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ACA’s 62nd annual What’s new in Brussels? seminar traditionally took place at the beginning of the year to inform the international higher education audience of professionals in the upcoming years. Our keynote speaker Robert Coelen pointed out some key challenges for universities to consider in the years to come, from geographical redistribution of the middle class globally – a development to have a strong effect on universities, their curricula and internationalisation strategies. He also highlighted the eroding autonomy of universities at macro levels due to increasing pressures for financial sustainability and curriculum alignments.
Moving to the “nuts and bolts” of KA1 and KA2 in the upcoming Erasmus programme, the speakers stressed that digitalisation, environmental practices and strengthened commitment to inclusion have been included in the new Erasmus Charter for Higher Education. Some of the new measures of the next programme will comprise inclusion strategies, adapted grant levels, better language support, more work with alumni and the European Student Card Initiative. It will also include a new component, a “blended mobility” – a combination of short-term mobility and a virtual/online component. Doctoral students will have equal mobility opportunities regardless of their student/staff status.
The second block of the seminar focused on digitalisation in higher education featuring initiatives such as the Erasmus Without Paper, presented by Paul Leys and updates on the developments in the new Europass aiming to connect the format with admissions, employers and universities, presented by William O'Keeffe from DG Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion.
The programme continued with concrete examples of synergies between future Erasmus+ and Horizon Europe programmes, presented by Claire Morel, Head of the MSCA Unit at DG EAC. The two following parallel session respectively covered the topics of green aspects of Erasmus addressing its effects on the reputation of the programme and practical solutions for low-carbon travel, and specific measures to support inclusion and aspects of inclusion strategies in the upcoming Erasmus. Pressing issues and different dynamics which international officers face at their institutions were at the core of the discussion.
The final panel hosted the hot topic of European Universities Initiative. Vanessa Debiais-Sainton explained the current state of play with first round of consortiums well into preparations to start and the second call still receiving applications. The three panellists presented their views on the initiative as one supporting the universities of the future and how they in their capacities can contribute to this idea.