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European Universities initiative : latest developements

23 October 2019

On 3 October 2019, Prof. Ludovic Thilly, Coimbra Group Executive Board Chair, was invited to a seminar on the “European Universities initiative” organized in Stockholm, Sweden, by the Expert Group for Internationalization of the Association of Swedish Higher Education Institutions (SUHF), headed by Rector Eva Akesson from our member University, Uppsala.

The European Commission was represented by Ms. Tine Delva, European Commission- Directorate-General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture, Policy advisor; Unit on Higher Education. Tine Delva presented an analysis of the results of the first call of the pilot phase of this initiative, together with information on the second call. Her presentation can be found here(CG members only).

Ludovic Thilly presented the Alliances composed of Coimbra Group member Universities and the network’s view on this unprecedented initiative. His presentation can be found here(CG members only).

Representatives from Swedish Universities involved in selected Alliances gave an overview of their projects and guiding principles.

During the panel discussion, Ludovic Thilly stressed out the potential positive impact of this initiative on the European Higher Education and Research Areas (EHEA and ERA): promotion of shared European values, support to modernized, united, open EHEA and ERA, unprecedented blending of education, research and innovation activities, potential break down of EU policies silos, space for freedom, flexibility and creativity. However, potential threats must be kept in mind: unappropriated time frame (three years is too short to lead to deep systemic change), insufficient budget, creation of another elitist initiative with counter-productive competition. The panel experts concluded that this initiative will be a real game changer only if all Member States are fully committed and bring significant technical and financial support to the Alliances (selected or not): indeed, it would be a major political mistake to believe that Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) can solve alone the current challenges of EHEA and ERA.

Since then, the European Commission has announced the kick-off event of the European Universities initiative that will take place on 7 November 2019 in Brussels: link.

On the morning of 7 November, Representatives from selected Alliances will meet the European Commissions and Higher Education Ministers. On the afternoon, a public session is organized, where participants will hear the selected European Universities present their strategies, be informed about the second call for proposals for new pilot European Universities and be able to share their thoughts about the future of the initiative.

As announced during the preparation of the first call of this initiative, the Executive Board remains convinced that, as a pan-European network, the Coimbra Group has a crucial role to play in supporting the Alliances and invites the consortia to contact the Coimbra Group Office to discuss possible ways of collaboration: for example by facilitating the dissemination towards other Coimbra Group members regarding their future activities, including internationalisation of curricula, learning outcomes, lifelong learning, research policies and modernisation of Higher Education. It is our objective to transform this initiative into a multiplier and not a divider of the historical cooperation existing between our member universities.