The University of Warwick hopes to answer Emmanuel Macron’s call for the formation of European university networks, despite Brexit.
The institution announced on 5 June 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.
Although the UK is set to leave the European Union in less than a year’s time, Warwick said that it hoped that the partnership would be eligible to be funded as one of the European university networks, first called for by Mr Macron, the French president, and subsequently endorsed in the European Commission’s plans for a European Education Area.
If successful, the collaboration might be seen as a way for Warwick to mitigate the possible decline in access to European funding sources and collaborations post-Brexit.
Seán Hand, Warwick’s deputy pro-vice-chancellor (Europe), told Times Higher Education that the university was “aware” of the European Commission project, which could offer funding of €5 million (£4.4 million) per consortium of four to six institutions for three years.
“The vision given for this project, of bottom-up collaborations sustained by a long-term strategy of innovation and inclusivity, is exactly what Warwick also has in mind, and so we do envisage applying eventually to be one of these pilot projects,” Professor Hand said.
Memoranda of understanding were signed by the institutions on 5 June, committing the trio to “multilateral collaboration at all levels” of research and education.
Previously agreed activities include joint degrees, joint PhD studentships and joint early career research fellowships, plus student exchanges.
Speaking when these were announced, Stuart Croft, Warwick’s vice-chancellor, said that the university was acting proactively to demonstrate its commitment to working with European universities, as it could not wait around for the uncertainty over the UK’s involvement in EU research and mobility projects to be resolved.
François Germinet, Paris Seine’s president, said: “We are strongly convinced that UK universities should be core partners in future European university alliances and activities. It is therefore meaningful that Warwick University is part of this new and ongoing process.”
A statement issued by VUB said that it expected that the alliance, if approved for the European university project, would involve “an alliance of four to six universities from within the EU and possibly also the UK”.
Mr Macron has called for Europe to have “at least 20” of what he called “European universities” by 2024, offering students the chance to study abroad and take classes in at least two different languages.
Several other UK universities have established closer collaborations with European research institutions since the Brexit vote, with Imperial College London opening a joint mathematics laboratory with the French National Centre for Scientific Research, the University of Oxford creating an alliance with four universities in Berlin, and King’s College London considering opening a branch campus in Dresden.