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EUA president-elect promises to ‘consolidate transformation’


Spanish former rector Josep Maria Garrell to chair European University Association board

The next president of the European University Association has promised to continue to build on the “transformation” of the organisation that he said had taken place under its outgoing leader.

Josep Maria Garrell (pictured), who from 2012 to 2022 was rector of Ramon Llull University in Spain, was elected as the next president of the EUA just before its annual meeting in Gdańsk, Poland, on 20 April.

The EUA is a membership organisation representing more than 850 universities and national rectors’ conferences in 49 countries. It has a leading role in advocating for universities across the continent, particularly at EU level.

Starting in July, Garrell will chair the EUA board, which is responsible for the association’s policies and activity planning.

He has been on the board since 2019, and the EUA said in an announcement that his focus there had largely been on governance, autonomy and funding. For example, he chaired the advisory committee for this year’s update of the EUA’s scorecard of university autonomy.

Garrell has also been a vice-president of the Conference of Rectors of Spanish Universities (Crue), which nominated him for the EUA presidency.

Consolidating transformation

Crue said Garrell obtained about 70 per cent of the votes, ahead of Janet Beer at the University of Liverpool in the UK and Ivanka Popović at the University of Belgrade.

In proposals for his candidacy, which he published online ahead of the vote, Garrell said he had spent recent months meeting with many national rectors’ conferences, who shared their “analyses, thoughts, concerns and proposals” regarding the EUA and European higher education more broadly.

Proposals for the evolution of the EUA over the next four years, which Garrell said were based mainly on inputs from the rectors’ conferences, included consolidating what he said was a “deep…and highly constructive transformation” of the EUA under outgoing president Michael Murphy.

“The sustained dialogue and engagement with national rectors’ conferences, combined with a renewed style and proactive approach to the secretariat’s work and the assignation of portfolios to board members, has improved the overall running and reach of the association, as well as the feeling of belonging,” he said.

‘Voice of universities’

Garrell also said that as the EUA bills itself as “the voice of universities in Europe”, it will need to keep improving its communication and advocacy at all levels.

Advocacy “needs to go beyond our sector”, he said, so that the EUA can contribute to fighting on issues including human rights and environmental sustainability.

Garrell said he fully supported the EUA’s 2020 strategic plan but that a mid-term review of it would be useful to evaluate the implementation of current actions, including on the EU-led reform of research assessment.

Universities need to undergo “profound change” in how they facilitate learning and teaching, he said, such as in response to digitisation and lifelong-learning needs.

He also said the EUA must do more to help its members develop their leadership capacity and that it should increase its sharing of information on national university systems.

Sectoral welcome

Leaders of other academic groups welcomed Garrell’s election.

Marc Schiltz, president of the association of research funders and performers, Science Europe, tweeted his congratulations and added: “I look very much forward to continue the excellent collaboration between Science Europe and EUA.”

Jan Palmowski, secretary-general of the Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities, also offered his congratulations and said that there were “huge challenges and opportunities” ahead for universities in the EU.

Some think that Murphy, Garrell’s predecessor, will not be easy to replace; Palmowski said ahead of the vote that he would be “a tough act to follow”.