The first networks of “European universities”, initially proposed by French president Emmanuel Macron, have been named – with three UK institutions among the successful bidders, despite the country’s Brexit vote.
Seventeen networks were selected from 54 applications, with the selected bids involving 114 universities from 24 countries. The networks, which have an average of seven members each, will share up to €85 million (£76 million) over the next three years – a maximum of €5 million (£4.5 million) per network – with the expectation that funding will increase significantly in the European Union’s next budget.
Under the European Commission’s vision, the selected institutions will “become inter-university campuses around which students, doctoral candidates, staff and researchers can move seamlessly”.
“They will pool their expertise, platforms and resources to deliver joint curricula or modules covering various disciplines,” a commission statement said. “These curricula will be very flexible and will allow students to personalise their education, choosing what, where and when to study and get a European degree.”
Despite concern about possible UK exclusion from the initiative, in light of the country’s expected departure from the EU, three British universities were part of successful bids. They are the University of Edinburgh, part of the Una Europa network alongside institutions including the University of Bologna, the Free University of Berlin, and KU Leuven; the University of Warwick, in the ‘Eutopia’ grouping which also includes the University of Gothenburg and the Free University of Brussels; and the University of Essex, which is in the Young Universities for the Future of Europe network alongside the universities of Bremen and Maastricht.
What would happen to UK universities’ participation in the event of Brexit was not immediately clear. The commission defined its European universities as being “transnational alliances of higher education institutions from across the EU that share a long-term strategy and promote European values and identity”.
The networks were first proposed by Mr Macron in 2017, when he called for 20 to be formed by 2024.
Tibor Navracsics, the European commissioner for education, said the first European universities would be “role models for others across the EU”.
“They will enable the next generations of students to experience Europe by studying in different countries,” Mr Navracsics said. “I am convinced that this initiative, a key building block of the European Education Area, will be a real game-changer for higher education in Europe, boosting excellence and inclusion.”
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