Prof Stuart Croft: ‘Warwick is, and has been since its foundation, a European university’

The vice-chancellor of the University of Warwick has said the university will continue to fund Erasmus schemes even if the UK exits the programme next year

In 2017, Emmanuel Macron announced his vision of a network of European universities working together to encourage mobility for students across the continent, and to be “drivers of educational innovation and the quest for excellence”.

We share that vision: universities should indeed be internationally connected centres of knowledge that encourage the movement of people and ideas to improve wider society — and that is precisely the focus of our EUTOPIA partnership.

The University of Warwick and its partners Vrije Universiteit Brussel and CY Cergy Paris Université responded to Macron’s call by co-launching EUTOPIA as a teaching and research collaboration soon afterwards. Since then, we’ve expanded our community to include Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, the University of Gothenburg, and our lead institution, the University of Ljubljana.

Our EUTOPIA community is bold, positive, and ambitious. Our mission is to develop a new model for higher education in Europe: one that is inclusive, creating opportunities for students regardless of nationality or social background; one that is open, driving academic and professional collaboration beyond borders; and one that has six regions at its heart, working to boost our local economies.

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Prof Stuart Croft attending a EUTOPIA meeting with his five counterparts from Brussels, Barcelona, Gothenburg, Paris and Ljubljana.

We were honoured to be included in the European Commission’s ERASMUS+ ‘European Universities’ pilot earlier this year, receiving €5m and unequivocally establishing our place within the future of European higher education.

We’ve already taken real steps together as a partnership to fulfil our mission of offering this new type of open, innovative, international education. For example, our first cohort of PhD co-tutelle scholars – who will study for a year at Warwick and at least a year in either Paris or Brussels, with a supervisor in each country – have already begun their projects this academic term.

This has been made possible by a £500,000 joint investment between the University of Warwick and our colleagues in Paris and Brussels, the scholarships will cover the scholars’ tuition fees, living costs and will support research expenses for four years.

Our co-tutelle scholars are truly European students, who will benefit from shared expertise and resources across our continent, immerse themselves in multiple cultures, and work to solve global issues, from reproductive health to cultural diplomacy – thanks to the unique opportunities afforded by EUTOPIA.

We are also offering double master’s courses, enabling MA students to study and be jointly supervised between two countries, including Warwick’s EUTOPIA partner Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona. We at Warwick are tremendously proud to be not just both European and international, but also to be dedicated to the Coventry, Warwickshire and West Midlands region around our campus.

We work closely with the West Midlands Combined Authority and all our local councils to ensure that we are involved in decisions that improve lives of local people and keep our region connected to the rest of Europe, as well as our other global partners.

Each EUTOPIA partner is similarly engaged with its own region, so the innovations we produce together as research institutions could be shared with policy makers to the benefit of citizens living around each of our six campuses throughout the continent, from the English Midlands to Ljubljana.

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Warwick, through EUTOPIA, has pledged to continue Erasmus programmes even if the UK leaves the scheme next year

One distinguishing feature of the EUTOPIA alliance is that we are student-centred and student-led, listening to the needs and opinions of those living and learning across our six institutions, and including their voices at the highest level when drawing up plans and making decisions.

Warwick is, and has been since its foundation, a European university. Our community is made up of thousands of European citizens, we were a key founding partner of the Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities in 2016, and we have an established presence in Brussels and Venice.

The study abroad programme has historically been a priority to us and remains so: we have pledged to continue funding it regardless of whether or not the UK remains in the ERASMUS+ exchange programme. Being part of a major European collaboration was always part of our plan, and we would have pursued further projects. Then, the 2016 referendum result came around and threw UK universities into huge uncertainty, in terms of European research funding and student mobility.

Brexit, and the current political climate in the UK, has not derailed our position as a European university; rather, it has made us more determined to strengthen and make clearer our existing commitment to European engagement, as a major part of our strategy and our identity.

We are proudly European but also look towards the rest of the world. Our alliance with Monash University in Australia continues to grow, with joint academic positions, impactful collaborative research, and intercontinental student mobility, as well as joint MA and PhD scholarships between our two campuses.

Asia is also a key continent for us a university, and we foster many close links with partners across India, China and South East Asia.

Warwick is one of the world’s top 100 universities because it is European, with a global reputation and connections to international partners. We are stronger together, and together we make the world a better place.

Prof Stuart Croft is vice-chancellor of the University of Warwick

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