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‘Much to do’ to boost student role in European university alliances


Poll reveals only a minority of students understand the concept of European Universities Initiative

There is “much that needs to be done” to boost students’ role in the university alliances being formed under the EU’s scheme for financing cross-border collaboration between higher education institutions, a survey has indicated.

The Coimbra Group of universities, which has 36 of its 40 members participating in eight European Universities Initiative alliances, surveyed those alliances on their degree of student engagement.

Revealing the results on 19 April, the group said: “The general feeling is that much needs to be done” to better engage students in the EUI alliances.

But it added that there is “visibly an effort” to improve student engagement in alliance activities, which include joint courses and campuses.

The eight alliances—of the 44 so far funded by the EU—reported difficulties in raising students’ awareness of the alliances’ existence, concepts and objectives.

Alliance feedback

The Arqus alliance simply said that students do not fully understand its concept, while other alliances said that just a minority of students—generally those involved in the alliances’ activities—understood theirs.

The Enlight alliance, for example, said its student representatives and student participants on its courses were “well aware” of the concept behind the alliance, but that “the broader student community probably [has] never heard of our alliance, or only has a vague notion”.

The survey found that students were represented at all levels of the governance bodies of seven of the eight alliances, whereas the governing board of the 4EU+ alliance is composed only of the president and rectors of the member universities.

The Coimbra Group said there are “numerous challenges” for the alliances in communicating with students.

Communication challenges

Some alliances, for example, said there is a lack of visibility of their existence at their member universities. Others said students are overloaded with information, which limits the effectiveness of attempts to communicate with them.

Plans are being put in place to improve student engagement at the alliances, including by increasing both collaboration with local student organisations and supporting student-led initiatives, the survey revealed.

The alliances would also like to increase their communication with students despite the problem of information overload, by being present at their institutions’ welcome days, for example.