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Information session on the first European Universities call

20 December 2018

On 18 December the Directorate General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture (DG EAC) and the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA) held an information session on the first call for the European Universities initiative. The event was opened by Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Youth, Culture and Sport, who reminded the audience about the objectives of this bottom-up initiative, which is meant to bridge geographical gaps in higher education across Europe and foster excellence and not elitism. The European Commission received the mandate directly from the Heads of States, following a debate on education and culture that took place in Gothenburg, Sweden, on 17 November 2017 (read more about the outcomes of the Gothenburg meeting here). Their vision is to bridge the geographical gaps in Europe by bringing together Europeans from the North, South, East and West. Besides this, it is expected that this initiative will boost the competitiveness of European higher education institutions and will best prepare the young generations to operate in a fast moving society.

Vanessa Debiais-Sainton, Head of Unit of Higher Education at DG EAC, added that the concept of European Universities alliances has been developed through a co-creation process which included all higher education stakeholders and it is intended to take already existing cooperation among higher education institutions to the next level by developing long-term strategies at the intersection of teaching, learning, research and innovation. The European Commission used a challenge-based approach in the call for proposals and it is up to higher education institutions to decide how best to address them. The alliances should be open and inspire other higher education institutions to implement changes, the Bologna principles and automatic recognition, among other things. Vanessa Debiais-Sainton underlined that the mobility component is not to be interpreted as exclusively physical but can also be blended and/or in the form of sharing data and infrastructure. She also stressed that while mobility is a important component, the main objective of the alliances is innovation and excellence. From a practical point of view, the European Commission encourages applicants to make us of existing instruments to fund mobility and resort to the budget reserved for this call to fund mobility and other actions that are not eligible for funding under the existing instruments.

The award criteria include: relevance of the proposal, geographical balance, quality of the alliance and sustainability. As for the evaluation process, DG EAC will invite experts to Brussels to brief them on what the call is about. There will be three experts working on each proposal, independently. Once their individual assessment is over, they can exchange views with each other. One of the three experts will then be designated to make a consolidated assessment. The evaluation period will last five months.

These are some important dates to keep in mind:

28 February 2019: Deadline for submitting proposals

June 2019: Preparation of the second call for proposals

September-November 2019: Start of the alliances

October 2019: Launch of the second call for proposals

The information session was also web streamed. You can view the slides and watch the entire session online here.

In the Coimbra Group newsletter from October 2018, the Executive Board noted that “many consortia have already officially announced that they will apply and many of these include Coimbra Group members”. As a pan-European network, the Coimbra Group has a crucial role to play in supporting collaboration with and between future Alliances. Therefore, the Executive Board is pleased to invite consortia to contact the Coimbra Group Office to discuss possible ways of cooperation, for instance in the form of an Associated Partnership on knowledge sharing and dissemination towards other Coimbra Group members, or through collaborative projects involving the Commission or other stakeholders. Such a collegiate approach should benefit all Coimbra Group members, as well as other major actors from the European Higher Education Area. As was said in the October newsletter, we must, all together, “transform this initiative into a multiplier and not a divider” of the historical cooperation that exists among us.