On 4 November, ENGAGE.EU’s rectors took part in an online kick-off meeting bringing together all European Universities selected under the first (2019) and second (2020) calls of the European Commission – a total of 41 European University alliances.
Ms Themis Christophidou (European Commission, Director-General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture) opened the event, highlighting the fact that the 41 alliances, built up by more than 280 universities, serve as an inspiration for the remaining 5,000 higher education institutions in Europe. These universities are the enablers of the transformation in European higher education – of stronger connectivity among HEIs (including European degrees and quality assurance mechanisms), of improved lifelong learning horizons (e.g., a common European framework for micro-credentials), and of inclusion opportunities (tackling the social, economic and cultural reasons for exclusion), she pointed out.
Rectors and students from last year’s cohort of alliances shared their experience and lessons learnt thus far, as well as their views on specific forms of student engagement and involvement at the level of European Universities.
The European Commission conveyed to the rectors the clear message about its unconditional support for the European Universities initiative. The Commission has already suggested that this initiative should be fully rolled out under the future (2021-2027) Erasmus programme, in close cooperation with other European funding instruments, such as Horizon Europe, Digital Europe, and the Structural Funds. The Commission will monitor closely the 41 on-going European Universities selected under the first two calls for proposals and will continue to co-develop this initiative in close cooperation with all stakeholders, Member States, and the European Parliament. There will be also an expert working group which will advise the Commission on further policy developments regarding higher education transformation, including on legal reforms related to the European degree, micro-credentials, improved quality assurance, and a possible legal statute for European University alliances.
Ms Sophia Eriksson-Waterschoot, European Commission, Director for Youth, Education and Erasmus+, closed the event with the words that this is not merely a project, but a common ambition for transformation and success achievable only through close cooperation. ‘We are well aware that you will face a host of challenges and obstacles along the way. You can rely on our full support,’ she said.