after the pilot phase, for a duration of 4+2 years, to avoid any funding gap, but we recall our plea for a long-term structural programmatic funding after that transition;
    • We see the current funding of the alliances as relatively modest, leading to a ‘danger’ that the running of the Erasmus+ project gets more attention than the structural building of a European University;
    • We are of the view that it is up to the alliances to decide if they wish to extend their membership or not; should they wish to do so, a gradual extension should be allowed without financial penalties to avoid destabilisation of alliances that are still under construction;
    • We advocate for an incentive compatible approach: financial incentives to expand should be aligned with strategic improvement of the quality of the alliances;
    • We believe that a call for new alliances should come in 2022; if this is delayed until 2024 momentum will be lost, and it will be more difficult to maintain the levels of cooperation and inclusiveness fostered through the creation of new alliances with fresh ideas;
    • We should reaffirm that research and education are intrinsic components of research-led education and, as such, the impact of Brexit and the withdrawal of the UK from the Erasmus+ programme on the success of the European Universities initiative is something to be considered very seriously;
    • The Coimbra Group is strongly committed to maintain and strengthen the relationship between the EU and the UK. This is also reflected by our recent publication on post-Brexit perspectives;
    • We welcome the proposed expansion of the second-phase funding to all Bologna process countries.

     

    The Coimbra Group Executive Board

    Ludovic Thilly (University of Poitiers), Chair

    Jürgen Barkhoff (Trinity College Dublin), Vice-Chair

    Cláudia Cavadas (University of Coimbra)

    Daniel Donoghue (Durham University)

    Johnny Laursen (Aarhus University)

    Dorota Malec (Jagiellonian University in Kraków)

    Lenka Rovná (Charles University in Prague)

    Efrem Yildiz Sadak (University of Salamanca)

    Elmer Sterken (University of Groningen)

    Luca Verzichelli (University of Siena)

    Download the PDF version of this statement (link to the document)

  • Key takeaway messages from discussions between Coimbra Group task group  on post-Brexit UK-EU exchange & relevant stakeholders

    30 April 2021

    Download the PDF version of this document

     

    Daniel Donoghue, Member of the Executive Board (Durham University); Emmanuelle Gardan, Office Director (Coimbra Group); Dorota Maciejowska, Chair of Academic Exchange & Mobility Working Group (Jagiellonian University in Kraków); Catarina Moleiro, Policy and Communications Officer (Coimbra Group); Ludovic Thilly, Chair of the Coimbra Group Executive Board (University of Poitiers); Luca Verzichelli, Member of the Executive Board (University of Siena)

     

    The UK is no longer an EU Member State. It has also opted not to take part as an associated third country in the new Erasmus+ programme 2021-2027. The UK will therefore not be taking part in the new programme as a Programme Country (EC 2021).

     1. Introduction

    The terms of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement implies that the UK will be a non-associated third country in the Erasmus+ programme 2021-2027. This means the UK will only be able to participate in the Jean Monnet activities and Erasmus Mundus joint masters programmes as these are not limited to Member States and Associated Third Countries.

    On behalf of all Coimbra Group (CG) member institutions, the task group on post-Brexit UK-EU exchange has consulted widely on the implications of the UK’s decision for student and staff exchanges and for academic partnerships. Our findings are summarised as follows:

    2. Short-term implications and issues (2021-2023)

    Multi-annual Erasmus+ programmes that were funded when the UK was a Member State will continue to operate to completion. In many cases, bilateral exchanges will take place until the academic year 2022/23 allowing a short period to consider the future of exchanges between Coimbra Group Universities and the UK. After that alternative formal arrangements (legal agreements) will need to put in place to facilitate student and staff exchanges.

    In December 2020 the UK government announced funding of over £100 million for a new scheme to allow approximately 35,000 students in universities, colleges and schools to go on placements and exchanges overseas, starting in September 2021 (which may mean around £60-70 million for higher education). At present, the Turing Scheme has been allocated resources for one year in the first instance and has a stated aim of targeting students from disadvantaged backgrounds and exchanges not previously covered by Erasmus+ as it includes all countries. The window for application for UK providers opened on 12 March 2021. Results are expected to be issued in July 2021.​ Should there be sufficient funding available after the first round of applications, a second call may be launched in 2021.

