European Council releases conclusions on European Universities Initiative

Launched in 2017, the European Universities Initiative encompasses 17 “European Universities” – networks of HEIs that cooperate across borders – as well as 41 European university alliances currently being established following calls in 2019 and 2020.

A mid-term review of the European Universities will also take place later this year.

“We all must guarantee that ‘European Universities’ are made operational as ‘test beds’ for student-centred approaches, addressing societal challenges and skills needs in Europe,” said Manuel Heitor, minister of science and higher education of Portugal.

“They should also act as ‘test beds’ for responsible research and teaching and the recruitment of young researchers, including improved tenure track systems, and to strengthen career management and diversification.”

However, Anna-Lena Claeys-Kulik, policy coordinator at European University Association, cautioned that “too much political steering” could be detrimental to the success of the initiative.

“We are a bit concerned that there are a lot of different political goals attached to the European Universities Initiative”

“We are a bit concerned that there are a lot of different political goals attached to the European Universities Initiative,” she told The PIE News.

“The initiative has lost a little bit of the ‘bottom up’ momentum it had at the start… Putting all of these very different and very ambitious goals to the alliances doesn’t give them enough leeway, time and resources, that they need to actually focus on their academic projects and what they want to achieve.”

Her concerns were also echoed by the League of European Research Universities, whose chair, Sorbonne University president Jean Chambaz, noted that the “long-term success of the European Universities depends on the ability of national policy makers and actors to remove regulatory and administrative hurdles, which are most often obsolete rules resulting from the historical building of our national systems”.

“Cleaning up these obstacles is a necessity to build up this open area of higher education in Europe, which we all call for,” he added.

LERU and the EUA have also noted that the future of UK members of the initiative remains unclear.

“There is currently the question of what will happen to UK members after the pilot phase, at least under the Erasmus part of the alliance, and whether they can continue on a self-funding basis,” Claeys-Kulik said.

“Of course, it’s in the interest of the alliances to keep their members.”

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