THIRTEEN CRITICAL ONGOING TOPICS WERE ADDRESSED IN THIS EUROPEAN FORUM
Universities are stewards of freedom; they promote active citizenship, tolerance, diversity, openness, and critical thinking. Thirteen critical ongoing topics were addressed in this European Forum to put these values and principles of higher education into action.
1. Joining forces to transform: an asset for international competitiveness
Alliances of higher education institutions, which include the ‘European Universities’, are demonstrating the potential and impact of extensive and long-term institutional cooperation in Europe and can play a unique role in strengthening universities’ attractiveness to international students, researchers, and global partners. Through a strong degree of integration, transparency, and openness, they are catalysts of exploration and have the potential to generate a deeply transformative impact within and for Europe. In that respect, they could become lighthouses of European quality in higher education and research excellence.
2. A global approach: emerging world-class European university sites, attracting talent, developing capacities
While global higher education and research become increasingly competitive, universities and higher education alliances should be encouraged to develop internationalization strategies and to project themselves internationally, building networks with key partners in the world, strengthening the capacities of partners in third countries and bolstering international inwards and outwards mobility of students, researchers, teachers, and staff. In that respect, mobilizing local or regional ecosystems involving research organizations, innovation actors and economic partners in cooperation with regional authorities is a crucial vector of visibility and attractiveness for European higher education institutions. Furthermore, in the global race for talent and innovation, there is a need for better coordination to promote the quality and diversity of the European higher education offered worldwide.
3. Joint programs and degrees
Among the specific objectives of the ‘European Universities’, as defined in the Erasmus+ calls for proposals, alliances are invited to develop new, flexible and innovative joint curricula, setting a solid ground for the development of a European degree.
4. Strengthening the training-employment link: teaming up to increase the competitiveness of European higher education
Universities have a key role to play in responding to the labor market transformations and in preventing the skills mismatches and bottlenecks that risk hindering Europe’s growth. To that end, universities could be supported in opening up to all types of learners and in fostering their employability, which can be done by implementing flexible and tailor-made curricula. To develop learners’ relevant skills, competencies, attitudes, and entrepreneurial spirit, universities can rely on close cooperation with their local industrial ecosystems, on increased traineeships, or innovative learning and teaching methods such as micro-credentials
5. Synergies between higher education and research
With funding from the Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020 programs, the ‘European Universities’ are at the very crossroads of higher education and research, to which they contribute through integrated and long-term joint strategy on research and innovation in line with their projects on higher education. In this way, ‘European Universities’ are exploring the strengthening of synergies between the European education and research area.
6. Transforming knowledge into skills and innovation: mobilizing universities in the service of society
Universities have a unique place at the crossroads of education, research, innovation, and service to society. They thus have a wide societal impact and should be supported in turning knowledge into skills and innovation, which can be done by developing close cooperation with economic and industrial partners within local and regional innovation ecosystems, for example through the transmission of necessary skills and knowledge for strategic industrial sectors, by fostering technology transfer capacities and through spin-offs.
7. Green and digital transitions: what tools, methods, and places for tomorrow’s education?
Higher education institutions have a key role to play in unfolding the green and digital transitions, and can decisively contribute to the UN Stainable Development Goals. Universities can accelerate the green transition by introducing greening as part of their missions, infrastructure, and operations, by developing the necessary skills and competencies, for the green transition, by conducting research and steering public policy. Higher education institutions are also instrumental in accelerating the digital transition in Europe, especially by providing digital literacy to the wider public and by providing emerging digital competencies, for example in the fields of artificial intelligence, high-performance computing, and cybersecurity. Digital technologies are also a powerful vector of transformation for higher education systems in Europe and can foster greater inclusion of all potential learners
8. Green and digital transition
The ‘European Universities’ explore ways to strengthen the commitment of universities to global challenges. In supporting challenge-based and interdisciplinary approaches, they are building knowledge-creating teams of students, academics, and researchers to address these societal transformations and equip society with the necessary skills and knowledge to unfold the green and digital transitions. ‘European Universities’ are therefore building models of cooperation and practices that could inspire the higher education and research sector in Europe.
9. Learning in and about Europe: students as actors of European citizenship
Universities are places of freedom: they promote the active citizenship of students by transmitting democratic values and fundamental freedoms while encouraging each student in his or her academic, professional, and personal journey. By supporting student mobility and the internationalization of curricula, universities and alliances of higher education institutions enable learners to acquire international and intercultural competencies, as well as linguistic skills which contribute to transmitting and reinforcing the European way of life.
However, student mobility is hampered by administrative obstacles or language barriers, and the student mobility target set out in the Rome Ministerial Communiqué adopted in November 2020 is out of reach. It, therefore, seems necessary to further remove obstacles to mobility, notably by simplifying administrative procedures or by encouraging the mutual recognition of diplomas.
10. Success and inclusion: developing the potential of all students at university
Despite increasing access to tertiary education, disadvantaged groups such as people from poor families, ethnic minorities, people with disability, and children of low-qualified parents are still underrepresented among students, academic staff, and researchers. On the gender equality front, gender gaps remain persistent in some fields of study. These inequalities generate a democratic and social issue, as they prevent talented people from accessing the skills and knowledge to which they should be entitled. Therefore, universities should be supported in addressing the needs of an increasingly diverse student population and in ensuring the inclusion and well-being of all. To reduce inequality and to promote student achievement, they can be encouraged to use innovative teaching tools and methods and to offer tailor-made individual support
11. The university as a trusted third place: science at the risk of disinformation
Among the information that feeds the public debate, scientific publications and research from universities are quality resources that should enlighten the discussion. Through research, and by training citizens in the use of information, universities fight against disinformation and the misuse of data. They are thus trusted actors, whose weight is reinforced by universities’ ability to engage with societal actors such as media, science outreach organizations, innovators, or civil society organizations. In that respect, universities play an active role in strengthening democracy and citizen science while preparing students for active citizenship and public engagement.
12. International cooperation
The ‘European Universities’ are building models of good practices to further increase the quality, international competitiveness, and attractiveness of the European higher education landscape. In this way, enhanced cooperation within the alliances will allow the emergence of world-class academic sites and programs while creating increased learning opportunities and mobility for European students. This workshop will allow alliances to present their internationalization strategies and ways of strengthening the attractiveness of their alliances. Alliances will also have the opportunity to present views on their strategies of long-term cooperation.
13. Being a student in Europe: belonging, inclusion, well-being
The creation of inter-university campuses can empower alliances to strengthen the social, economic, and cultural diversity of their student, researcher, and academic communities. By promoting interculturality, mobility, and multilingualism, alliances can foster their students’ sense of European belonging while ensuring the well-being of each learner.
How can universities and alliances of higher education institutions promote fundamental values in their internationalization strategies and their collaboration with international partners?
What support do they need to position European Union as a haven for the freedom of scientific research and democratic values?
What are the obstacles to fair international collaboration and how can universities be supported in facing these challenges?
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Article curated by Andriana Gerondis