Call for Swiss to be eligible for European university networks

University alliances warn pilot could be restricted to Erasmus+ programme countries only

June 29, 2018
EU, Germany, France and Switzerland
Source: iStock

Higher education alliances have called on the European Commission to ensure that Switzerland will be eligible to participate in its “European Universities” initiative.

In an open letter, the EuroTech Universities Alliance and Eucor – The European Campus say that they have “learnt that the pilot call of the ‘European Universities’ initiative could be restricted to Erasmus+ programme countries only”.

The EuroTech Universities Alliance is a partnership of five European institutions, including Switzerland’s École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, while Eucor includes five universities on the Upper Rhine, including the University of Basel.

The letter, which is addressed to Tibor Navracsics and Themis Christophidou, respectively European commissioner and director general for education, culture, youth and sport, says that such a restriction “would imply that our participation in the pilot call is seriously hindered”.

It adds that the move would “negatively impact Europe’s universities at large”, given the long-lasting and wide-ranging links in education and research between Switzerland and the rest of Europe.

“We believe it is crucial to continue promoting cooperation with Swiss institutions at the highest level from the outset, in order to help build a successful European Education Area and to achieve the longer-term goals of the ‘European Universities’ initiative across education, research and innovation,” it says.

Last month, however, the European Commission proposed for the Erasmus+ exchange programme for the period 2021-27 to be opened to any country in the world, suggesting that Switzerland might be able to participate in the European Universities initiative in the future.

The European Commission is set to launch its first pilot call for proposals of European Universities this autumn.  

The idea of creating European university networks was first called for by French president Emmanuel Macron and was subsequently endorsed in the European Commission’s plans for a European Education Area.

Four institutions – Charles University in PragueHeidelberg UniversitySorbonne University and the University of Warsaw – have already answered the call by creating the 4EU Alliance.

Earlier this month, the University of Warwick announced that it was forming a “European university alliance” with the University of Paris Seine and Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), building on existing teaching and research collaborations.

ellie.bothwell@timeshighereducation.com

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