4EU+ Annual Meeting

From Synergy to Mobility: The 2020 4EU+ Annual Meeting

The 2020 Annual Meeting of the 4EU+ Alliance was held this Monday, with members, associated partners and government officials gathering online to reflect on the Alliance’s achievements of the last year, discuss current challenges for research-based teaching, hybrid courses, and propose strategies for ensuring a successful future for the 4EU+ European University.

Prominent themes included synergy—arguably the word of the day—between education and research, mobility in the face of Covid-19, the importance of developing an international perspective in young people, and the importance of academic freedom.

Monday morning saw micro think tanks take place—small focus-group discussions on topics such as virtual mobility and the meaning of being European. In the current context of the global pandemic, participants—notably students— emphasized the need for further digitalization of higher education, as well as innovation to ensure the continuation of mobility programs that serve to close gaps between cultures, generations and academic disciplines. 

These think tanks were followed by the General Assembly, which notably included the transfer of the 4EU+ Alliance Chair from Jean Chambaz, president of Sorbonne University to Tomáš Zima, rector of Charles University. The governance structure of the Alliance was also reinforced, with the integration of the Academic Council and the Advisory Board. Updates were provided on ongoing projects, such as TRAIN4EU+ and the 31 selected educational projects from the 4EU+ call for proposals.

By late afternoon, it was time for the Open Session of the annual meeting, which was live-streamed on YouTube for the general public. Tomáš Petříček, the Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs gave opening remarks, which were followed by the German, Italian and French ambassadors to the Czech Republic, along with Dr. Václav Velčovský, Deputy Minister of Education, Youth and Sports of the Czech Republic. University leaders and students then exchanged ideas on a range of topics.

The annual meeting provided an important opportunity for members to reflect on the Alliance’s achievements since its inception in March 2018. 4EU+ was designed to establish a closely integrated alliance of European universities, with a foundational goal to meet the major challenges of our time by developing common approaches to contemporary issues. Since day one, key focus areas have included student, staff and researcher mobility, the development of actions in service to society, and diversity across all aspects of higher education. 

During the meeting, initial steps in pursuit of these goals were deemed largely satisfactory. President Jean Chambaz’s gave a brief year-in-review on 4EU+ citing that more than 300 students had participated in both online and in-person activities run by 4EU+, and more than 100 online meetings had taken place. Additionally, more than 300 members of academic staff had been involved in the implementation of joint education and research projects, and almost 80 proposals were submitted for joint research & education projects. This provides evidence about the engagement of our community.

“4EU+ has moved from an abstract concept to a reality… it was born of a need for cooperation, to reaffirm our commitment to the free movement of ideas and people, and to make it a reality. And despite some exceptionally hard conditions, we are succeeding.”

– Sorbonne University President, Jean Chambaz

Serge Fdida, Sorbonne University’s Vice President of International Development, revealed some exciting results from the four Flagships including the Urban Health Case Challenge, a cooperative network, a joint master’s degree and more. 

The Alliance’s annual meeting was also firmly future-focused, anticipating new challenges and looking ahead to 2021. Members proposed a future for the European university that will be marked by commitments to sustainable decision-making, the staunch defense of academic freedom and the generational responsibility of passing down knowledge and resources to the young people of Europe. 

Despite the challenges of a virtual assembly and constraints to in-person projects, this year’s 4EU+ annual meeting demonstrated the commitment of the Alliance to adapt as it evolves.