Creating the university of the future

Seven European universities have joined together to form Arqus European University Alliance. Cooperating closely, they will build universities that focus on the best of European cultural heritage.

Veggmaleri med teksten The future is Europe
UiB and six other European universities have formed Arqus European University Alliance. Their goal is to create the university of the future.
Åshild Nylund, UiB

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Leaders from the universities of Granada, Graz, Leipzig, Padova, Lyon, Vilnius and Bergen have joined together to form Arqus European University Alliance. The goal is to establish a network for close and extensive cooperation in teaching, research and public relations.

European collaboration

"As a university, we have a responsibility to contribute to social development and to educate good fellow citizens, who also take the initiative to shape the society of the future. We want to collaborate with other European universities where we find congruent ambitions and values, and with emphasis on student-active forms of learning. We have found this in Arqus, "says Oddrun Samdal, Vice Rector for education at UiB.

Pro-rector Margareth Hagen emphasizes that the seven universities have several things in common: They are all major research-intensive, breadth universities and important regional actors. With the exception of Vilnius, these are important regional centres with strong historical, economic and political identities and roles.  They have a clear sustainability profile. And they have a large contact area in the outside world. 

"As an internationally oriented university, we regard this kind of network collaboration as a very relevant tool for achieving our goals", says Rector Dag Rune Olsen.

Macron and «The European cement»

In September 2017, French President Emanuel Macron gave a speech called Initiative for Europe at the venerable Sorbonne University.

Here he projected the vision of a university that initiates a new form of student mobility, where students can choose subjects from different countries ' apprenticeship sites, and even compose an academic degree themselves. The close cooperation between colleagues in different European countries will serve to unify and strengthen European identity. Or the European cement, as Macron calls it.

“Inspiring ideas,” in the opinion of Rector Dag Rune Olsen.

“Macron sketched a new and different European research and education landscape, one with a closer integration between the universities”, Olsen said.

UiB in pursuit of high-standing status

The French president's speech was followed by an announcement from the EU: The total sum of 60 million euros will be allocated. The money will go to strengthening collaborative projects allied through the concept of sustainability, humanistic ideas and high-quality research.

A total of 54 university networks applied, and among them were UiB and the partner universities of Arqus. Twelve will be selected. The winners will be announced in late June. The next call for applications has a deadline later in 2019. If UiB’s application is successful, it will mean funding to implement major collaborative projects between the universities. If Arqus is chosen, it will open a series of doors for UiB's students and staff members.

Encircles and protects European values

Last week, the Arqus leaders were assembled in Bergen. Project coordinator Dorothy Kelly was also present here.

“We believe in cross-border cooperation. The European values unite us”, Kelly told UiB Aktuelt.

She referred to Arqus leaders being united in their desire to be stewards of the pan-European legacy of values, ideas and refinement. In their belief in liberal democracy and human dignity. An understanding that those who are given power must also shoulder the responsibility of being fair and reliable.  An idea that knowledge and tolerance can constitute the keenest defence.

"At the same time, we observe that these values are being threatened," Kelly says.

Because the joints of European democracy are creaking. Nationalist and right-wing populist parties are increasingly winning seats in the national assemblies of established democracies such as Sweden, Germany and France. Figures from the Swedish think tank Timbro reproduced in Dagsavisen show that, on average,15 percent of the population in the EU supported authoritarian right-wing populist parties last year. At the beginning of the 1990s, there were fewer than 3 percent who did so. According to Arcus leaders, education should be something more than a necessary step along the path towards a job. Education should also turn students into conscious and enterprising fellow citizens, make them more robust in their rejection of non-liberal notions and actively work to foster good democratic structures as a basis for social development.

"This is an innovative way of conceptualising university collaboration. I think the future is found in good networks," Kelly concludes.


bilde av Arqus-lederne

Representatives from the Arqus universities have started working. Last week they met at the University of Bergen.

Ida Bergstrøm/UiB