Interview: In 5 years ATHENA will be a vibrant international university campus

ATHENA European University was born as s a part of European University Initiative and aims to deliver inclusive, innovative, high-quality international education permanently aligned with global market needs. Currently there are 44 European Universities involving around 340 higher education institutions in both capital cities and remote regions of 31 countries.

How did the idea of European University Initiative come up and how its’ goals will be achieved we talked with Prof. Nuno Escudeiro, ATHENA European University Alliance Coordinator, and Dr. Konstantinos Petridis, ATHENA European University Secretary General.

What are the key takeaways from the European University Initiative coordinators’ meeting in Brussels earlier this year?

Nuno Escudeiro: Although the European University alliances are a young initiative, established in 2019, this is an ambitious path towards the future of higher education and R&I in Europe and a key flagship initiative from the Commission. The support from the European Commission was made clear at the coordinators meeting in Brussels. Novel institutionalised funding schemes aggregating various sources is being analysed to provide structural support to European University alliances.  A quality label is also being discussed granting selected European University alliances complementary funding under EU programmes and national funding. A legal entity that might cover all the dimensions of European University alliances is another core point on the table that might have effective developments in the near future.

Why is the European University Initiative important for the further growth and improvement of higher education in Europe?

Konstantinos Petridis: The idea of a supranational university is an old European political project. The first attempts (in 1955 – a German initiative; in late 1950’s – a French initiative mainly focused on nuclear energy; in 1960’s an Italian attempt to create a European University focused on postgraduate studies in social sciences) failed mainly due to their top-down approach.     

In September 2017, the French president Emmanuel Macron has rewoken the idea of the European University. The European University Initiative (EUI) is a flagship project launched by the European Union to foster collaboration and innovation among European universities. The initiative aims to create a network of European universities that will work together to improve the quality of higher education in Europe, promote mobility and exchanges among students and staff, foster the research collaboration, support the creation of research shared facilities and increase the competitiveness of European universities on the global stage. Currently there are 44 alliances with the objective by 2027 to have 60 such alliances.

The initiative is important for the further growth and improvement of higher education in Europe on accordance to the European Higher Educational Area. Firstly, it promotes collaboration among universities across Europe, breaking down barriers and facilitating the sharing of knowledge, resources, and best practices. This can lead to the development of new teaching and research methods, the creation of joint degree programs, and the establishment of interdisciplinary research teams.

Secondly, the initiative aims to promote student mobility and exchanges (the target is 50% of the students should have spent at least six months in another European country by the time are 25), allowing students to study and gain experience in different countries and cultures. This can lead to a more diverse and well-rounded education, as well as increased cross-cultural understanding and cooperation among European citizens.

Thirdly, the initiative can help to increase competitiveness & innovation of European universities at the global stage. By working together and pooling resources, European universities can develop world-class research and teaching programs, incorporate flexible training policies (e.g., minor programs, competence clusters and use of micro credentials) that can attract students and staff from around the world.

Overall, the European University Initiative is an important step towards improving the quality and competitiveness of higher education in Europe, as well as promoting greater collaboration and understanding among European citizens.

Where do you see the EUI and ATHENA European University in 5 years?

Nuno Escudeiro: In 5 years ATHENA will be a vibrant international university campus that inspires local communities and delivers significant added value to the society. All our students, academics, researchers, technicians and administrative staff will have access to the opportunities and the resources they need to succeed in their academic and professional life.

Konstantinos Petridis: The EUI initiative will stablish joint (a) quality assurance standards for all the ATHENA programs and processes; (b) accreditation processes (c) postgraduate programs (e.g., EMINENT joint Mundus program in nanomaterials and sensing); (d) shared research facilities and deep collaboration in joint research priorities; and (e) student and staff mobility strategies. In five years from now the students entering a partner university, e.g., HMU, will enjoy opportunities offered by nine other European Universities; HMU students will be students of a European University with ten other campuses.


    Date of addition
    22 May 2023