Reflecting on our core values
31 March 2022
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.”