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."

The EU pilot

The EU education and mobility programme Erasmus+ is intended to be the central programme for the initiative's implementation on EU level. The Commission will launch a pilot for this action already in autumn 2018 under the current Erasmus+ programme (key action 2).

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.

Further process

The Pilot will be repeated in 2020 (Erasmus+ call in autumn 2019) where appropriate.
The findings of the pilot projects shall be included in the creation of a comprehensive line of support under the next Erasmus programme (Erasmus 2021-2027).

The Website of the Directorate-General Education, Youth, Sport and Culture lists various position papers by European stakeholders on this initiative.


The DAAD has contributed to shape the idea of 'European Universities' from the start.

In April 2018, DAAD branch office Brussels 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)

From the new DAAD series about this topic you can find an interview with DAAD Secretary-General Rüland (here), an article by Nina Salden, director of DAAD Brussels office (here), as well as guest contributions by Prof. Schiewer, University of Freiburg/ EuCor (here) and Prof. Casper-Hehne, University of Göttingen/ U4 (here). All articles are only available in German.