Unite! receives more EC funding for its deployment

Student talking in a classroom surrounded by other students

Image: Fredrik Persson

The Unite! alliance, made up of the UPC and other leading European technological universities, will receive more funding from the European Commission, under the Erasmus+ programme, to become a driving force for the advancement of a green and digital Europe. The implementation of future European degrees, a new mobility model and the development of a Unite! European Doctoral School are some of the key projects to be deployed in the new stage.

Sep 12, 2022

On 27 July, the European Commission (EC) announced the selected European universities alliances to receive funding from the Erasmus+ programme to continue with the full deployment of their projects. The new proposal presented by Unite! University Network for Innovation, Technology and Engineering—made up of the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya · BarcelonaTech (UPC) and eight other European technological universities—has received again the support of the EC, under the Erasmus+ programme, to continue its path for the next four years. Unite! was one of the 17 European alliances selected in the first call in 2019.

This second funding stage will start in November and coincides with the addition to Unite! of two new partners: Graz University of Technology (TU Graz) and Wrocław University of Science and Technology (Wroclaw Tech). The funding of 14.4 million euros is a clear acknowledgement from the EC of the commitment of Unite! and all of its partners to become a long-term strategic collaboration project.

The UPC is one of the most active partners in the Unite! working groups, with more than a hundred members of the community—teaching and research staff, administrative and service staff and students—involved. In this new stage, the UPC will coordinate the working group that designs and implements the new models of strategic outreach, impact and dissemination. According to the rector of the UPC, Daniel Crespo, “the approval of the project today by the European Commission and the addition of new members is great news. At the UPC we want to continue to be involved in designing the future European university. By collaborating with the other partners, we expect to define specific academic policies to work towards this ambitious goal.”

Plans for the next four years
In the new proposal, Unite! makes explicit its will to be a model European university of innovation, technology and engineering that addresses the Sustainable Development Goals through a digital and green transition. To achieve it, the alliance will foster the participation and commitment of the university community and will invite students to participate and engage in all its working groups.

In this new stage, the alliance will advance in the implementation of future European degrees and the development of a European Doctoral School around the areas of sustainable energy, artificial intelligence, Industry 4.0 and entrepreneurship. At the same time, the alliance will deploy the Metacampus, a platform coordinated by the UPC to develop all the activities and training proposals for students, researchers and faculty. Some of the proposals are already operational: the master’s degree in Communication, Engineering and Data Science (CoDaS), summer universities, international hackathons and training in innovative teaching for faculty.

The alliance is also working to design and implement new challenge-based learning models in distance, hybrid and face-to-face environments. This is intended to ensure easy access to international programmes for students who until now had been excluded for economic, social or physical mobility reasons. In the upcoming years, the alliance will also strengthen its support to faculty and staff by creating tools and resources to make their work easier.

Currently, the Unite! alliance is composed of the UPC, the Technical University of Darmstadt (Germany), Aalto University (Finland), the KTH Royal Institute of Technology (Sweden), the University of Lisbon (Portugal), Grenoble INP-UGA (France), Politecnico di Torino (Italy), TU Graz (Austria) and the Wrocław University of Science and Technology (Poland). The nine member universities have combined over 280,000 students and nearly 80,000 bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree graduates per year.

According to the alliance’s current president, rector of the University of Darmstadt Tanja Brühl, “Unite! is our common success story. Let us shape the future of our alliance together and combine our diverse perspectives and expertise to bring about change for a sustainable and digital future.”

In the new proposal, each partner university will lead one of the following working groups: Management, Governance and Quality Assurance (TUDa); Digital Campus (TU Graz); Inclusion, Diversity and Well-being (ULisboa); Innovative Teaching and Learning (Aalto); Flexible Educational Provision (KTH); Professional Development and Training (Grenoble INP-UGA); PhD for Research, Innovation and Society (PoliTO); Open Innovation Community for the Green Transition (Wroclaw Tech) and Strategic Outreach, Impact and Dissemination (UPC).

The European Universities Initiative was launched in 2019 to push for the establishment of a European Education Area by 2025. European universities are transnational alliances of higher education institutions from across the EU that share a long-term strategy, promoting European values and identity. The initiative is designed to significantly strengthen student and staff mobility and to foster the quality, inclusion and competitiveness of European higher education.

In response to the first call of the Erasmus+ programme in 2019, the first 17 alliances—including Unite!—were selected for a three-year pilot stage to lay the foundations for future European universities. Another 24 alliances followed in the 2nd call in 2020.

The 2022 call plans to increase the number of European universities to 60 with more than 500 universities by mid-2024, with a budget of 1.1 billion euros for the period 2021-2027. The aim is to create European inter-university campuses where students, staff and researchers from all over Europe can enjoy seamless mobility and create new knowledge together.