At the 2017 Gothenburg Summit, EU leaders outlined a vision for increasing policy attention in Europe to education and culture. In its December 2017 Conclusions, building on the Commission's contribution to the leaders’ debate, the European Council called on Member States, the Council and the Commission to take forward a number of initiatives, including:
'…strengthening strategic partnerships across the EU between higher education institutions and encouraging the emergence by 2024 of some twenty 'European Universities', consisting in bottom-up networks of universities across the EU which will enable students to obtain a degree by combining studies in several EU countries and contribute to the international competitiveness of European universities'.
The aim behind this initiative is to bring together a new generation of creative Europeans, who are able to cooperate in different languages, across borders and disciplines, to address the big societal challenges and skills shortages that Europe faces.
This initiative must be a game changer in higher education. Building on excellent examples such as Erasmus Mundus, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions and the European Institute of Innovation & Technology, Europe must make a leap forward. Driven by high quality, these European Universities would attract the best students, teachers and researchers, making use of the most innovative pedagogies and digital technologies. They would act as role models for other higher education institutions, progressively increasing the international competitiveness of European higher education.
During the Education Council of 15 February, Ministers showed support for the initiative, noting that it should be aiming at quality and excellence while at the same time securing geographical balance across the EU and involving universities from all Member States. They underlined the link between education and research as an important principle. They also emphasised that the initiative needs to be ambitious enough to foster a new positive spirit of collaboration between universities in Europe.
The European Commission is currently consulting stakeholders at all levels, from grassroots practitioners of well-advanced transnational cooperation to ministries in Member States, in order to co-create the full concept of this initiative. As part of this joint effort, the European Commission is making publicly available the concept papers that are being received. Any additional contributions can be sent to EAC-HE@ec.europa.eu