    EU Institutions should note that the Turing Scheme only funds outward mobility for UK students. The Turing  scheme  provides  no  funding  for  reciprocity (inward  mobility).  Reciprocity  is  allowed (and encouraged) but not funded through the Turing Scheme.  The focus is on student mobility; staff mobility would only be possible if it were needed to facilitate the special needs of a student.

    Inward (to the UK) mobility will be affected by the following changes:

    – Higher Education EU students will be liable to UK University fees unless a fee waiver has been negotiated as part of a bi-lateral exchange agreement.

    – A visitor may study for up to 6 months without a visa but for study periods longer than 6 months EU nationals will be required to obtain a Study Visa and must meet all the following requirements:

    (a) any fee and Immigration Health Charge must have been paid (this will be refunded for European Health Insurance Card holders); and

    (b) the applicant must have provided any required biometrics; and

    (c) the applicant must have provided a passport or other travel document which satisfactorily establishes their identity and nationality; and

    (d) the applicant must provide a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies reference number that was issued to them by the UK university no more than 6 months before the date of application.

    – Other points raised by consultees in relation to the Turing Scheme:

    • Inequality – the highest ranked Universities may be most successful and have highest mobilities;
    • Cultural aspects of mobility may be lost if mostly English speaking destinations are preferred;
    • There is a risk of an Eastern vs Western European divide in future EU-UK mobility flows;
    • If each EU university must deal individually with each UK institution there will be a huge bureaucratic overhead;
    • The programme may lack resilience if no resource is made available for staff mobility to help develop long-term high-quality partnerships;
    • There is no support for youth and sporting associations;
    • There is no possibility of an inter-network agreement; the scheme is based on bilateral arrangements between each UK university and other HE Institutions. We wonder if it will be possible in the future for one UK university to sign a multilateral agreement with willing CG Universities?
    • The scheme is flexible in the sense that UK universities are free to decide upon the geographical distribution, specific programmes (e.g. modern languages) etc. However, being a demand-led scheme with no target countries, there is a risk that EU countries such as Germany, Italy, Spain or France, will lose incoming UK students;
    • In the period of transition, Turing will be complementary to Erasmus+ (no possibility of double funding of any mobilities);
    • Turing actively supports widening participation (which refers to students from less advantaged backgrounds and those with special education needs and disabilities).

    3. Long-term issues (post-2023)

    One of the most challenging aspects of The Turing Scheme in its current form is the uncertainty that surrounds post-2021/22 funding and the implications for UK-EU mobility when UK Erasmus+ funding ends post-2023. We will not know whether multi-year funding will be allocated to the UK Turing Scheme until the outcome of the UK Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review is completed, hopefully by October 2021.

    The UK Department for Education will undertake a review of the first year of the Turing Scheme but we don’t know how this will be done and whether it will result in any significant changes to its remit and priorities? For example, will short or longer visits be favoured? What level of resource will be allocated to HE compared with further education (FE) and schools? Will language-related mobility be looked on favourably?

    Whatever the Turing Scheme brings in the future, it is clear that the UK will have a confusing mix of opportunities for mobility because:

    • HE students in Northern Ireland will be able to participate in Erasmus by registering through an HE institution in the Republic of Ireland.
    • In Wales, Education is a devolved responsibility of the Welsh Government who have allocated £65 million for the period 2022-2026 for a new International learning Exchange Programme. This programme will allow reciprocal exchange and will operate in a similar way to the existing Erasmus+ programme where funding is available for both incoming and outgoing student exchange. 15,000 outbound and 10,000 inbound mobilities are targeted. Note that the programme covers learners, educators and administrators.
    • The Scottish Government are looking at options for running a scheme similar to that in Wales. Differences between Turing and opportunities in Northern Ireland and Wales may raise confusion as for the reciprocity vs. non reciprocity aspect; students & staff vs. only student mobility. The Welsh scheme will start from September 2022/2023, Turing starts 2021/2022.
    • The European Commission declined the request from Scotland earlier this year to become associated to the Erasmus+ programme. This option is ruled out for individual regions within a country. At the same time, the EU is open to negotiate should the United Kingdom reconsider its position on Erasmus+ in the future.

