In December 2022, the EUF Council of Rectors convened at the University of Warsaw, to bring another busy and intense year to a closure, as well as to take stock of the activities of the network and their evolution.
An important part of the meeting was the discussion about a new EUF strategic priority. The last time the network defined such a strategic vector to its activities was almost one decade ago, and subsequent digital transformation activities have spanned several projects and activities, such as Erasmus Without Paper, Erasmus+ Dashboard, Erasmus+ App, Online Learning Agreement and MyAcademicID – to name but a few of our best know initiatives.
Identifying a challenge that can contribute for the betterment and modernisation of European higher education systems will build on past achievements and the decision taken in Warsaw is the culmination of almost two years of internal discussions in the various governance bodies of the EUF.
Maximising the societal impact of higher education internationalisation
During the discussions about the new strategic priority of the network, one topic stood tall above all others: the importance of ensuring a much broader and inclusive participation in student mobility. The EUF can trace its own origins to key discussions in the late 90s that shone a light onto how deeply transformative high quality student mobility can be, and in the intervening years evidence has continued to accrue regarding the societal benefits and importance of a global and tolerant citizenry.
A contemporary take on improving participation will necessarily take into consideration past experiences, including the continued struggles of the Bologna Process and Erasmus+ to ensure that the population of mobile students accurately reflects the diversity of the European student body. In doing so, it will tie-in with the Erasmus+ transversal priorities for 2021-2027 and with the raison d’être of the European Universities Alliances, which are so important to so many of our member universities.
The first quarter of 2023 is expected to be the first time since the EUF network began leading the digital transformation of student mobility when its own resources will no longer be required to ensure the continued availability of the digital infrastructure used by thousands of higher education institutions (HEIs) across the continent. This is thanks to a framework contract signed with the European Commission in October 2021.
In addition to unburdening the EUF and its member universities from the day-to-day costs of supporting such vast infrastructure, this framework contract is also paving the way for the professionalisation of EWP-related operations until 2025. This means that the conditions have finally been met to allow the EUF to address other pressing challenges while ensuring that its digital solutions – made for universities, by universities – will continue to be available for the foreseeable future.
What to expect
Embarking on a new meaningful challenge should be a galvanising experience that brings forward the very best of the entire network. In order to rise to the occasion, the EUF will establish new pipelines of ideas and initiatives geared for systemic impact. Additionally, we will leverage on expertise already available to us: initiatives such as Erasmus 500 have revealed how the single biggest deterrent to participation in mobility can be overcome, and work on the topic is being continued under the aegis of the Erasmus for All consortium; initiatives like MEGA and Erasmus+60 are also already exploring both the operational and conceptual limits of a broader participation in mobility experiences, and others will of course follow in due course.
Nothing of what the EUF has achieved in its 20 years of existence would have been possible without the drive and expertise of its member universities, which will once again be the engines of our shared strategic priority. We are confident that many of our partners will agree to join us in this adventure, particularly as far as student organisations are concerned. We will also seek to join forces with the European Institutions, which have been so central in advancing the European student mobility landscape in both 2014 and 2021. Together we can undoubtedly raise the bar in really making mobility the norm in the years ahead.