Sunday

18th Aug 2019

Opinion

European universities need to remain competitive

  • Talented people move around and look for the places offering them the best possibilities to expand their abilities. (Photo: t-mizo)

When French president Emmanuel Macron laid out his vision for Europe on 26 September 2017, many listened with great interest.

We need such visionary and future-proof ideas for the EU itself, and especially for higher education and science on the European continent.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

I think that the initiative of "the emergence by 2024 of around 20 'European universities'" is very exciting.

It is still an idea in the making - but if done in the right manner, it could be a much-needed building up of Europe as a first-class education, research and innovation hub.

In the globalised world, the EU is now feeling the squeeze from other continents that have accelerated growth and development - also in research and education.

If we are to compete, we must seek to increase Europe's competitiveness through development and implementation of new knowledge, and translate new knowledge into innovative solutions.

The European universities and education and research institutions play a key role. However, I believe that, as individual European nations, we will fall short in our response.

Join forces

Today, universities in EU countries are under-represented at the top-end of international universities rankings. For the EU to host some of the world leading universities in the future, we must join forces.

The added value we will gain from closer and more strategic cooperation can potentially create the best facilities in the world.

Internationalisation and mobility are known to increase quality in particular for higher education, science and innovation. Networks of "European universities" could advance the quality of higher education in the EU by offering joint degrees or joint-programmes.

What if a future engineer could take his degree through a joint programme in Munich, Paris and Copenhagen? Or a joint master programme in archaeology could take place in the Leiden, Rome and Lund. Through such strategic cooperation, we will be able to raise the bar for quality and relevance even higher in the EU.

Joint EU efforts within research have celebrated significant success over the past decade, through programmes such as the European Research Council - and the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions aimed at increasing mobility for European researchers.

We need more of that as we look towards a new framework programme on research and innovation in the EU. In addition to this, "European universities" could serve as a new vehicle for advancing European research within areas of excellence.

The high level of quality will also allow us to attract the most talented people from other parts of the world.

Talented people move around and look for the places offering them the best possibilities to expand their abilities. We need to make sure that we can provide the high standards they demand.

Therefore, when developing the concept of European Universities, it is pivotal to focus on creating networks that can contribute to laying the foundation for the highest standards of education and research worldwide.

European Universities should start as consortia of leading universities and higher education and research institutions from three or more countries.

The consortia should be open to excellent institutions from outside the EU, as well. These should be able to apply for financial support for establishing and running close strategic cooperatives within education, research and innovation.

The selection of consortia to receive financial support should be based on the quality and relevance of education and science of the institutions, as well as the level of integration between the participating institutions.

It is crucial that the consortia chosen to receive EU funding have joint activities covering the entire value chain from education and research to innovation and entrepreneurship.

Need for action

Needless to say, ambitions like these do not come for free.

In Shakespearean terms, what we don't need in Europe is 'mere prattle without practice'. We need to turn the grand visions introduced by Macron at Sorbonne into real action.

This is only done by allocating substantial funding to the concept, as well as ensuring the administrative demands for participation are kept at a minimum. Without these steps, the idea will remain exactly that - just an idea.

All states in Europe are faced with the same challenges of competing in a globalised world.

Therefore, we need a new vision for the European Research Area and the European Higher Education Area - vitalised by the great potential in developing new strategic networks of European Universities.

The ambition is to create a future-proof education and research powerhouse that is able to compete with the rest of the world in the future.

Soren Pind is the Danish minister for higher education and science.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Focus

UK's universities set 'Brexit wish list'

British academics want to guarantee residency and work rights for their EU staff, as well as "enhanced mobility opportunities" for UK and EU students, mostly by keeping British participation in EU funding programs.

Lagarde's ECB must modernise

Christine Lagarde will succeed European Central Bank president Mario Draghi at a time of deepening polarisation among eurozone member states. It will take all of her skills as a leader and communicator to safeguard the institution's independence.

UK MPs' maths means election, not no-deal Brexit

Parliamentary arithmetic at Westminster, and societal pressures from the likes of Welsh sheep-farmers, Northern Irish cattle breeders, London business groups and Scottish Conservatives combine to push a motion of no-confidence in the prime minister by mid-October at the very latest.

News in Brief

  1. Trump turned down: Greenland not for sale
  2. UK Libdems would back Clarke or Harman as new PM
  3. Six countries agree to take 'Open Arms' ship migrants
  4. Gibraltar judge: Iranian ship should be released
  5. Increasing fears of a global recession
  6. Far-right hate crimes on the rise in Germany
  7. EU steel tariffs have 'worked well' so far
  8. Italian court: Migrant rescue ship can enter Italian waters

Facebook has to answer some tough questions about Libra

German MEP and member of the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee, Markus Ferber, warns of four separate threats from Facebook's Libra. A good moment to kick off the debate would be this week's G20 summit.

Six takeaways on digital disinformation at EU elections

For example, Germany's primetime TV news reported that 47 percent of political social media discussions were related to the extreme-right AfD party, when in fact this was the case only for Twitter - used by only four percent of Germans.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. Selmayr did not keep formal records of lobby meetings
  2. EU asked to solve migrant rescue deadlock
  3. Internal EU paper: Second Brexit vote was no longer 'distant dream'
  4. EU has 'zero incentive' to break open 'trilogue' deals
  5. Denmark plans import ban on EU-approved pesticide
  6. US offers Johnson helping hand on Brexit
  7. Italy: New government without Salvini in the making
  8. Brexit row delays financial products transparency review

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us