    4. TURING and complementarity to Erasmus+ 2021-2027 

    • The Universities of Edinburgh and Durham did not apply in this year’s Turing scheme for funding for mobility with EU partners. All their Turing awards will be allocated to non-EU countries. The Erasmus+ grant covering mobility with EU partners will be continued until May 2023.
    • The Universities of Edinburgh and Durham have given assurance that after the Erasmus+ grant ends in May 2023, ongoing study grants will continue uninterrupted until the end of the academic year 2022/2023 (until September 2023).
    • Up to 20% of Erasmus+ Key Action 1 (KA1) funds awarded to higher education mobility projects can be used to support outgoing mobility of students and staff to any partner countries in the world (the UK is covered under “Region 14” – Faroe Islands, Switzerland, United Kingdom). However, higher education institutions are expected to allocate these resources to the widest possible geographic scope and not restrict it to just the UK. The European Commission has made it clear it would carefully monitor this. However, there is no clear position on this matter among Erasmus National Agencies. For example, for the next academic year Uppsala University plans to dedicate all 20% of KA1 grants to partners in the UK and Switzerland. This will be possible because all EU universities, due to COVID-19 outbreak, still have relevant resources for student and staff mobility from the year 2020 due to the huge reduction in mobilities during the pandemic.
    • Partner Countries are eligible for the new Erasmus+ Blended Intensive Programmes but using their own funding. In this programme, at least three HEIs from Programme Countries must be involved. The UK could participate as an extra Partner Country by using funds from the Turing Scheme to support the physical part of mobility, and other resources for virtual components (at present the Turing scheme does not support virtual mobility). CG members could apply jointly with the UK partners for this kind of grant to promote and enhance new forms of cooperation.
    • CG UK partners are concerned that the Turing Scheme might not continue to be funded in the medium to long term. They are also concerned that it might be restricted in its scope and only used as a vehicle for widening participation.
    • CG UK partners are aware that the volume of mobility, both incoming and outgoing, may reduce substantially when the UK withdraws completely from the Erasmus+ Programme.
    • CG UK partners note that different schemes for mobility will exist in different parts of the UK and that, when these new schemes take effect, strong advocacy will be needed to help shape what will be a much changed landscape for exchange and mobility.
    • The CG UK partners are encouraged that they can still participate in the Jean Monnet and Erasmus Mundus Actions.

    5. National Agreements

    Will national ministries/agencies offer special grants or other forms of support for mobility to UK universities or will there be a movement to other English-speaking countries? This will depend on the policies of individual nation states and national education agencies.

    • Germany: The DAAD announced in March 2021 ten propositions to create a new normality in academic exchange with the UK. Negotiations on cooperation models and waiver of fees are already under way at various levels. The DAAD also announced they were working to develop alternative access routes and financing models for students by 2023. Some DAAD third country programmes should be opened to cooperation with UK institutions. This applies both to scholarship programmes after the end of Erasmus and to the funding of exchange projects based on grant agreements to German higher education institutions. Discussions are still ongoing.
    • Poland: The Polish National Agency for Academic Exchange offers a number of short-term and mid-term mobilities for PhD students as well as academic staff (Programmes like PROM, Becker, Ullam, Academic Partnerships). It refers to UK universities as well, although it is not dedicated uniquely to UK partners. Due to Brexit, the National Agency is considering launching a new programme dedicated to student mobility to the UK.
    • Italy: The March 2021 meeting of Italian rectors (CRUI) stressed the importance of future cooperation with the UK and announced that a draft cooperative agreement with the British Council is being prepared.
    • Other countries: We are aware that other EU countries are interested in bilateral exchange agreements but there is nothing formal to report at this point. The focus for the moment is on ensuring the end of the Erasmus+ funding and initial year of Turing go well and that host institutions have the information they need.

    6. Modern European Languages Programmes that include a compulsory year abroad present a particular set of difficulties:

    Degree programmes in modern European languages and cultures face particular uncertainties with the loss of the Erasmus+ programme that helped underpin a compulsory year abroad. Student starting a degree in academic year 21/22 have no certainty that resources are available to support their year abroad starting in Sept or Oct 2023. This will also be a worry for universities trying to recruit home students for the academic year 21/22 and for students making degree programme choices without certainty over year  abroad funding. Modern language departments in the UK benefit hugely from incoming students and, while the Turing Scheme might sustain some outward mobility it will not support incoming students thereby risking a substantial imbalance between outgoing and incoming exchange students.

