The EU commission wants to triple the number of exchange students at European universities over seven years. Student exchange may increase significantly, also at UiA.
“These are exciting thoughts. We are also part of the European education area, and we need to look at how to relate to that.”
Says Sunniva Whittaker, who is on a two-day study tour to Brussels, Tuesday and Wednesday this week, together with the vice rectors, deans, several department heads and research advisers – 36 people in all.
The purpose of this trip is to give inspiration, motivation and more knowledge and expertise about how UiA can increase its participation in EU projects for education and research.
“International cooperation is necessary to develop excellent education and research communities”, Sunniva Whittaker says.
“As long as the EU framework programmes provide opportunities for higher education and research cooperation both within and outside of Europe, we would like to know as much about them as we can. That is why we go on this study tour which I hope will make us all aware of the opportunities that exist, and perhaps start processes that will launch projects in the time to come”, she says.
In EU, the current Erasmus+ programme approaches its end in 2020. The European Commission has therefore started working on the next period, 2021-2027.
Plans to strengthen EU’s focus on integration and building a common culture are included, not least against the background of and as a counterweight to Brexit and the rise of nationalism in some member states.
In this perspective, higher education is seen both as a better way to social development, but also as a ‘European Common Good’ and something that is part of a common European culture.
“This also affects what is happening in higher education and research”, says Counsellor for Research Marthe Nordtug at the Mission of Norway to the EU. She met with the delegation from UiA on Tuesday, together with Counsellor for Education Ragnhild Skålid.
“This also applies to the wish to triple the activities in the Erasmus+ scheme. If it is adopted, the number of people who get to participate in the programme rises from 4.4 million in the current Erasmus+ period to 12 million in the next. Seen in the context of other goals, like learning two foreign languages in upper secondary school, there is little doubt that student and teacher mobility, and mobility among administrative staff in higher education, will increase in the time to come”, Ragnhild Skålid says.
The counsellors for research and education at the Mission of Norway to the EU also touched on the initiative for future network universities in Europe, where Norwegian universities also are included.
The initiative is designed to form cross-border alliances of higher education institutions from across Europe to achieve free flow of students and teachers, where the goal is to tackle the biggest issues facing Europe today and meet the need for knowledge in every European country and region.
The goal is to create at least 20 European Universities by the end of 2024, building a network of universities across Europe.
“If this becomes a reality, it is described as a paradigm shift in higher education. Not just in Europe, but all over the world”, Ragnhild Skålid says.
Rector Sunniva Whittaker thinks the ideas of increased student and teacher exchange and the network universities initiative are exciting. At UiA, 340 students are currently on exchange, and 256 foreign exchange students are studying at UiA.
“On our part, mobility is a topic we will deal with internally during this academic year. The government is drawing up a white paper on student mobility which will be presented in February next year, which will be about different forms of mobility like: Norwegian graduates abroad, foreign graduates in Norway, work placement mobility, short-term mobility, virtual mobility/exchange, and – not least – exchange mobility”, she says.