Joint workshop on "European University Networks"


European University Networks
Regional groupings, thematic networks or strategic alliances?
A contribution to the development of the concept of "European University Networks"

16 April 2018, Brussels 

First voiced by French President Macron, the idea to create “European Universities” has quickly gained support in Europe. The concept is now being discussed on EU level, as well as in the EU member states. A joint workshop of the Permanent Representation of the Federal Republic of Germany to the European Union, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the German Rectors Conference (HRK) has contributed to this discussion, by showcasing some examples of strategic cooperation through/in networks of Higher Education Institutions and by offering a platform for discussion among relevant actors.

Eun Workshop Publikum_    Eun Workshop Gerhard Duda

In April 2018, the concept how to create “European Universities” is still very much in the making. “What I say this morning, might already be out of date this evening”, said Sophia Eriksson-Waterschoot, Director at the European Commission’s Directorate General for Education, Culture, Youth and Sports at the start-up of the workshop. She nevertheless gave an insight in the current state of play of how the European Commission plans to take forward the idea to create by 2024 some “20 European Universities”.
  • It is an ambitious initiative that shall reach a new level of cooperation and integration among Higher Education Institutions in Europe
  • The “European University Networks (EUN)” shall follow a bottom-up approach; they shall be builtup gradually, but with a far-reaching vision, a strong governance model and aiming for a European statute
  • EUN need to reflect a geographical balance in Europe
  • Mobility for all, language learning, joint programmes with a truly European degree, full recognition of study periods abroad, innovative, cross-sectorial curricula as well as addressing the knowledge triangle of education, research and innovation shall be at the forefront of EUN
  • EUN shall act as role-models that can inspire others
  • A pilot under Erasmus+ will test the concept that is expected to be fully developed for the Erasmus+ successor programme starting in 2021

Eun Workshop Netzwerke 1     Eun Workshop NetzwerkeEun Workshop Europim     Eun Workshop Schiewer

The idea to develop “European Universities” is in line with a global trend. Higher Education institutions have developed new forms of strategic networking in recent years; they are intensifying a few selected partnerships, instead of maintaining several cooperation schemes. The DAAD has already setup in 2014 with support from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research a programme called “Strategic Partnerships and Thematic Networks” to support exactly this global trend. Four of these projects, as well as Eucor, the European Campus, were presented at the workshop to show the diversity of potential networks: They may focus on carefully chosen thematic areas or encompass the entire institution; they may represent territorial groupings or a partnership based on similar types of institutions; they can involve universities of applied sciences or research-based universities and reach out to different parts of Europe. Dorothea Rüland, DAAD Secretary General, advised the European Commission to allow for a similar flexibility in setting-up the “European Universities”: “Let institutions set their own strategic objectives. This would be the best method to ensure wide geographical and institutional participation– while keeping quality as overarching selection criteria.”

Eun Workshop Dorothea Rüland_

The workshop brought together a range of actors from the EU member states, the EU institutions, Higher Education institutions and European stakeholders. While all were welcoming the initiative by the European Commission to startup this process with a pilot in Erasmus+, it became clear that all actors need to contribute to make the “European Universities” a success. “Sustainability can only be achieved if relevant legislation is in place and sustainable funding schemes are developed both at European, as well as national level”. This was a central request from the networks who shared their experience at this workshop in Brussels.