Towards a European Overseas University

The Consortium of Universities RUP concurs to the Erasmus + funds with a joint campus project and a joint degree in European Studies

The atmospheric observatory of Maido, University of La Réunion.– © Thibaut Vergoz / CNRS, 2019

THE VISION of the European Higher Education Area postulates a growing integration of local universities into models of transnational cooperation. Jointly impart degrees with European recognition, facilitate the mobility of students, professors and administration and services staff, investigate and innovate in common are some of the possibilities. The Gothenburg European Council, in December 2017, signaled a slightly higher goal: to create twenty “European Universities”, by 2024, formed by “networks of universities across the EU, which allow students to obtain a degree by combining studies in different countries and contributing to the international competitiveness of universities. “[Source: Conclusions of the European Council of December 14, 2017]

The European Universities Initiative is already one of the strategic actions on the European Education Area. It has a specific allocation of funds within the Erasmus + program. The 2019 call –open until February 28– chooses 16 cooperation projects, with a total allocation of 60 million euros. The public universities of the outermost regions will concur with a consortium that will offer a joint degree in European Studies, a campus in common, mobility programs between universities and research and innovation projects in fields such as blue sciences, astrophysics, clean energies, vulcanology, the study of tropical diseases or tourism, where the rup produce reference knowledge.

© Université des Antilles, 2019.

In 2018, the European Commission conducted a survey among 169 partnerships of higher education institutions. The objective was to map the collaboration agreements and to check if there is a culture of integration that is sufficiently established to move on to the next phase and promote the creation of authentic European universities. The Commission found that 65% of the partnerships do not offer any mobility scheme for Baccalaureate students. The majority of mobility agreements between campuses are for Master students. It was also observed that most of the cooperation agreements are between departments or faculties, not between universities. It was also observed that only 38% of cooperation cases include the three university missions –education, research and innovation. By asking what it is that makes cooperation profound and lasting, the Commission found that the universities with the strongest partnerships are those that share a vision and delegate the development of integration into strong leadership, accepted by all parties. Regarding the difficulties and obstacles, the Commission discovered that half of the leaders of cooperation projects interviewed lacked the same: adequate financial instruments for the purpose of deepening and extending transnational cooperation among higher education institutions. They also complain about the administrative barriers for the recognition of diplomas, from one country to another, something that could be solved — argue the managers — with the creation of Universities with a European Statute. [Source: Karvounaraki, A. et al: “Mapping of European Transnational Collaborative Partnerships in Higher Education”, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, 2018]

Among other recommendations, the authors of the study propose to go towards an internationalization of the university curriculum and the mutual recognition of learning outcomes.

They also suggest training PAS professors and staff in the management and leadership capacities of transnational cooperation projects: “One of the key concepts of the European Universities Initiative is the support for mobility at all levels, from students to staff. of administration and services, going through the leaders of the universities “, they point out.

The financial issue — “very important”, the authors of the map emphasize — must be solved with instruments designed for the long term: “Combining European funds with national resources” would help. They recommend to European authorities that, in the development of the European Universities Initiative, they seek “synergies between financial instruments at national and European level. [Source of recommendations: the cited study].

The public universities of the outermost regions want to be on the front line of the European Universities Initiative. Its leaders share the vision of an outermost region of higher education, science, innovation and fluid mobility between campuses. The creation of a Consortium is the starting point. Its predecessor, the Unamuno Network, was a first cooperation experience focused on the exchange of information. In July 2018, during a meeting in the Canary Islands, the university rectors laid the foundations of the new Consortium that is now reconvened, during the week of February 18 to 24, 2019, in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, a high-level meeting to launch it officially. The universities of the Antilles (Guadeloupe and Martinique), Guyana, La Réunion, Madeira, Azores, La Laguna and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria will be added.

Opting to be elected in the 2019 call for Erasmus + — which allocates 60 million euros specifically to the European Universities Initiative — is the first movement of the Consortium.

The European Commission expects eligible projects to present “a long-term strategy for higher education”, in which there are links with research, innovation and society as a whole. The Erasmus + authority also hopes that the universities will present a cooperation project “based on a common vision and shared values”; that they commit themselves to “sustainable cooperation at various levels of the university organization, and in several areas of activity, built on the complementary strengths” of the universities involved in the project.

To be recognized as a European University, the candidature must be made up of at least three universities or higher education institutions from at least three Member States.

The eligible projects for the Erasmus + European Universities Initiative must also include a proposal for an inter-university campus, in which students, doctoral students and teaching and administrative staff “can move (physically or virtually) without barriers, to study, train , teach, research, work or share services in any of the partner institutions.”

The cooperation between universities will also include a mobility scheme at all levels, including the mobility of Baccalaureate, Master and Doctorate students: “At least 50% of the students of the universities of the alliance should benefit from this mobility, be it physical, virtual or blended.”

Chemistry center of the university of Madeira.– ©Universidade da Madeira, 2019.

The European Universities projects will be scored according to the “relevance of the proposal” -profoundness, duration, contribution to the development of the European Education Area, etc.-, with up to 25 points. The “geographical balance” -the geographic extension and coverage of the alliance: the older, the better-you will receive up to 15 points. The “quality of the proposal” -consistency between objectives and activities, among other points of observation- will be worth up to 20 points. The projects will receive up to 20 points for the “quality of the cooperation agreements” -the clarity in the distribution of responsibilities and tasks, the roles of each of the managers, the complementarity of the universities, … -. The “sustainability and dissemination” of good practices will merit up to 20 points. (Source: European Commission, Erasmus + Program Guide 2019)

The Consortium of ultraperipheral universities will opt for recognition as a European University with a project based on four pillars: a joint degree in Citizenship and European Competence, eligible for the Monet Project call -in the same Erasmus + program-; a mobility scheme, which will include a common campus proposal; training in European citizenship for students and staff of universities and a research and innovation program in the knowledge specialties of the seven universities.