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EU opens call for degree label and status for university alliances

Pilots to test joint European degree label criteria and trial legal status for university cooperation

A call offering the opportunity to pilot criteria for a joint European degree label and to trial a possible legal status for university alliances has been opened by the EU’s Erasmus+ programme for funding academic mobility.

The joint degree label is intended as a step on the road towards increased awarding of joint degrees spanning several EU member states, which in turn is intended to encourage academic mobility and cooperation.

The legal status for university alliances is being explored as a way of encouraging more structured cooperation between universities in different countries, on activities including joint degrees, campuses and research positions.

‘A step forward’

Promoting the launch of the call on 15 June, EU research and innovation commissioner Mariya Gabriel described it as “a step forward towards a genuine European dimension in higher education”.

Each of the two call topics has a budget of €1 million.

The joint European degree label pilot scheme aims to test criteria developed by the Commission, to see if they are appropriate for creating such a label. Pilot participants will apply the criteria to existing joint programmes, the Commission said.

Speaking at an event on the same day, Commission higher education policy officer Yann-Maël Bideau emphasised that a label is not yet being launched; instead, the call is funding a “common reflection” on the proposed criteria.

Bideau admitted that previous Commission talk of a ‘European degree’ was a “bit misleading”, following demands from universities for more clarity around the proposed label.

He added that the EU “has no power to give degrees” and is not aiming to establish degrees at the European level but rather to “foster cooperation between member states”.

Acting together

The second pilot scheme aims to test existing EU cooperation instruments to explore the feasibility of a European legal status for university alliances.

In the call document, the Commission said its aim is to give alliances the scope “to act together, make common strategic decisions, experiment [with] joint recruitment, design joint curricula or pool resources and human, technical, data, education, research and innovation capacities”.

The call moves forward on an agreement among EU member states from April to pilot European criteria for a joint degree and test a possible legal status for alliances of higher education institutions.