    • Erasmus+ Key Action 103 allows 20% of funds to be used flexibly for mobility to any destination (ESN will advocate to use part of these 20% to mobility to the UK), in fact only a low percentage can be used for UK partners (due to the requirement to demonstrate geographical distribution among regions);
    • There many be an evolution of the format of mobility with a transition from full year abroad to shorter mobilities, summer schools, and blended virtual and actual mobility. Many universities may consider enhancing virtual exchange opportunities to compensate real mobility;
    • We note that the EU allows for visa waivers for conferences or unpaid work for 180 days (6 months) which will assist with some forms of short-term mobility;
    • Joint masters: UK institutions can join, but also lead consortia;
    • Erasmus Mundus Design Measures: new sub-action, supporting design of high-level study programmes at master level (single lump sum of 55.000€/consortium);
    • Participation of UK institutions is also possible in Erasmus+ Key Action 2 – Cooperation Partnerships and Alliances for Innovation (Forward Looking Projects);

    7. Comments from CG UK members (Bristol, Durham and Edinburgh) 

    These headline points relate to the University of Edinburgh’s (UoE) Erasmus participation and performance noting that over the duration of the Erasmus programme (since 1987), Bristol, Durham & Edinburgh have sent well over 7,000 students to study and work in Europe through Erasmus.

    • UoE has over 250 student exchange agreements with European partner institutions in over 20 countries.
    • UoE is the number one UK study destination for inbound Erasmus students and has one of the largest UK cohorts of outbound students.
    • UoE has been the largest UK recipient of Erasmus+ student and staff mobility funding in recent years.
    • UoE’s current Erasmus+ award for the 2020/21 project year is €4.1M (to support both European and international mobility) – this project has been extended until May 2023 meaning that UoE can continue to fund its outgoing students until then.

    8. Concluding concerns and considerations:

    • Erasmus+ has been the key framework that has supported students on Modern European Languages programmes who have a mandatory year abroad requirement. There is no prioritisation of mandatory study/work abroad through Turing.
    • One of the key objectives of Turing is Widening Participation. For example, only about 7% of University of Edinburgh outbound European exchange students qualify for the supplementary “Widening Participation” Erasmus grant. This could negatively impact on the amount Edinburgh and other leading UK universities are awarded.
    • The Turing Scheme’s lack of inward mobility has resulted in the perception that the benefits are one-sided and that there are no incentives for EU students or institutions to engage.
    • Many organisations including universities, the Erasmus Student Network (ESN) and the British Council are particularly concerned about maintaining already established and long- lasting partnerships with EU institutions;
    • The ESN will undertake to raise awareness among students about the Turing Programme, and communicate to UK students that there are alternatives to Anglophone countries;
    • If the Turing scheme does not include short-term staff exchange after 2023, will the UK universities accept outgoing staff from EU Universities within the Erasmus+ scheme?
    • There is no legal framework for creating/re-negotiating partnerships under Turing – to avoid further frustrating / alienating EU partners, a standard UK-wide agreement template is suggested. The University of Nottingham announced at a recent Universities UK International (UUKi) webinar that they were initiating conversations around creating such a template.
    • The new Erasmus+ Programme foresees only outgoing mobilities both for EU countries as well as worldwide. Previously the Erasmus+ Key Action 107 for Partner Countries offered funding for outgoing and incoming. Now it will be harder to manage mobilities outside the EU (UK included). What’s more, EU higher education institutions will have fewer outgoing mobilities to the UK than previously and they will not be able to prioritise the UK as a destination due to the criterion of geographical distribution.
    • UK institutions may need to work with their partners to identify creative solutions for different types of engagement beyond standard reciprocal exchanges – e.g. summer schools, short exchange and study programmes.
    • To ensure outward opportunities for students, the UK universities need to be proactive in ensuring that EU partners choose UK study destinations for their outbound students. While Turing is not a like-for-like Erasmus replacement post-Brexit, with appropriate lobbying it could evolve into a scheme that allows for bilateral exchange.
    • The Coimbra Group can help to promote constructive dialogue between the UK Government (Department for Education), the EU, UUKi, British Council, ESN and its member universities about the Turing scheme. Such advocacy will help to promote a constructive two-way exchange of information and views to assist the UK to develop a Turing Scheme that embracing best practice in reciprocity, staff mobility, equality and inclusion for all students.

