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European Universities Initiative – focus on outcomes and way forward

As the European Commission just published the results of its European joint degree label and legal status calls, the European Universities Initiative continues to be in the spotlight at the start of the new year.

Six of the ten selected projects will examine, test and facilitate the delivery of a joint European Degree label, a complementary certificate to the qualification of students graduating from joint programmes delivered in the context of transnational cooperation between several higher education institutions, based on a common set of co-created European criteria. The other four projects will allow alliances of higher education institutions to test new forms of cooperation, such as a possible European legal status for these alliances.

This announcement came through as the European Universities alliances’ rectors met in Brussels on 30 and 31 January to discuss, between themselves as well as with Commissioner Mariya Gabriel, the Initiative’s broader transformation potential and closer collaboration and coordination between the alliances under the European Strategy for Universities.

Earlier in January, the European Parliament’s CULT Committee presented the findings of a study on the first outcomes and persistent challenges of the European Universities Initiative (EUI). The study was conducted for the Parliament by the University of Twente – Center for Higher Education Policy Studies (CHEPS) research team.

The study sheds light on several key aspects, including the Initiative’s selection process, geographical balance, current models of operation, innovation potential, and funding model. The results aim to support the Parliament in supervising and assessing the European Commission’s related work, supporting evidence-based decisions in its role as co-legislator, and assessing the degree to which the EUI supports the EP Resolution on the European Education Area (EEA) (2021) that calls for synergies between the EEA, the European Research Area and the European Higher Education Area.

This study is one of several analyses on the EUI related topics contracted by the EU bodies to explore the progress and framework conditions for deepening transnational higher education cooperation in Europe. The European Commission is expected to publish the results of three other studies exploring

  1. the state and effectiveness of national funding systems of higher education to support the European Universities Initiative (as part of a broader analysis of performance-based funding)
  2. the outcomes and transformational potential of the EUI
  3. the necessity and the feasibility of a possible legal status for alliances of universities.