03 Jul 2019   |   Network Updates   |   Update from KU Leuven
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KU Leuven: UNA Europa alliance receives prestigious grant to launch European university of the future


Twenty years after the Bologna Declaration to develop the European Higher Education Area, seven leading research-intensive universities have been granted 5 million euros to kick-start their joint strategy to consolidate a European university ecosystem. By driving innovative education and research collaboration across seven of Europe’s largest comprehensive universities, the UNA Europa alliance is equipped to address the challenges of the future.

The European Commission announced today the first 12 projects that will receive funding for a three-year pilot under the prestigious European Universities initiative funded by the Erasmus+ Programme.

 “We are honoured to be among the first European Universities selected and are committed to shaping the future of Higher Education in Europe,” says Professor Peter Lievens, Vice Rector at KU Leuven and Coordinator of the 1EUROPE project. “The UNA Europa ecosystem brings together students, university leaders, academics and support services from our seven campuses to reach our common ambition to shape Europe’s future.”

At the centre of educating and shaping Europe’s intellectual tradition for almost 1000 years, the UNA Europa partners’ shared heritage and ambition to shape Europe’s future is a driving force in the alliance’s strategy. The 1EUROPE project forms the backbone for delivering their common strategy and activities. 

The UNA Europa universities’ staff and student communities approach half a million strong and count millions of digital learners. “The scale of the UNA Europa community is our unique opportunity to develop, implement and transfer the new models of education and research required to address the rapidly changing needs of society,” says Professor Lievens.

Rector Luc Sels: “This intense cooperation between leading European universities creates unique opportunities to strengthen our plans regarding truly international, forward-looking education and digital educational technology. 1EUROPE aims to promote innovative forms of distance learning, short-term mobility, and lifelong learning, among other things.”

The 1EUROPE project will establish a laboratory on the future of universities. The laboratory will generate new concepts for international education and research, integrating them across the seven partners and also fostering their transfer to other institutions. “UNA Europa will create a university of the future that is not only international and innovative, but also open and inclusive,” says Prof. Alessandra Scagliarini, Vice Rector at Universitá di Bologna and current Chair of the UNA Europa Board of Directors. “Our institutions each have exemplary initiatives in civil society engagement, but through the 1EUROPE project, we will bring this to a European scale.”

UNA Europa has already launched collaboration in four thematic focus areas: European Studies, Sustainability, Cultural Heritage and Data Science & Artificial Intelligence. These areas promote cross-fertilisation of knowledge across the sciences and humanities, across the seven campuses and their societal stakeholders. The ambition is to progressively involve the entire academic community of the seven partners in UNA Europa activities.

The 1EUROPE project will test Joint Innovative Formats for international education and mobility. An International Academic Incubator will be established in the UNA Europa four focus areas. During the course of the project, the incubators will be transformed into a European campus, aiming to attract the very best and brightest talent from around the world. 

In February 2019, the seven founding university partners formally established UNA Europa as a non-profit association under Belgian law (in Dutch, ‘vzw’). “This demonstrates our long-term commitment to the sustainability of the alliance,” says Prof. Scagliarini. The UNA Europa association is situated on the Brussels campus of KU Leuven, at the interface of the universities and the EU institutions.

This communication was first published 26 June 2019 by KU Leuven. 

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