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The Research and Innovations Days and the Second Education Summit : busy days in Brussels for European Higher Education and Research Areas

27 September 2019

The dates of 24-25-26 September have been important days for the European Higher Education and Research Areas with the Research and Innovations Days (R&I days, 3 days) and the Second Education Summit (26 September). Thousands of delegates participated at these events, including some members of Coimbra Group Working Groups and other colleagues from Coimbra Group Universities.

The programme of the R&I days was copious with plenary conferences and many parallel sessions on all aspects of the knowledge triangle: fundamental and applied research, innovation ecosystems, outreach to society, Open and Citizen Science, Philanthropy, etc.

It is worth noting that all conferences and sessions have been recorded and are available online and worth watching.

A few highlights from the conference:

  • Opening keynotes: Director-General Jean-Eric Paquet stressed the importance of the R&I for solving society’s challenges, while Commission Carlos Moedas revisited his five-year mandate, the period during which R&I has indeed been put high on the political agenda.
  • Plenary session on the Missions: Prof. Mariana Mazzucato presented the concept of Missions and how new multidisciplinary research is needed to reach the ambitious objectives. All public and private stakeholders must commit to this new paradigm.
  • Session on “Me and my society – Integrating social sciences and humanities”: Prof. Jane Ohlmeyer, Erasmus Smith’s Professor of Modern History & Director at the Trinity Long Room Hub, Trinity College Dublin, was invited to speak in this session. Prof. Ohlmeyer kindly accepted to report on the important discussion that took place on SSH integration and interdisciplinarity and on the initial findings of the SHAPE-ID European project that she co-ordinates, with the Coimbra Group as an Associated Partner. This vibrant text can be found here.
  • Session on “Universities in innovation ecosystems”: this panel included Vanessa Debiais-Sainton (DG EAC) and Jean Chambaz (Sorbonne Université), among other speakers. An interesting discussion concerned the crucial role of Universities as central actors of the knowledge “square”: Education, Research, Innovation and Service to Society. In this field, Coimbra Group Universities are very active, as it will be demonstrated at the upcoming Coimbra Group workshop on the Poitiers Declaration and the University-City cooperation.
  • Session on “Skills development for a competitive Europe. The Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions”: the Chair of the Executive Board, Prof. Ludovic Thilly, was invited to speak in this session. After consulting the Doctoral Studies and Research Support Offices Working Groups, he delivered our key recommendations for the future of Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions.
  • Plenary session on “Stakeholders views on the future of research and Innovation” and closing session : the European Commission had agreed to welcome one representative from the group of 15 university associations, including the Coimbra Group, that gathered two years ago for a joint long-term campaign to call for strong Erasmus+ and Horizon Europe programmes. This campaign resulted in an open call for support to the Higher Education and Research communities: EUInvestInKnowledge.eu. Our representative was Paul Boyle, member of the EUA Board, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leicester: Paul Boyle reiterated our call for a minimum budget of €120bn for Horizon Europe and the paramount importance to invest in fundamental research, including in SSH. He recalled that Universities are the beating heart of the knowledge triangle.

It must be recognized that the R&I days are the sign of a new way of working with the European Commission, where co-design is now the motto. One can only hope that all the contributions from this variety of stakeholders will sum up into better policies and lead to “A New Deal for European Higher Education and Research Areas”, as we pleaded in our July newsletter editorial.

The programme of the second Education Summit was also very rich, with a strong focus on Teachers.

The highlight of the event was the launch of the 2019 Education and Training Monitor, an annual publication which measures countries’ progress towards the targets of the Education and Training 2020 strategic framework. While part of this year’s edition of the Monitor is dedicated to school teachers in the EU, it also presents the latest data on early childhood education and care, early leaving from education and training, tertiary educational attainment, underachievement in basic skills, employment rate of recent graduates, adult learning and learning mobility in higher education.

The various sessions of the Summit focused on challenges related to teaching nowadays and these included teaching in rural areas, introducing culture in the classroom to address issues such as inclusion, teaching European values, how to make science more attractive and the study of foreign languages:

  • Session on “More culture in the classroom: better results, more inclusion?”. This session looked at how the study of culture and cultural heritage can enhance and reinforce links between traditional subjects on school curricula and how they can help engage pupils in the learning process. Carmen Ion, a literature teacher at a high school in Focsani, Romania, developed the idea to set up a book contest in her school, as part of which students were required to make a video trailer of the book they had been assigned to read. Her idea became an international success and the “Boovie” festival is now the biggest extracurricular event in Romania. The Department of Education and Training of the Opera in Rome, Italy, made a presentation on an initiative of the association Europa inCanto. The initative, called “Scuola inCanto”, consists in making school pupils become acquainted with opera –  which is often perceived by some as being inaccessible and elitist – in a fun and pedagogical way.
  • Session on “Teaching common values, promoting a shared sense of belonging in diverse classrooms”. This session focused on the issue of preventing radicalisation by fostering a shared sense of belonging. The speakers were Amanda Spielman, Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills, United Kingdom, and Christiane Höhn, Principal Adviser to the EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator, Council of the European Union. The main issues discussed were whether European values are universal, to what extent teachers can be expected to prevent radicalisation by fostering a shared sense of belonging and how education plays a fundamental role in the fight against radicalisation and terrorism.
  • The Chair of the Executive Board attended the session on “European Universities: a game changer for higher education in Europe?”, chaired by Vanessa Debais-Sainton (DG EAC) with Spanish Minister for Education and Research, Pedro Duque, and representatives from three selected Alliances: YUFE, UNITE and CHARM-EU (in which the Coimbra Group is an Associated Partner). An interesting discussion was held on the different types of support from Members States and examples of activities being developed in the selected Alliances.

The recordings from the Education Summit are available here.