Our university has recently become the first Belgian member of Europaeum. In this network, leading European universities join forces and pool knowledge to address contemporary European challenges. For KU Leuven, Europaeum will help to create more international opportunities for education and research.
Europaeum first saw the light of day in 1992, as an initiative of the universities of Oxford, Leiden, and Bologna. The network has continued to grow ever since: today, its fifteen members include KU Leuven and the universities of Paris (Panthéon-Sorbonne), Geneva (Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies), Prague (Karlova), Madrid (Complutense), Helsinki, Kraków (Jagiellonian), Barcelona (Pompeu Fabra), Munich (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität), St Andrews in Scotland, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, and Lisbon (Catholic University of Portugal).
Going against the grain
Since the establishment of Europaeum, the political climate in and around Europe has changed drastically. After the fall of the Berlin wall, European idealism was at an all-time high. A quarter of a century later, the rise of populism and nationalism is driving a wedge between countries, and Brexit threatens to divide the European Union.
Europaeum wants to go against the grain and aims to strengthen the ties between leading European universities. “In the current political climate, we need more international cooperation,” says Jan Wouters, professor of international law at KU Leuven. “That applies to European universities as well: they need to engage more with what’s going on in society, and they need to work together across boundaries and disciplines. Europe and its citizens have to grow closer again, and universities can play a major role in this process.”
Cooperation and exchange
Europaeum focuses on students, researchers, and teaching staff in the humanities and social sciences that address contemporary European challenges. By increasing cooperation and improving exchange, the network hopes to lay the foundations for a stronger Europe. That is why Europaeum develops educational and research programmes related to European culture as well as its history and future.
One example is the Europaeum Scholars Programme, a two-year programme for talented and dedicated doctoral students from different disciplines. While pursuing their PhD, these students will be involved in seminars led by prominent European politicians, eminent scientists, and key officials. They will also visit EU institutions. Working together in small groups, they will work on projects of their own design related to the issues of the day, such as citizen engagement, sustainable social policies and inclusive civil society.
By joining Europaeum, KU Leuven expands its international network. This strategic decision will benefit our students and staff, emphasises Peter Lievens, Vice Rector for International Policy at KU Leuven. “The Europaeum programmes provide new opportunities for international cooperation and exchange. If we want to strengthen our education and research, we need to extend our horizons – both literally and figuratively. Students and researchers shouldn’t feel limited by their discipline, university, or the country in which they work.”
“The mission of Europaeum dovetails with the strategic vision of our university,” Rector Luc Sels adds. “Through intensive cooperation, across disciplines and borders, European universities can help to create a European identity. That vision is not unique to Europaeum, by the way: it’s also one of the key objectives of UNA Europa, an alliance that KU Leuven has recently formed with six other leading universities. Furthermore, with the uncertain outcome of Brexit in mind, we need to focus on strengthening our ties with British partners such as Oxford and St Andrews.”
This release was first published 28 February by KU Leuven.