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EUA focuses on tackling foreign influence risks

European University Association has called for an approach to international academic cooperation that balances autonomy and academic freedom with engagement, as well as empowering “research, education and innovation to be effective in the global scene”.

EUAA new approach may be required for Europe to be autonomous but open to international collaboration. Photo: Unsplash

"The world of eight or 10 years ago where more cooperation was better, is over"

It published the policy input recommendations ahead of an expected EC communication on research, education, innovation and youth, advocating “bracing for risks in order to build the resilience of Europe’s research, innovation and education and promoting a global level playing field”.

“What [the recommendations are] really saying is the world of eight or 10 years ago where more cooperation was better, is over. But we want to keep all the good things we had from that period,” explained Thomas Jørgensen, senior policy coordinator at EUA.

“Everybody wants to engage, everybody wants to engage from a point of strength, and nobody denies the risks that there are. But what are the means to do that? We need another dialogue with the policy makers, with the other stakeholders, the funders.

“There are different risks for different countries”

“And then instead of talking about should you work with China, should you not work with China, [ask] what are the risks involved? There are different risks for different countries. I discussed letting Iranian students do work on nuclear reactors in universities a long time ago.

“The other reason on the European level why you do this is that you have this whole building up of the concept of strategic autonomy. It goes much more beyond foreign interference. It is about how can you continue academic engagement in a period where Europe is resetting as an international actor.”

This comes following similar discussions in the UK – where a paper was recently released on how over-reliance on China is threatening the sustainability of research – and the US, on how to address increased influence from countries such as China (although the EUA policy input does not mention any country by name) on campuses.

“Europe should strive for setting the pace in global structures of governance in areas, such as data, technology and intellectual property, that help create a global level playing field, whilst safeguarding academic freedom and universities’ institutional autonomy,” the reported stated.

“This approach will help foster a stronger, more independent EU that is at the same time open, international and cooperative. Europe’s universities, as strong, open and autonomous institutions, play a crucial role in these developments.”

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