Council Conclusions on the European Universities Initiative

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On 17 May 2021, the ministers of education of the EU adopted a Council conclusions on the European Universities initiative - Bridging higher education, research, innovation and society: paving the way for a new dimension in European higher education. Proposed by the European Commission in December 2017 and within the European Education Area, the initiative aims to establish university alliances which promote and facilitate students to obtain a degree, by combining studies in several EU countries and strengthening European citizenship. There have been two rounds of grant applications to form such alliances among universities. Combining the nominees of the first and second call a total of 41 alliances, including more than 280 higher education institutions were established.

The Council Conclusions of May 2021 state that European Universities should be guided to establish European inter-university campuses and focus on the recruitment, reward, assessment and professionalisation of teachers, academics, other education personnel and researchers to work towards a better balance between educational, research managerial and entrepreneurial achievements. Moreover, they should explore the feasibility of joint enrolment of students and joint recruitment of academics and researchers, within different national systems to strengthen the alliances. The Council agreed that STEM fields and academic and research careers should be made more attractive professions. Furthermore, combined forms of mobility programmes should be included in the curricula to facilitate exchanges for all students.  

A discussion among the ministers also took place on evolving scenarios for the transformation of EU higher education and the role of higher education institutions as drivers of change towards the digital and green transitions. Several member states reported  that they are working on allowing joint degrees and are planning full joint accreditation and quality assurance.

ETUCE warmly welcomes that the Council Conclusion invites the EU Members States to “defend and promote academic freedom and institutional autonomy as a central principle of a well-functioning quality-based and dynamic higher education system, in line with the commitments made by Ministers responsible for Higher Education of the EHEA and Ministers of Research”. ETUCE supports the importance of ensuring inclusiveness and diversity of the involved institutions and students when creating such university networks. ETUCE welcomes that the Council conclusions emphasise inclusiveness within the European Universities Initiative aiming to reach an ambitious target of 50% mobile students. ETUCE underlinesthe importance of regularly and jointly monitoring the state of play of the 41 alliances of the European Universities initiative and any additional ones together with the trade unions of higher education and research staff. 

However, ETUCE is concerned about the impact of the increase of joint degrees and accreditation procedures on institutional autonomy and national competence on education and is closely monitoring further policy developments concerning the European Universities Initiative.

Further Reading:

Council conclusions on the European Universities initiative - Bridging higher education, research, innovation and society: paving the way for a new dimension in European higher education

Outcomes of the Council meeting

Press Release of the Council

List of participants (Education and Youth Council)

Press Release on first round of selected European Universities

Press Release on second round of selected European Universities


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Education and Training, Equal Opportunities