Establishing first EU universities alliances

The aim is to boost the quality of European higher education

A year and a half after the European Council set the goal of creating at least 20 European Universities by 2024, as a key mainstay of the European Education Area, the Commission announced which higher education institutions will be part of the first alliances.

European Universities are transnational alliances of higher education institutions from across the EU that share a long-term strategy and promote European values. Their aim is to significantly boost mobility of students and staff, and foster the quality and competitiveness of European higher education.

An evaluation carried out by a jury of 26 independent rectors, professors and researchers, appointed by the Commission, was the ground of selecting 17 European Universities, out of 54 applications, involving 114 higher education institutions from 24 EU countries. A broad range of higher education institutions are involved in the initiative from universities of applied sciences, technical universities, universities of fine arts and research-based universities.

I am pleased that we have been able to launch this first pilot so quickly - and that we now have €85m available to support the first alliances over the next three years, Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, said to the media on Wednesday, while presenting the initiative.

He also explained that the alliances will test different models of what a European University can be and how this initiative can best serve both young people and the economies and societies. “We will closely monitor their progress and build on their experiences as we develop this initiative.” The second test phase will be launched in the autumn and the full roll-out under the future Erasmus programme will be reality as of 2021. Each alliance will receive up to €5m for a three years to start implementing their plans and pave the way for other higher education institutions

According to the criteria, to establish an alliance are necessary a minimum of three higher education institutions from three EU Member States or other Erasmus programme countries.

Among the ideas of the Commission is for the European Universities to turn into inter-university campuses around which students, doctoral candidates, staff and researchers can move seamlessly.

Putting together their expertise and resources, the alliances will develop joint curricula or modules covering various disciplines. These curricula will be very flexible and will allow students to personalise their education, choosing what, where and when to study and get a European degree.

EU universities will also contribute to the sustainable economic development of the regions where they are located, as their students will work closely with companies, municipal authorities, academics and researchers to find solutions to the challenges their regions are facing.

The second call for establishing alliances will be announced in October.

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