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The European university in the 21st century. Reconciling the social dimension, excellence, internationalisation and sustainable funding (EUSEIF)


October 2011 - October 2012


ACA (with the participation of other ACA members)


The European university in the 21st century. Reconciling the social dimension, excellence, internationalisation and sustainable funding (EUSEIF) is an ACA initiative that has been selected to receive Erasmus Accompanying Measures funding in 2011. This innovative project addresses five core themes in a transversal fashion, exploring how the aspirations of the so-called ‘social dimension’ in European higher education are influenced by other key aims pursued simultaneously by European tertiary institutions, namely excellence, mobility, internationalisation and sustainable funding. More specifically, the project aimed to address and answer questions such as: what is the relationship between social commitment and ’excellence’? Or, to put it differently, can a university both cater to disadvantaged groups in society and be world-class? Does it perhaps even boost academic performance to provide wide access and be socially inclusive? What is the link between internationalisation (and mobility) and funding? Are the best-performing institutions strong in both respects? Is a lack of funds always a disadvantage, or could it also be an incentive for radical reform?

Five concept papers based on these topics and addressing these overarching questions have been developed by international experts in the field and used as the guiding framework for the ACA Annual Conference 2012 in Helsinki, which has provided a forum for in-depth discussion and advancement of ideas about these areas and their intersecting aspects. The five concept papers and their authors are:

  • Bernd Wächter - The ‘social dimension’ in higher education: Reflections on a ‘woolly’ concept
  • Ulrich Teichler - Excellence and internationality of higher education
  • Dominic Orr - Mobility is not for all: An international comparison of students’ mobility aspirations and perceptions of barriers to temporary enrolment abroad
  • Eric Beerkens - The social dimensions of internationalization: Social risks and responsibilities
  • Thomas Estermann and Enora Bennetot Pruvot - Funding of higher education: Diversifying the universities’ income

The main output of the project is a publication that encompasses the five concept papers, updated by their authors to take into account the discussions on the occasion of the conference, as well as a collection of other inspirational papers presented at the event by renowned speakers such as Sir Peter Scott, Sijbolt Noorda, Rolf Hoffmann and Joan Dassin.

The EUSEIF publication, titled Tying it all together was launched on 11 October 2012, on the eve of ACA's European Policy Seminar, at a reception in Brussels.