     

     

    List of people consulted by the CG task group (March-April 2021)

    Mr Alex BARKER

    Policy Adviser, Turing Scheme, International Higher Education Division, UK Department for Education

    Ms Caroline BLONDELL

    Project Officer, Turing Scheme, International Higher Education Division, UK Department for Education

    Ms Almut CASPARY

    Higher Education and Science Lead for the EU Region, British Council

    Ms Vanessa DEBIAIS-SAINTON

    Head of Unit, Higher education (EAC.B.1), Directorate-General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture, European Commission

    Mr Filip Van DEPOELE

    Head of Unit, International Cooperation (EAC.C.3), Directorate-General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture, European Commission

    Mr Kostis GIANNIDIS

    President, Erasmus Student Network

    Prof Claire GORRARA

    Chair of the University Council of Modern Languages (UCML) and Professor of French, Cardiff University

    Ms Naquita LEWIS

    Implementation Manager for the Turing Scheme and the Higher Education Lead for the Erasmus+ programme in the UK, British Council (has left her position since then)

    Ms Vivienne STERN

    Director, Universities UK International

    Prof Janet STEWART

    Executive Dean (Arts and Humanities), Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Durham University

    Mr Matthew WILLIAMS 

    Policy Adviser on International Engagement, Turing Scheme, International Higher Education Division, UK Department for Education

    Coimbra Group Academic Exchange & Mobility Working Group members

     

  • Coimbra Group Statement on UK’s withdrawal from the Erasmus+ programme

    14 January 2021

    In light of the withdrawal of the United Kingdom (UK) from the new Erasmus+ programme, and given the significant engagement of Coimbra Group Universities in this flagship EU programme since its inception, the Coimbra Group places the utmost importance and urgency to secure, and further advocate for new alternative schemes that would facilitate student and staff exchange with our UK partners and minimize as much as possible the impact of the decision of the British government for our universities, academic and administrative staff and students.

    We express our strongest support to all UK universities. We assure them that we are ready to build on our longstanding collective experience, with a view to mitigate, where possible, the impacts of Erasmus+ agreement terminations in mid-2023 and address any challenges that may arise until then.

    The expertise and capacity of the Academic Exchange and Mobility (AEM) Working Group is crucial in this regard. It is the intention of the Coimbra Group to closely monitor the new situation and future developments and, whenever possible, build on the knowledge acquired through its own instrument, the Student Exchange Network (SEN).

    We call for immediate action from the European Institutions and the national Ministries for Higher Education to help universities mitigating the impact of this unilateral decision from the British government. We believe that it is our duty to ensure that students, academic and administrative staff at higher education institutions do not suffer from the consequences of a purely political decision. We plead for a solidarity-based approach.

     

     

    CG Statement on UK’s withdrawal from the Erasmus+ programme

     

  • Coimbra Group Statement on the Multiannual financial framework (MFF)

    26 October 2020

    As new rounds of negotiations are set to take place this week between the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union and the European Commission on the EU’s Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), the Coimbra Group, representing 41 long-established European comprehensive, multidisciplinary universities, reiterates its call to EU and national leaders to reach an agreement that ensures appropriate funding is allocated to the EU flagship programmes Erasmus+ and Horizon Europe to meet the societal needs of the time.

    We feel the need to recall that the future of Europe will crucially depend on the support given to its young people and their commitment to the further development of Europe. We therefore once again call on the EU institutions as well as on national policy makers to strengthen their investment in Knowledge, in particular in education and research” (read our past statement here).

    Prof Thilly, Chair of the Executive Board, reaffirms that “any additional cut to an already low budget allocated to Horizon Europe is further jeopardizing the EU capacity to properly respond to the current and future crises.” He warns that “education, research and innovation must be safeguarded – not recognizing this is just a populist short-sighted view!

    In line with its long-standing advocacy for ambitious budgets for higher education, research and innovation, the Coimbra Group welcomes and strongly supports:

    • the common statement published on 21 October by the national rectors’ conferences in Germany (HRK), Austria (UNIKO) and The Netherlands (VSNU), representing 9 Coimbra Group member universities: “Last chance to invest in European higher education and research”;
    • the statement made on 19 October by Christian Ehler, Member of the European Parliament (European People’s Party) and Rapporteur for Horizon Europe, calling on the EU Heads of State and Government to “match the Green and Digital goals with a budget fit for this age”.

    In July 2020, fifteen European associations of universities – among which the Coimbra Group – representing more than 800 universities in Europe, united and called on European leaders to step up investment in excellent, cross-border research, education and innovation, both in the Multiannual Financial Framework from 2021 to 2027 and Next Generation EU, and to commit to putting sufficient resources behind common ambitions (#EUInvestInKnowledge).

