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Note from the Editor: Europe’s Universities Divide

VU International News and Reviews No. 123 November 03 2018

November 2018

At a lobbying meeting in Brussels, we noted that the European Parliament is showing signs of a “Europe First” tendency is handling the proposal for the new Framework Programme Horizon Europe. It also shows a tendency to want to address the continuing divide between geographical areas in Europe with stronger and less strong research infrastructure.

It may not come as a surprise, but still as a disappointment that the associations of research universities in Europe unite in their outcry against ‘abusing’ research funding to create a more balanced research landscape.

Compare these two positions – both stated in the meeting:

  • “Look at the time when the Framework Programme required geographical spread. Remember that research proposals had to contain at least one token university from the South or East and remember how this was usually only a token participation and a nuisance for the strong research universities in the consortium”.
  • “Look at the (fortunately slowly increasing) number of stronger research institutions and groups in the South and East that are now full partners or even coordinators of excellent research projects. Look back at their history and you will see that many started as (token) partners in research projects in these earlier Framework Programmes.”

Both statements may be factually correct. But they reflect a different normative position. A different view of the responsibility of already strong research universities for balanced research scenery in Europe. Engaged research universities should not content themselves with saying: “Yes, we want a balanced research scene – but it is not our responsibility”.

They should say: “Yes, we want a balanced research scene – and it is (also, not exclusively) the responsibility of engaged research universities like us to do something about it.

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