On 18 January 2022, the European Commission presented two initiatives within the framework of the strategy on the European Education Area by 2025, whose objective it will be to deepen the cooperation of universities in Europe. For instance, university alliances shall be created to jointly fund the infrastructure required for research projects. It is the aim to position European universities at the top of international rankings in future.
As early as 2020, the Commission announced in its Communication on achieving the European Education Area by 2025 its intention to support innovation also with regard to higher education to ensure that this area too will be able to contribute to the green and digital transformations.
The European Strategy for universities
Europe has around 5,000 higher education institutions, 17.5 million students and 1.35 million teachers in the tertiary education sector. In addition, there are 1.7 million researchers. The Communication on a European strategy for universities, presented on 18 January 2022, shall support all universities in Europe, putting them in a position to adapt to changing conditions, to thrive and to contribute to Europe's resilience and recovery.” It presents a set of different actions with the aim to strengthen European universities at a global level. This shall be achieved by supporting measures to improve academic and scientific careers, quality and relevance for future-proof skills, diversity, inclusion, democratic practices, fundamental rights and academic values. Apart from that, universities shall be revalued as key actors in the green and digital transition.
Facilitating European higher education cooperation
The simultaneously proposed Council Recommendation shall enable European higher education institutions to cooperate closer. Furthermore, the implementation of joint transnational educational programs and activities shall be facilitated, lifelong learning shall be promoted, capacities and resources are to be pooled or even joint degrees are to be awarded. Apart from that, it defines the conditions to facilitate the knowledge transfer and to create stronger links between education, research and innovative enterprises. However, a recommendation only represents a request to Member States to take action at national level and to create appropriate conditions to achieve these targets.
Four flagship initiatives to follow
These efforts are to be enhanced by four flagship initiatives by mid-2024 at the latest: this includes increasing the number of European universities that join such an alliance, for which a temporary Erasmus+ budget totalling 1.1 billion Euro for 2021-2027 will be made available. It is the main aim of the second initiative to develop sustainable and systemic cooperation on education, research and innovation, for instance on inter-university campuses, where students, teachers but also researchers from all over Europe jointly create new knowledge across national borders and disciplines. Moreover, work is underway to develop a legal statute for alliances of higher education. In order to simplify administrative procedures, the third initiative entails the introduction of a "European Student Card" for all mobile students by 2022 and for all students at universities in Europe by mid-2024. Lastly and as a final initiative, it shall be possible to obtain a joint European university degree. Hence, the European Commission has ambitious plans for the coming years.