The European Union launches an ambitious plan so that in 2025 there will be 20 transnational campuses. The idea was conceived at a summit in Gothenburg (Sweden) in November 2017, coinciding with the celebration of the 30 years of the Erasmus program, but it is now when the countdown begins. The universities are mobilizing these weeks to crear campus consortiums from at least three different countries that share students -who wish to start the race in one country and finish it in another-, research and teachers. The deadline for the alliances to be submitted to the pilot program, endowed with 30 million euros, ends on February 28. Six consortiums will be chosen that will implement their plan by the end of 2019. Those discarded will have another opportunity in 2020.
"Now that there are doubts about the future of Europe, the best way to unite is to share the culture," says Eugenio Gaudio, rector of the University of Sapienza in Rome, in reference to Brexit Y the rise of anti-European populisms. His reflection is shared by his counterparts. "20 years ago the Bologna Plan created a European area of knowledge and now we must create a Europe of the future that is not only financial, but cultural ", sums up Gaudio its alliance, European Civic University, which encompasses eight campuses, including the Autonomous University of Madrid. "And this step to the Europe of knowledge has to be led by the universities, not by other institutions," adds Rafael Garesse, rector of the latter. "That's why in our alliance we are willing to go forward, regardless of what happens in the February call, which will be very competitive."
European Civic University. It includes the Autonomous of Madrid, Marseille, Sapienza, Stockholm, Bucharest, Brussels Free, Tübingen and Athens.
ONE Europe. It is composed of Complutense, Sorbonne, Berlin, Bologna, Krakow and Louvain.
ARQUS They integrate Granada, Graz, Leipzig, Padua, Vilnius and Lyon.
EUTOPIA It encompasses the Pompeu Fabra, Paris-Seine, Brussels Free, Warwick, Ljubljana and Gothenburg.
European Campus of City-Universities. Participate Salamanca, Coimbra, Alexandru Ioan Cuza of Iasi, Pavia, Poitiers and Turku.
YERUN Includes Carlos III, Antwerp, Bremen, Essex, Eastern Finland, Maastricht and Rome Tor Vergat.
Never in the EU has there been such an ambitious university program across the spectrum like this – it also includes Administration and Services Staff, to improve management that is often slow and cumbersome – but there are previous experiences. For example, the universities of the Basque Country and Bordeaux share four master's degrees, two laboratories or doctorates with double tutelage. Or the Pompeu Fabra University belongs to the Alliance of European Leading Universities in Economic and Social Sciences (ALEUESS) that exchanges young researchers and doctoral students.
While the Complutense (UCM) offers a double degree in Law with the Sorbonne since 1995 and with Bologna for four (the first class has not graduated yet). "The Complutense seeks universities with which it has a certain analogy, how are you to establish alliances. All are historical, public and very large, "explains José María Coello of Portugal, the vice-dean of International Relations of the Faculty of Law. "Each university chooses half of the students and they change their destination to the two courses. There are common subjects (Economics or Philosophy of Law), but many others do not, because the codes are not the same ", continues the professor," it is a very demanding but very recognized program ". The UCM is presented to the European competition with these campuses.
This push from Brussels is good for Spain, since it is lagging behind in the internationalization of its universities. In 2016, only 1.2% of those who studied a degree were foreigners –the 45,000 erasmus are not counted– against 4.9% on average in the OECD; 14.2% of those taking the master's degree (12% in the OECD) and 17.4% of the doctoral students (27% in the OECD). Three technical committees are currently working on the realization of a new university law -priority in the opinion of all groups- and one of them is devoted to internationalization, which gives an idea of its weakness. In 2016, only 1.8% of the professors of the Spanish university was foreign, compared to 43% in Switzerland or 3.5% in Portugal.
"You have to train young people for a future life, and this will not necessarily always be in your country. They are no longer confused before the borders, "explains Yvon Berland, president of the Aix-Marseille University. "And we must address mobility from an angle of social equity. That there be a common mechanism that allows low-income students to move out of the country, "adds Yvon Englert, rector of the Free University of Brussels. "Now there are inequalities, because you have to pay a plane ticket, stay …". The Erasmus scholarship of the Spanish Ministry, for example, does not cover expenses: 200 euros per month are received in countries with a low standard of living such as Slovakia and 300 in countries as expensive as Sweden. Many autonomous communities and universities complete these aids.
The alliance forces the campuses to recognize the studies of others academically, a fundamental step because the problems of validation are such that those interested are forced to take new courses or must wait months after submitting to an endless bureaucracy. Although Yvon Berland, president of Aix-Marseille, remembers and warns: "For a common European university to exist, it is necessary to pass legal, regulated phases, and let's not forget that in May of next year there will be European elections. Hopefully the project will continue. "
With information from Álvaro Sánchez (Brussels).
The alliance forces the campuses to recognize academically the studies of the others – there will be an exchange of administration personnel to learn to solve bureaucratic obstacles – and encourages multilingualism just as the UK leaves Europe the 27. The opposite of 2013, when Brussels proposed a controversial document teach English, the lingua franca, to seduce foreign students and professors. The European Commission then set its sights on 2030, the year in which, according to estimates, university students in the world will have quadrupled. On that same date, 7.5% of the population will be Spanish-speaking (535 million), which opens the debate on the suitability of maintaining Spanish in Spanish classrooms. At present, 6.2% of the degrees offered at the public university in Spain are in English and 10.2% of the private ones.
A great promoter of this transnational project is the French president Emmanuel Macron, who in September 2017, in a solemn speech on the European Union, asked that in 2024 university students speak two European languages. "Just as the pioneers of Bologna, Montpellier Oxford or Salamanca believed in the power of learning, the critical spirit and culture, I want us to live up to this great purpose," he said.
From the transnational project, which ranges from the Nordic countries to the Baltic and the east of the continent, British universities remain, outstanding in many fields, and the rectors regret it. "We want to channel a form so that British universities, even if they can not be part of the European Union, are present," says Gaudio, of Sapienza. "British teachers and students have already spoken out against Brexit and that is not coincidental. We have common values. Even these years have intensified collaborations with them. " Meanwhile, British and Spanish campuses have agreed on a joint manifesto, demanding that the exchanges of students and investigations be maintained. 30% of its students come from the EU.