On 26 June, the European Commission announced the results of the first pilot call for “European Universities”.
Out of 54 applications, 17 networks involving 114 higher education institutions from 25 countries have been selected for funding. Each of them will receive up to €5 million over the next three years. The selected networks are diverse in terms of scope, thematic focus and institutional profiles and they involve on average seven higher education institutions from different parts of Europe. They now have the task to build their collaboration over the years to come and turn their ambitions into reality. For this to take place, it will be important for national governments to demonstrate willingness to discuss and remove administrative and legal obstacles for cross-border university collaboration.
The first pilot call was part of the European Commission’s package to develop the idea of closer strategic collaboration among universities from across Europe. This idea was first aired by French President Emmanuel Macron in his speech at Sorbonne University in September 2017. It was then taken up by the EU under the Erasmus+ programme. The original aim was to create at least 20 such networks by 2024, as part of the plan to establish a European Education Area by 2025, while more will follow in the future. A second pilot call will be published in the autumn of this year. The pilot calls are paving the way for a new funding instrument as part of the future Erasmus programme in 2021-2027.
EUA President-elect Michael Murphy strongly supported the idea of deep transnational networks at the Bologna Process 20th Anniversary Conference earlier this week, “We must design a comprehensive system with all of our universities in deep transnational networks, perhaps 100, harvesting and coordinating excellence across our continent”, he stated in a speech at the opening of the Conference. “Deep networks would inevitably simplify the attainment of the traditional Bologna Process goals. Networks will require new transnational academic governance models, new funding arrangements and challenging institutional cultural changes. This is a big political challenge, one first likely addressed within the EU, but where the EHEA will play a key role in including the whole of Europe in its ultimate design.”
EUA has been involved in the discussions around the development of the concept of “European Universities” since the very beginning and is part of the Stakeholder Consultation Group established by the European Commission to accompany the process. EUA will continue to advocate for alignment of the concept and related policies linked to the development of a European Education Area with existing frameworks such as the Bologna Process and the European Research Area.