     

    EU long-term budget negotiations Statement

  • Coimbra Group Position Paper on Digital Education Action Plan

    11 September 2020

    The Coimbra Group has submitted a position paper in reply to the European Commission public consultation on the new Digital Education Action Plan.

    This consultation was seeking to gather the views of citizens and stakeholders on their experiences and expectations during the COVID-19 crisis (both to-date and in the recovery period), as well as their visions for the future of digital education.

    This paper is largely on the basis of our May report Practices at Coimbra Group Universities in response to the COVID-19 – A Collective Reflection on the Present and Future of Higher Education in Europe.

     

    Coimbra Group Position Paper on Digital Education Plan

  • #EUInvestInKnowledge

    14 July 2020

    Fifteen European associations of universities – among which the Coimbra Group – unite and call on European leaders to step up investment in excellent, cross-border research, education and innovation, both in the Multiannual Financial Framework from 2021 to 2027 and Next Generation EU, and to commit to putting sufficient resources behind common ambitions.

    Together, the initiative’s signatories represent more than 800 universities in Europe, committed to create a better future for Europe and its citizens. The 15 associations have united before for the campaign “Seize our common future”, calling for an ambitious long-term EU budget for research, innovation and education to boost efforts to solve the manifold future challenges.

    “Both Horizon Europe and Erasmus+ are investments in our future and in our youth. They will reinforce Europe’s capacities to face today’s challenges, and those yet to come. Such challenges may take various forms and solutions will require mobilising various types of knowledge, citizens, and society” says the document released today. “We, universities of Europe, urge European leaders to step up investment in research, innovation and education to foster longterm strategic resilience, enabling Europe to strongly reinforce its role as a global leader in this respect.”

    The Chair of the Coimbra Group Executive Board believes that “any additional cut to an already low budget allocated to Horizon Europe is further jeopardizing EU capacity to properly respond to the current and future crises.” Ludovic Thilly warns that “education, research and innovation must be safeguarded – not recognizing this is just a populist short-sighted view!”

    Common statement

     

  • Joint statement from Coimbra Group Rectors’ Advisory Group and Executive Board on the next European Multiannual Financial Framework and the recovery instrument “Next Generation EU”

    16 June 2020

    The Coimbra Group welcomes the recent proposal for the next European Multiannual Financial Framework and the recovery instrument, “Next Generation EU”. It commends in particular the specific top-up allocated to the Horizon Europe programme. We would, however, wish to express our great concerns about the missing explicit support, in the recovery instrument, for Education and specifically the Erasmus+ programme. We feel the need to recall that the future of Europe will crucially depend on the support given to its young people and their commitment to the further development of Europe. We therefore once again call on the EU institutions as well as on national policy makers to strengthen their investment in Knowledge, in particular in education and research, and ask for a more ambitious budget plan which includes both Horizon Europe and Erasmus+ programmes in the pool of recovery instruments.

     

    16 June 2020

     

    The Coimbra Group Rectors‘ Advisory Group

    Patrick Gilli, Rector of University Paul-Valery Montpellier 3, Honorary President

    Tomáš Zima,  Rector of Charles University in Prague

    Wojciech Nowak, Rector of Jagiellonian University in Kraków

    Rosario Rizzuto, Rector of  the University of Padova

    Luc Sels, Rector of KU Leuven

    Pilar Aranda Ramírez, Rector of the University of Granada

    Stuart Corbridge, Vice-Chancellor and Warden of Durham University

     

    The Coimbra Group Executive Board

    Ludovic Thilly (University of Poitiers), Chair

    Jürgen Barkhoff (Trinity College Dublin), Vice-Chair

    Cláudia Cavadas (University of Coimbra)

    Daniel Donoghue (Durham University)

    Johnny Laursen (Aarhus University)

    Dorota Malec (Jagiellonian University in Kraków)

    Lenka Rovná (Charles University in Prague)

    Efrem Yildiz Sadak (University of Salamanca)

    Elmer Sterken (University of Groningen)

    Luca Verzichelli (University of Siena)

     

    PDF version of the statement :

    Joint Statement MFF and Next Generation EU

  • Coimbra Group statement on resignation of ERC President

    09 April 2020

    The Coimbra Group expresses full support to the ERC’s Scientific Council after the announcement of the resignation of ERC President, Prof. Mauro Ferrari, on 7 April. In a statement published on 8 April, the members of the Scientific Council explain the reasons that led to the unanimous request that Prof. Ferrari resigns from his position, on 27 March.

