In his Sorbonne speech in September 2017, French president Emmanuel Macron proposed to create at least 20 European Universities by 2024, building „a network of universities across Europe with programmes that have all their students study abroad and take classes in at least two languages. These European Universities will also be drivers of educational innovation and the quest for excellence."

The political context

Macron's initiative was taken up in November 2017 by the European Commission in its
communication „Strengthening European Identity through Education and Culture“ and confirmed by the European leaders at their Council meeting in December 2017. They call on the Commission to encourage "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."

What are European Universities?

The term 'universities' should be understood in the broadest sense of all kinds of higher education institutions.

European Universities have an ambitious mandate aimed to trigger unprecedented levels of institutionalised cooperation between higher education institutions, making it systemic, structural and sustainable.

More specifically European Universities aim to establish the following three key components:

  • A shared, integrated, long-term joint strategy for education with, where possible, links to research and innovation and society at large
  • A European higher education inter-university ‘campus‘ offering curricula where students, doctoral candidates and staff can experience mobility at all study levels
  • European knowledge-creating teams addressing together societal challenges in a multi-disciplinary approach.

European Universities in Erasmus+

At EU level, the EU education and mobility programme Erasmus+ is the central programme for the implementation of the initiative. Under key action 2, the European Commission published the call for proposals for the first pilot in October 2018 and for the second pilot in November 2019.

1. Pilot Call To the call for proposals (EACEA)

A total of 54 applications were submitted for the first pilot call. They cover more than 300 universities from 31 countries, including all EU Member States. Approximately 80% of the applications involve 5 to 8 partners. To the press release 
17 networks have been selected, each receiving a maximum of 5 million euros over 3 years.
To the results of the first pilot call
The Commission published individual factsheets about the selected networks.

2. Pilot Call To the call for proposals (SEDIA)

The second call for proposals builds upon the first test period. The deadline for applications is  26 February 2020. It is scheduled to notify the selected alliances in July 2020.
The Erasmus+ Work Programme 2020 confirms a doubling of the budget compared to the first pilot with an amount of 120 million euros for 24 European universities. Each alliance is supposed to receive a maximum of 5 million euros for 3 years. Further information can be found in the Erasmus+ Programme Guide 2020.

Acceptance criteria for the pilot

  • composition of the consortium: a minimum of 3 universities from 3 Erasmus+ programme countries (in possession of a valid Erasmus University Charter ECHE)
  • possibility of associated alliances for public/private organisations from Erasmus+ programme countries, which operate in the field of education, research or innovation (associated partner do not receive funding from the programme)
  • one coordinator acts on behalf of the consortium

The most important document for potential applicants is the Erasmus+ Programme Guide.

Expected characteristics for European Universities

  • European Universities consist in bottom-up networks of European universities, pursuing a common, long-term strategy for cooperation;
  • the support should allow existing networks to scale up their cooperation on a new/higher level;
  • European Universities offer integrated mobility for students, scientists and staff, and facilitate knowledge transfer across borders;
  • European Universities offer innovative study concepts (incl. digital services, the integration of research in teaching, the learning and practising of different languages, team-oriented work on societal challenges etc.) and cooperate closely in the fields of education, research and innovation;
  • European Universities contribute to regional development;
  • European Universities mirror Europe's diversity (geographically – different types of higher education institutions);
  • European Universities are socially inclusive, promote European values and strengthen European cohesion;
  • in the long run, European Universities can contribute to the development of policies, such as a European diploma and a European status.

Information on the selection and evaluation procedure for the first pilot can be found in the EACEA 2019 Guide for Experts. The 2020 Guide for Experts is not available yet.

Further Information

Further information about the initiative are available on the websites of the Directorate-General Education and Culture (DG EAC) and of the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA).

  • On 18 December 2018, DG EAC and EACEA hosted an information session in Brussels for organisations interested in the initiative. To the event page
  • The latest factsheet on the initiative was published in November 2019.
    To the factsheet
  • The European Commission’s science and knowledge service, the Joint Research Centre (JRC),  published an accompanying study on the European Universities initiative, called "Mapping of European Transnational Collaborative Partnerships in Higher Education". To the JRC Science for Policy Report
  • On 7 November 2019, the European Commission hosted the event "European Universities Initiative - Building the universities of the future" in Brussels, where for the first time all selected European universities met to exchange information and discuss the next steps with students, rectors and responsible ministries.

What are the next steps?

The results of the pilot calls will be incorporated into the design of a comprehensive funding line under the subsequent Erasmus+ programme. Following a positive evaluation in 2021, the successful networks shall be able to apply for further funding.

By 2021 at the latest, it is expected that other EU funding programmes will also offer funds to support the 'European Universities'. The programme proposals published in May for Erasmus 2021-2027 and Horizon Europe, the forthcoming EU Research Framework Programme, earmarked this possibility.

National supporting programme "European University Networks"

On the German side, the European Universities initiative is flanked by a national supplementary, preparatory and accompanying programme for German universities. In the course of the second pilot, a further call for the national support programme will be published in summer 2020. The limited call for proposals and further information can be found on the homepage of the DAAD Head Office (in German):

The DAAD

The DAAD has contributed to shape the idea of 'European Universities' from the start.
In April 2018, the DAAD Brussels office organised a European workshop on this topic in Brussels together with the Permanent Representation of Germany and the German Rectors' Conference. To the event page

The National Agency for EU Higher Education Cooperation within DAAD has taken on the task to inform and advise German higher education institutions about the application process for the Erasmus+ pilot. To the NA DAAD website (in German)

On 23 October 2019 the National Agency organised an Information Event on European Universities - 2. Pilot Call (in German).

Unit P13 - Research and Internationalisation, University Networks in the DAAD is responsible for the national supporting programme for the European Universities (see above).

Further articles on the European Universities (in German):