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Key messages for the further roll-out of the European Universities’ Initiative


June 28, 2021

Key messages for the further roll-out of the European Universities’ Initiative


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The next phase of the European Universities’ Initiative is an opportunity to innovate Europe’s education from degree-based to challenge-based education. Alliances have great value to the European society, make Europe more competitive in the longer term, and solve urgent societal challenges at the European level. A higher level of innovativeness, reflected against society’s needs, must be shown in the next years.

To optimise the further roll-out of the European Universities’ Initiative, ECIU University has four key recommendations:

  1. Alliances must not be forced to build towards full Bachelor, Master and PhD degrees. Instead, focusing solely on lifelong learners, creating flexible learning paths must be fully rewarded to support innovation at the European level.

    The needs of lifelong learners and society call for systemic change. New requirements for agility, flexibility, personalisation and digital transformation are rapidly emerging. European higher education is responsible for responding to this challenge collectively, ensuring that everyone benefits from the new digital society. In doing so, the European Universities can lead the discourse shaping the relationship between higher education institutions and wider society. This is an opportunity where universities have the flexibility to reflect and adapt to changing societal conditions while shaping societies by tackling large challenges. ECIU University boosts the transformation of European higher education towards agile and personalised learning paths for life.[1] The micro-credentials movement is a powerful and disruptive force and key change lever to achieve this ambition.[2] Also, the development of challenge-based education in close cooperation with societal stakeholders enables ECIU University life-long learners to access education more easily. Supporting lifelong learners at a European scale is of great value to Europe.
  2. Alliances need greater support for digital transformation to create a European ecosystem for collaboration. The EU must support the set-up of virtual campuses, Learning Management Systems, sharing and storage of data and support the use of artificial intelligence, big data and innovative digital tools to personalise learning and ensure large scale deployment of immersive learning experiences. 

    Our new reality is virtual. The digital transformation disrupts higher education, accelerated by the current COVID-19 pandemic. Universities are moving beyond online courses and are building fully online campuses using Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, big data and blockchain. To maximise the opportunities that digitalisation grants our students and society, we need the EU. An example is ECIU University’s Extended Reality campus, providing new standards for instant natural interaction, where our students, teachers, staff, researchers and stakeholders from all our 13 countries will work together in multiple realities.
  3. National support and co-funding are of crucial importance for the successful roll-out of the European Universities’ Initiative. Because education is a national competence, we need the commitment of national policy-makers to overcome challenges in realising our ambitions to revolutionise the quality and competitiveness of Europe’s higher education, research and innovation.

    ECIU University committed itself to a 2030-Vision. Long-term commitments from the EU and the Member States are necessary to realise our ambitions. We cannot use our learners as a test case. We must be able to rely on a sustainable funding source. The period for pilots is behind us now. We move fast. More time, support, and funding are needed to realise a European university.

    To make the need for more funding even clearer, the 7 million ECIU University received from Erasmus+ and Horizon Europe is only 15% of our total financial investments. Additional support from all Member States is needed.
  4. The possibility of the University Alliance as an entity to be eligible for funding, next to the higher education (partner) institutions.

    ECIU University has a legal entity fulling owned and only existing out of all the university alliance members. Suppose ECIU University could directly benefit from the second phase funding. In that case, we can start setting up a dedicated central organisation with staff to drive the European university further forward, giving the Initiative the next boost forward as promised to our internal communities.

[1] Read more in the ECIU University European Degree paper

[2] Read more in the ECIU University micro-credentials paper


ECIU is the leading international consortium of research intensive universities, with collective emphasis on innovation, creativity and societal impact, driving the development of a knowledge-based economy.