ECIU to pilot ground-breaking university model
University of Aveiro to become a European ECIU University
In a three-year pilot project, the European Consortium of Innovative Universities (ECIU), of which UA is a member, will pioneer an innovative model of higher education programmes on a European scale. The proposal to create a European University, submitted on 28 February by the ECIU, received the go-ahead from the European Commission on Wednesday this week. The proejct seeks represent a paradigm shift in higher educaition and will be officially launched in November.

“The ECIU University is a proposal for a European University with a disruptive conception in terms of its education model. This University concept will provide responses to the challenges of society and industry”, explained the Vice-Rector of UA, Artur Silva, when the application was originally submitted.

As head of research for UA, one of the 13 universities of the ECIU University, which has established partnerships with a number of major players in the aeronautics, pharmaceuticals and computing industries, Artur Silva guaranteed that “as soon funding proposal is approved by the EU, the partners of the Consortium would be ready to provide solutions to these challenges and create knowledge for students from all over Europe”, adding that "some students will use this knowledge for their diplomas, while others will use them only to obtain skills passports. This will also be another innovative aspect of the European ECIU University”.

European Universities are transnational alliances of higher education institutions across the European Union that share a long-term strategy and promote European values and identity. The initiative, which originated in a challenge proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron, aims to significantly strengthen the mobility of students and staff and promote the quality, inclusion and competitiveness of European higher education.

The ECIU University will be open to students, researchers, industry and society at large, across borders. It will offer demand-driven, interdisciplinary and flexible education, tailored to the needs of society and students. Furthermore, the challenges will focus on the UN Sustainable Development Goal for cities and communities. This means learners at ECIU University will be tackling real and important problems in society and help shape a better world.

“The ECIU University is a very ambitious project. It caught the attention of entrepreneurs and educational experts from all over the world. I am very happy with all the positive feedback received so far, and I warmly invite society, researchers, students, and stakeholders to come up with real-life challenges we can work on with in the ECIU University”, says Sander Lotze, who is the project director for ECIU University. 

The Rector of the University of Aveiro, Paulo Jorge Ferreira pointed out that "the University of Aveiro is one of the first European Universities recognized and financed by the European Commission. The success of the proposal of the European Consortium of Innovative Universities, of which we have been founding members since 1998, confirms the relevance and importance of the principles to which the University of Aveiro has been faithful for 45 years: internationalization and the relationship with the region. The European University is yet another step in the cross-border affirmation of the University of Aveiro and will allow us to provide our students with a richer international experience. The universities that integrate this European University have in common a concern with their regions and the connection to the business world. These characteristics were important for the success of the application, but I want to highlight the effort of all those who for 45 years dedicated their lives to this ambitious and future-oriented project, a project that is the University of Aveiro. "

The project’s official launch will be in November this year. From 2020 onwards, students, employees and external collaborators will be given the opportunity to take part in piloting the groundbreaking education system.

Universities for the future

By developing this new educational model, the ECIU University responds to the urgent societal challenges the world is facing.

“These challenges we can only solve together with our most entrepreneurial students, our best researchers and experts from society,” says ECIU President Victor van der Chijs (University of Twente).  “This EU grant confirms that our consortium is leading in innovating teaching and learning, and heading in the right direction when it comes to reinventing the relationship of universities with society and the challenges surrounding them.”

The ECIU University will create a European platform where students, researchers, society and industry, can work together to find innovative solutions to real-life challenges. It will enhance the flexibility of education by granting learners "micro-credits" for individual courses, which they can gather in a competence passport tailored to their needs, instead of offering a fixed “one-size-fits-all” degree.

This increased flexibility will also enable life-long learners to access education more easily. The ECIU University will work closely with society, establish pop-up laboratories to test innovate teaching and research practices, and will foster ideas to enhance physical, blended and virtual mobility among universities.

Mobility and transnationality are at the core of the ECIU University. To facilitate relations among the members, three Challenge Innovation Hubs will be set up (in Linkoping, Hamburg, and Barcelona).

Support from industry and society

The plan for the ECIU University was co-created with industry, public organisations, society, academics, future and current students at stakeholder events all over Europe.

The universities’ industry partners and almost all regional public authorities also support the creation of the ECIU University, including the Intermunicipal Community of the Aveiro Region (CIRA).

Ribau Esteves, the CIRA president pointed out that “ The Region of Aveiro, which formally supported this application, congratulates the University of Aveiro for this approval. This is a project to which we are committed to helping develop an increasingly strong innovation ecosystem in Aveiro, thereby continuing the work of the European Consortium of Innovative Universities all over the Region. The approval of the UA application is proof that Aveiro is a territory of new technologies and innovation, which we do every day."

Supporting industry stakeholders are Airbus, Cisco, Engineering Ingegneria Informatica SpA, Ericsson AB, Hella, Intel, Lietuvos Energija, Lyse Group, NXP, Ponsse, Sandoz Industrial Products S.p.A. Gruppo Novartis, Sick AG, and Suez Environment..

It should be noted that out of the 54 applications received, 17 European universities were selected from a total of 114 higher education institutions in 24 Member States, based on an assessment by independent external experts, including rectors, teachers and researchers.

In total, a maximum budget of EUR 85 million is available for the first 17 European universities. Each alliance will receive up to € 5 million over the next three years to implement its plans and "start paving the way to other higher education institutions across the EU."

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