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European Universities Headache

VU International News and Reviews No. 110 April 9 2018

April 2018

Let’s have some twenty world-class European universities, with bright students freely moving between campuses in various countries, getting degrees that are automatically recognised throughout Europe!

A dream or a nightmare? Whichever it is, what started as a paragraph in Macron’s visionary “I have a European Dream” speech of September, is now fast turning into a tangible project, with a proposed first pilot call in the coming Fall. The Commission is putting serious money into it: the winning consortia (3-4 in the first round and maybe 6-8 in total) will get at least 5 million euro to give European higher education “electroshock”.

Serious researchers choose their own research partners and serious universities don’t interfere in that process. Is this the unsurmountable stumbling block for these European Universities – or is it a serious puzzle deserving serious attention?

Many of those now circling around Brussels to see if – and how – they can become part of this initiative (universities, university networks) will try to downsize the plans of the European Commission to an extra nice edition of what is already happening in ERASMUS+.

But could it be that the Commission has other plans – and has somehow managed to get the active support of national governments? Is there a reason why they mention the European Institute in Florence and the Collège d’Europe in Bruges among the first examples of ‘existing models’. Might it be that they are aiming – at least as one potential outcome – at the transformation of some of the winning Consortia in the 5 million Euro lottery into single European Universities. New entities that will be lifted out of the HE systems of their constituent consortium universities and find a legal basis in a European Statute.

What is a wise response to this fantastic new idea? That is a question that will be on many a rector’s minds:

“Is it a mere fantasy of bureaucrats with nothing better to do – not worth spending time on?”

“What is the likelihood that other universities/university networks will jump unto this 5 million euro train – for better or for worse.”

“Will I laugh out loud or grit my teeth if I keep my university on the solid ground I know?”

Quite enough to give rector’s a serious headache: the “European University’s Headache” or EUH!

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