About the Project

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The ESEU project, of which all ECIU members and many of their national authorities are a partner, will test a possible European legal status for higher education institutions to simplify international cooperation and advice European policy-makers about shaping future policies in this field.

The project will report on the legal implications, benefits, challenges and feasibility of the European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation (EGTC), the European Cooperative Society (SCE), the Societas Europea (SE) and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT).

Target audience

The ESEU-project is relevant for universities that wish to overcome obstacles to achieve a deep and long-term cooperation at the European level, e.g. to make common strategic decisions, experiment joint recruitment and design joint curricula.

The project is also relevant for policy-makers at the national and European level to support the improvements of available legal instruments and to deliver on the needs of European University Alliances.

Timeline and project outline

The project started on 1 March 2023 and will run for one year, with a budget of 250.000 euro and with 28 partners. ECIU will work closely together with its member universities, national authorities and European organisations such as European University Alliances 4EU+, Una Europa, EU-Conexus, Charm-EU and the European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation (EGTC): Eucor.

After formulating use cases about why a European University Alliance need a legal status, the project will analyse legal structures in relation to the use cases in Spring 2023. The national context in relation to the selected legal structures will also be analysed through interviews targeting all ministries that are partner to, or support, the ESEU project during summer.

All data that will be collected will feed into a final analyse of the most relevant instrument for a legal status, that will be presented in a paper and at a midterm-workshop in October.

Next, the project will pilot suitable legal instruments and take the first steps for implementation of a legal status by ECIU University. Also, a roadmap will be formulated to suggest improvements of the available legal instruments or the proposal for a new instrument needed to deliver on the needs of European University Alliances. The project results will be presented and discussed at a final event in February 2023.

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Key Results and outcome

Kick-off meeting
The ESEU-project kicked-off on 13 March with an online event with 50 participants.

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Needs analysis
Eight use cases are formulated, in the field of education, research, governance, finance and identity, based on the existing needs analysis of ECIU University. The use cases are the basis to analyse legal structures, it will help to identify risks and benefits of different structures versus the needs of university alliances. 

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Analysis legal structures
Four legal structures have been analysed against the needs of university alliances for cross-border collaboration: The European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation (EGTC), the Societas Europaea (SE), the European Cooperative Society (SCE) and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT).

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National context and recommendations
The report analyses the national context in transnational university collaboration, and brings together all the work done in work package 2 (defining the use cases, analysing available legal instruments and the national context).

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Summary on key take-aways from ECIU Board Members
During the workshop with the ECIU University Board (September 2024) and the bilateral talks with Board Members and Institutional Coordinators (November 2023), a possible European Status for ECIU University was discussed. The discussions covered the outcomes of the ESEU-project, obstacles Board Members encountered in transnational collaboration, that need for a European solution to these challenges, the national meetings of board members with their Ministries, and how key topics related to European Universities play a role in these talks.

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Annex to final roadmap: adapting EGTC to needs of HEIs

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Final report:
A roadmap on the next steps for a European legal instrument for transnational higher education cooperation.
The final report brings together all output of the ESEU-project. Context: There is no tailored European legal instrument for higher education institutions to overcome obstacles in transnational cooperation, while there are many expectations for joint activities at the European level. Therefore, a dedicated instrument must be designed. This roadmap formulates next steps for such an instrument.

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Final ESEU-project event
Nearly 200 colleagues from all over Europe gathered online and in Brussels to discuss the way forward for a European legal instrument that serves the needs of higher education institutions.

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Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Education and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA). Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.
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The ECIU Expert Group R&I Policy and Programmes (R&I Group) represents all member universities and is open to all research managers and administrators providing research and innovation services, i.e. funding, in ECIU.

List of formal partners of the ESEU project

  • University of Twente (The Netherlands, coordinator)
  • Kaunas University of Technology (Lithuania)
  • INSA Rouen (France)
  • Dublin City University (Ireland)
  • Linköping University (Sweden)
  • Tampere University (Finland)
  • Hamburg University of Technology (Germany)
  • Lodz University of Technology (Poland)
  • Universidad Autonoma de Barcelona (Spain)
  • Universidade de Aveiro (Portugal)
  • University of Stavanger (Norway)
  • Università di Trento (Italy)
  • Aalborg University (Denmark)
  • ECIU Foundation
  • Ministry of Education Science and Sports (Lithuania)
  • Ministry of Education and Science (Portugal)
  • 4EU+ European University Alliance E.V.
  • Una Europa
  • EU-Conexa
  • Charm-EU (via Universitat de Barcelona)
  • EUCOR-The European Campus (EGTC)
  • Ministry of Education and Culture (Finland)
  • Ministry of University and Research (Italy)
  • Ministry of Universities (Spain)
  • Autonomous Province of Trento (EGTC, Italy)
  • Cimea Association (Italy),
  • Authority Of Ireland For Cauliochthaigus Derbhu (Ireland),
  • CTI Commission des Titres d’Ingénieurs (France).
  • ESEU project received endorsement letters from 4 Member States (France, Germany, the Netherlands and Poland).
  • Next to this list, many other stakeholders will be involved in the project to ensure strong support.