European universities link together to form co-campuses


KU Leuven, Antwerp University and VUB are all part of winning bids to become European University networks

Common ground

Three Flemish universities feature among the 17 networks selected to become the first European Universities. They will share in the €85 million from EU funds that will help the winners kick-start their co-operation plans over the next three years.

The EU's European Universities Initiative will create inter-university campuses, through which students, doctoral candidates, staff and researchers can move seamlessly. The institutions involved will pool their expertise and resources to deliver joint curricula or teaching modules, with an emphasis on flexibility.

Students should be able to personalise their education, choosing what, where and when to study. European Universities are also expected to contribute to the sustainable economic development of the regions where member institutions are located, with students working closely with companies, municipal authorities, academics and researchers to find solutions to local challenges.

Una Europa

KU Leuven is co-ordinating the successful Una Europa alliance, which also includes the universities of Bologna and Edinburgh, the Free University Berlin, the Jagiellonian University Krakow, Complutense University Madrid and the University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne.

“This intense co-operation between leading European universities creates unique opportunities to strengthen our plans regarding truly international, forward-looking education and digital educational technology,” said Luc Sels, KU Leuven’s rector. “Una Europa aims to promote innovative forms of distance learning, short-term mobility and lifelong learning, among other things.”

Collaboration has already begun in four thematic areas: European studies, sustainability, cultural heritage, and data science and artificial intelligence.


The Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), meanwhile, will be part of the Eutopia alliance, which is co-ordinated by the University of Ljubljana. It also involves the University of Gothenburg, the Université Paris Seine, the Pompeu Fabra University Barcelona and the University of Warwick.

“Our shared aim is to create a common European learning and knowledge community that will transform our universities into living labs for education, research and innovation,” said Caroline Pauwels, VUB’s rector. “Through open science and open education, Eutopia will be a shared ‘multiversity’ with a strong multilingual, multidisciplinary and multicultural research and education agenda.”

Our network will offer truly European career paths to all members of society

- UAntwerp rector Herman Van Goethem

One aspect of this collaboration is a scholarship scheme that will enable up to eight PhD candidates to be co-supervised by academics at VUB, the Université Paris Seine and Warwick. The first cohort will begin in October, in areas such as complexity science, reproductive medicine, and the arts, humanities and cultural heritage.

There will also be a joint master’s degree in international studies and integration, involving Warwick’s Department of Politics and International studies and VUB’s Institute for European Studies.

Young universities

Antwerp University was successful as part of Young Universities for the Future of Europe. This is co-ordinated by Maastricht University, and includes Carlos III University of Madrid, and the universities of Bremen, Cyprus, Eastern Finland, Essex and Rome Tor Vergata.

“Our European University will provide students with the skills they need to be highly employable and will offer truly European career paths to all members of society,” said Herman Van Goethem, Antwerp’s rector.

All three alliances include British universities, which could be a problem if the UK leaves the EU without a deal this autumn. According to specialist news service ScienceBusiness, this will mean their forced withdrawal from the scheme.

Ghent University’s network bid was unsuccessful. It had teamed up with universities in Uppsala, Tartu, Groningen, and Göttingen, but did not make the final cut. A second round of the competition will take place this autumn.

Photo: Rob Stevens/KU Leuven