The additions mean that the network is now comprised of more than 430 higher education institutions in 35 countries, including all EU member states and Iceland, Norway, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey.
According to the European Commission, the aim of the network is to develop a common long-term structural, sustainable and systemic cooperation on education, research and innovation.
The European inter-university campuses it creates will allow students, staff and researchers from across the continent to enjoy “seamless” mobility and gain new knowledge together, across countries and disciplines.
The initiative is at the heart of the EU’s efforts to transform European higher education, commission spokesperson Sonya Gospodinova told The PIE.
“It aims to achieve the ambitious vision of an innovative and globally competitive European Education Area, in synergy with the European Research Area,” she added.
Students from participating institutions will benefit from a “unique transnational and innovative educational offer, allowing them to acquire essential skills and competences for the future”, said the EC in a statement.
“Imagine studying on the transnational campus of a European University, where the students can choose what, where and when to study in any partner university of the alliance. Learners and educators naturally acquire a whole new set of competencies, as they benefit from innovative and challenge-based pedagogy and from embedded mobility,” said Margaritis Schinas, vice-president for Promoting our European Way of Life.
The 2023 call opened the possibility to higher education institutions from Western Balkans countries, not associated to the Erasmus+ program to participate as full partners in the call.
Since last year, alliances can involve higher education institutions from Bologna Process countries as associated partners. Under the 2023 call, close to 30 higher education institutions from Ukraine have joined the alliances.
“Having almost 30 Ukrainian higher education institutions involved in the European Universities initiative as associated partners will enable them to get inspired and trained in their process of reshaping their higher education system after the war,” said Gospodinova.
Including Ukrainian institutions will support the country’s recovery, benefiting the entire Ukrainian academic community and strengthening the European Universities alliances themselves, she added.
The European University Association this week published its recommendations to support the Ukrainian university sector, including inter-institutional partnerships, providing placements for Ukrainian academics and students abroad, as well as the development of virtual exchanges and cooperation.
“In these uncertain times, university collaboration is one of the critical lifelines connecting Ukraine with Europe and the world. Beyond strengthening resilience, it also a strategic investment into the country’s rebuilding,” said Ivanka Popović, vice-president of EUA and chair of EUA’s Ukraine Task Force.
The record overall budget of the 2023 European Universities Network call, some €402.2 million, means that each alliance can receive a budget of up to €14.4 million for four years.
The almost 1,700 associated partners in the European Universities alliances “can be actors of change and bring innovation to Europe’s regions”, said Jorge Molina-Martinez, project adviser at European Commission, Research Executive Agency in a LinkedIn post.
Reflecting on the initiative’s impact so far, Gospodinova said the alliances have “pushed the boundaries and built novel and lasting joint governance structures, established inter-university campuses, joint and/or flexible educational programs and embedded mobility opportunities”.
She added that the alliances have incentivised policy changes at EU and national levels, “becoming real motors for policy change” and benefiting the entire higher education sector.
They are also “paving the way towards a joint European degree”.
“European Universities can help us pave the way towards a joint European degree”
“Clearly, the European Universities alliances have demonstrated their ability to be lighthouses for our European way of life and be instrumental in building a stronger Europe in the world,” Gospodinova added.
EUniWell, the European university for wellbeing, will receive continued funding following its three-year pilot phase.
“This is just fantastic. But it’s not about the money for UniWell, it’s about furthering, advancing and analysing wellbeing for each individual, for society and for this planet as a whole” said Beatrix Busse, EUniWell CEO and vice-rector for teaching and studies, University of Cologne, taking to social media to celebrate the announcement.
Newly-funded alliance U!REKA said it is “thrilled” by its acceptance to become an official Erasmus+ co-funded European University Alliance, highlighting its “expanded partner network and a common vision of climate neutrality and beyond”.
ENHANCE Alliance, an alliance made up of 10 research-intensive universities working to drive transformation in science and society, said that it has already seen the “positive, transformative impact” the first project had on its participating institutions.
The European University of Technology was among those set to receive €14.4 million in funding for the second phase of the initiative from 2023-27.
“Now is time to accelerate EUt+ ambitious plan to create a unified European University composed of eight campuses, soon to be nine, across Europe. Our strategy has been validated by EC experts; we now have to make it blossom,” the alliance said in a statement.
“European Universities fundamentally revolutionise higher education and promote European values and identity. They can help us pave the way towards a joint European degree, reinforcing a strong sense of European belonging among graduates,” said Schinas.
In Autumn 2023, the Commission will launch the next Erasmus+ call for proposals, with the aim of reaching the goal of the European strategy for universities to expand to 60 European Universities alliances with more than 500 universities by mid-2024.
“[That goal] is key to reach a critical mass to drive the policy changes that are necessary across Europe to bring more coherence among the different national higher education systems and foster transnational cooperation,” said Gospodinova.
“This will benefit the entire higher education sector, beyond the alliances.”