    In the current difficult times where basic research is, once again, demonstrating its key role in solving societal challenges, the successful European instruments must be safeguarded: the ERC with its bottom-up support for excellent fundamental research, is the most effective and important one.

    The Coimbra Group applauds the European Commission for its recent initiatives promoting a true European solidarity against COVID-19: openness and solidarity have never been so important and will remain key for ensuring the resilience of Europe and European citizens now and in the future. In this challenge, Education, Research and Innovation will have roles of paramount importance: the Coimbra Group, composed of comprehensive research-led universities with strong civic missions, will continue to promote knowledge, collegiality, scientific integrity and solidarity at the service of society.

     

     

    9 April 2020

    The Coimbra Group Executive Board

    Prof. Ludovic Thilly (University of Poitiers), Chair

    Prof. Jürgen Barkhoff (Trinity College Dublin)

    Prof. Claudia Cavadas (University of Coimbra)

    Prof. Daniel Donoghue (Durham University)

    Prof. Johnny Laursen (Aarhus University)

    Prof. Dorota Malec (Jagiellonian University in Kraków)

    Prof. Lenka Rovna (Charles University – Prague)

    Prof. Efrem Yildiz Sadak (University of Salamanca)

    Prof. Elmer Sterken (University of Groningen)

    Prof. Luca Verzichelli (University of Siena)

     

     

    Download the PDF version of the statementhere.

  • Coimbra Group Statement on BREXIT

    31 January 2019

    As part of the follow-up to the meeting of the Rectors’ Advisory Board with the Executive Board on 25 January, the two bodies agree to issue a statement on behalf of the Coimbra Group on the BREXIT process, in particular to express full support to our UK colleagues and partners.

     

    Coimbra Group Statement on BREXIT

  • CG statement on the Bologna Process

    24 April 2018

    Following the debate at the High-Level Seminar “Lifelong Learning and Employability” on 24 January 2018 in Brussels, the Executive Board of the Coimbra Group initiated a discussion on the Bologna Process and current developments in higher education, notably in European Union policies. After consultation with the Rectors’ Advisory Group and Rectors at the thirty-nine member universities, the Executive Board offers the following statement on the occasion of the forthcoming EHEA2018, the Ministerial Conference of Ministers of Education of the forty-eight countries participating in the Bologna Process, to take place in Paris on 24-25 May this year.

    Coimbra Group statement

  • 21 March 2018 joint statement on the MFF

    21 March 2018

    Thirteen European research university networks united in a statement to double funding for research in the Multiannual Financial Framework

    #UniversitiesUnitedonMFF

    Open the Joint statement

  • CG statement on European Universities Networks

    12 February 2018

    The Coimbra Group Executive Board has released a statement on European Universities Networks. “The Coimbra Group Executive Board calls for urgent clarification of the concept of “European Universities Networks”. (…) Existing Higher Education networks have a crucial role to play at European level in facilitating effective cooperation based on their extensive accumulated experience and expertise. Furthermore, we recognise the need for a specific funding mechanism whereby networks can participate, in collaboration with other stakeholders, in specific supporting actions in order to facilitate these “consortia” or to enhance other aspects of the modernisation and innovation agendas relevant to smaller in-depth partnerships between universities.”

    Read the full document

  • CG position paper on FP9

    10 October 2017

    The Coimbra Group has published its policy paper

    Coimbra Group contribution to the development of the next European Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, FP9

    The paper emphasises the importance of a robust and comprehensive future Framework Programme to maintain and strengthen the position of the EU as an effective and competitive knowledge economy. Researchers and innovators are key actors in the knowledge economy and it is imperative that a modernised EU budget ensures and intensifies support of research and innovation. The ninth Framework programme must have excellence at its heart, be international and include the full spectrum of research disciplines and fields. Closer links between the higher education and the research and innovation programmes must be developed and strengthened to ensure knowledge transfer to and from new generations of researchers and innovators.

  • A First Response from the CG to the Lamy Report

    31 August 2017

    In September 2016 Carlos Moedas, the EU Commissioner for research, science and innovation, mandated a 12-person high-level expert group led by former WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy to set out a vision on how to maximise the impact of future EU R&I programme. The expert group, drawn from academia, industry, and government, was mandated to make recommendations intended to influence the Horizon 2020 work programme 2018-2020 and post-Horizon 2020 FP9. On 3 July 2017, the expert group chaired by Pascal Lamy published its “Lab-Fab-App” report on maximising the impact of EU R&I programme. Read the Coimbra Group’s first response to this report.

