The 4EU+ Governing Board, comprising Rectors of six member universities of the 4EU+ Alliance, met online on 1 April 2021 to pass a resolution to establish an association "4EU+ European University Alliance e.V." The association’s registered office will be in Heidelberg, Germany. “This legal entity represents a strengthened and deepened cooperation among our six researchintensive universities. It is a pledge for a higher level of mutual relations,” said Prof. Tomáš Zima, Rector of Charles University and Chair of the 4EU+ Governing Board.
As a “European University”, the 4EU+ Alliance is implementing the activities that form part of the Erasmus+ project, focused on innovative education and mobility, and the “top-up” Horizon 2020 project, TRAIN4EU+, which supports the universities’ coordinated transformation efforts at the research and innovation level. At the same time, the Alliance also offers programmes supporting the collaborative research projects and initiatives strengthening the 4EU+ community.
This intensified cooperation does not come without hurdles, for example, the lack of joint funds and property rights issues related to data sharing. Therefore, to provide a statutory framework for their cooperation, the member universities of the Alliance decided to establish a not-for-profit registered association with its seat in Heidelberg. The Association will manage the funds of the 4EU+ Alliance, maintain legal relationships with third parties (e.g., employment contracts for 4EU+ staff, contracts with service providers), serve as a platform for storing shared data and maintaining joint infrastructure, and be the owner of jointly acquired or created intangible and tangible assets.
Prof. Bernhard Eitel, Rector of Heidelberg University stated, “As a legal entity in its own right, 4EU+ is committed to advancing its strategic goals 2 / 3 in this institutional alliance that will realize a new and mutually beneficial research, higher education and innovation agenda, enhancing our shared future within a truly European society.”
Prof. Henrik Wegener, Rector of the University of Copenhagen, also pointed to the important advancement in 4EU+ cooperation: “The establishment of a 4EU+ legal entity is an exciting next step in strengthening the ties to our closest European partners. We look forward to this new phase of collaboration with a clear commitment to fostering continued excellence within European research and education.”
The establishment of legal entity will be followed by the launch of the 4EU+ General Secretariat in Heidelberg, which will take over the responsibilities of the 4EU+ central office in Paris, and first job openings for the Secretariat’s permanent staff. To ensure a close link with 4EU+ local offices, several experts from the Alliance’s six member universities will also work for the Secretariat on a remote basis.
Isabelle Kratz, 4EU+ Secretary General, explains, “Within the Alliance, collaborative work is organised at several levels: between the 4EU+ local offices, within permanent working groups and within projects’ Work Package teams, within the four flagship committees, and within the Alliance's governing bodies. Collaboration is at the heart of the Alliance's dynamics, driven by the complementary skills and enthusiastic investment of teams at 4EU+ member universities. The Secretary General's mission, among others, is to be the link between all these bodies and ensure coherence with the strategic axes defined by the Alliance.
The added value of the association can be summarized by: simplification, pooling, visibility, accessibility, efficiency. This is where one of the missions of the General Secretariat comes into play, as it will oversee the day-to-day management of the association. It will offer transversal support to all the members of the Alliance and facilitate exchanges. In addition, the General Secretariat will carry the voice and promote the vision, ambitions and the specific identity of the 4EU+ Alliance, of which we are proud.”
In his keynote address given at the recent meeting of Directors-General for Higher Education, Prof. Jean Chambaz, Rector of Sorbonne University, also referred to 4EU+ becoming an association: “We have seen remarkable enthusiasm and engagement within our communities. They are ready for an ambitious alliance and for deeper international cooperation. 4EU+ is being built, not by rectors and presidents, but by teachers, researchers, students and staff. As you can see, this experiment is already working. But we have much more to do on this journey.”