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. The vision until 2025 includes three key components:

  • An integrated, long-term joint strategy for education with connections to research and innovation as well as to society as a whole (whereever possible)
  • A European 'interuniversity' campus
  • European teams consisting of students and scientists with a 'challenge-based approach' to accumulate knowledge

The EU pilot

The EU education and mobility programme Erasmus+ is the central programme for the initiative's implementation on EU level. The Commission launched a pilot for this action in October 2018 under the current Erasmus+ programme (key action 2). To the pilot call

A total of 54 applications were submitted by 28 February 2019. They cover more than 300 higher education institutions from 31 countries, including all EU Member States. Approximately 80% of the applications involve 5 to 8 partners.  To the press release

According to the Erasmus+ 2019 annual work programme 12 projects with a maximum of 5 million euros each (for 3 years) should have been selected. On 26 June 2019, the results of the European Universities alliances selected for the first pilot call were announced at a press conference by Commissioner Tibor Navracics. Not 12 but 17 networks have been selected. To the results of the first pilot call

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 Guide for Experts.

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 18.12.2018, 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 June 2019.
To the factsheet

The last Q&A session on the pilot call "European Universities" by NA DAAD took place on  05.02.19. To the recording of the webinar (in German)

Moreover, 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

What are the next steps?

The successful networks shall be able to apply for more funding after a positive evaluation in 2021. A second pilot is planned in 2020. The call is expected to be published in November 2019 here. The findings of the pilot projects shall be included in the creation of a comprehensive line of support under the next Erasmus programme.

Event on the European Universities Initiative by the European Commission

On 7 November, the event "European Universities Initiative - Building the universities of the future", organised by the European Commission, is taking place from 2 PM to 6 PM in the SQUARE Brussels Convention Centre.

Latest in 2021, it is expected that also other EU funding programmes will provide financial resources for supporting the European Universities. The programme proposals for Erasmus and Horizon Europe (2021-2027) provide this possibility.

National supporting programme "European University Networks"

On the German side, the European University initiative is flanked by a national programme for German universities. The limited call for proposals and further information can be found on the DAAD website (in German):
"Europäische Hochschulnetzwerke (EUN) - nationale Initiative"

The DAAD

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.