    A First Response to the Lamy Report

  • CG Position Paper on Erasmus+

    23 May 2017

    The Coimbra Group contribution to the mid-term evaluation of the European Commission’s Erasmus+ Programme is published today on 23 May 2017.

    The Expert Group underlines both successes and challenges in the paper and draws attention to “The established and respected status of Erasmus+ in Europe (and beyond) [which] comes with responsibilities for this programme. No other programme has such huge potential to shape academic exchanges – their content and their dimensionality. Consequently, Erasmus+ has the responsibility to address the major problems and challenges of Europe. Education, academic life, academic exchanges have never brought immediate solutions to urgent or long-term threats, but they have always paved the way towards successful and comprehensive long-term solutions.”

    CG Position Paper on Erasmus+

  • CG interim evaluation of Horizon 2020

    11 January 2017

    The Coimbra Group has submitted a response to the European Commission’s interim evaluation of the Horizon 2020 programme.

    “Horizon 2020 has made significant contributions to European research, innovation, growth and job creation. The commitment of the EU to support excellent research, addressing the societal challenges and supporting innovation through funding of research is laudable. Horizon 2020 has been and should continue to be an investment in the future of Europe and not an expense. The Coimbra Group supports the opportunities provided by the three-pillar approach of Horizon 2020, and we acknowledge the simplification processes achieved in Horizon 2020, including the faster turnaround time to contract, the single cost model for reimbursement of cost and the improvements made through the Participant Portal. Horizon 2020 has provided significantly added value which could not have been achieved through national activities alone. Consequently, the most important contribution the EU can make would be to boost investments in research and innovation in order to ensure sustainable growth for Europe. On the occasion of the mid-term review of the Horizon 2020 framework programme, the Coimbra Group wishes to take stock of the first two work programmes of Horizon 2020, taking into account the previous recommendations issued in 2013 and 2015 in our position papers. In particular, with members of our pan-European network being universities of high-level multidisciplinary research, special attention will be paid to the representation of all disciplines in projects financed by the Horizon 2020 programme. The present Coimbra Group contribution will focus on 9 areas of recommendation.”

    CG interim evaluation of Horizon 2020

  • Monitoring the Horizon 2020 Application and Evaluation Process

    08 August 2016

    The Executive Board of the Coimbra Group is pleased to publish the Monitoring note as one of the outcomes of our high-level seminar on research policies held on 30-31 October last year: “Horizons 2015: First Experiences, Emerging Expectations”; Horizon 2020 from the perspective of European Research Universities. The note is produced by research support officers at Coimbra Group Universities, responsible for the handling of Horizon 2020 applications at their individual universities.
    It is our hope that the note can contribute to the further development of the Horizon 2020 Programme and the updating of evaluation and assessment procedures.
    Another initiative taken by the research support officers is a seminar on impact, which will be held at Aarhus University in May. Further information will be available mid-April.

    Monitoring the Horizon 2020 Application and Evaluation Process
    Letter from EU commissioner Carlos Moedasin response to CG note on Monitoring the Horizon 2020 Application and Evaluation Process

  • CG position paper on U-Multirank today

    05 August 2016

    The CG has published a position paper on the current state of U-Multirank.

    Executive Summary. Among the ever growing supply of commercial benchmark tools and league tables of higher education institutions, U-Multirank is conceptually superior in its efforts to compare alike with alike, in its broad set of indicators and its possibility to compare at both institution and subject level, based on any combination of indicators preferred by the user. In its implementation, however, present-day U-Multirank suffers from severe weaknesses, which prevent many institutions from participating or leave the participating institutions disappointed with the outcome. The strongest criticism concerns U-Multirank’s indicators, which remain weak proxies of quality for valid international comparison of institutions and the unfortunate fact that the present results are based on unverifiable data provided by the institutions themselves and on imprecise definitions that do not take national differences sufficiently into account and/or could be read differently in different national and sometimes even institutional contexts. It is therefore suggested, in particular to the sponsoring European Commission, to invest European taxpayers’ money in the years to come in the development of a high-quality and publicly accessible database of relevant basic data that can be used for meaningful benchmarking of higher education institutions.

    U-Multirank today