Tomorrow I will be travelling to Bologna for a meeting of the presidents of The Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities, a network we co-founded in 2016. Currently made up of 19 higher education institutions in 14 countries, its purpose is to represent the interests of research-intensive universities in research, innovation and education affairs at EU level. It complements our other international networks by its focus on policy issues.
The agenda for the presidents’ meeting on this occasion includes discussion of the upcoming EU programmes in research and education. We will also discuss how we, as universities, can respond to the growing trend towards populism and distrust for knowledge. The meeting is timely; no one can have missed the latest twists and turns in the Brexit saga, for example. I hope and believe developments will be orderly and constructive where cooperation on research and education is concerned – both parties want the UK to be able to continue to participate in the EU’s programmes in these areas. The hole that the UK’s exit will leave in the EU budget is perhaps more of a concern. The risk is that it will lead to cutbacks that, in the worst case, will affect the European Research Council (ERC) and the programmes and grants that are most appreciated by researchers and students. Here the research community needs to mobilise to highlight the value we consider they have for the development of Europe.
In a short time, The Guild has established itself as an important plattform for Uppsala University in EU affairs. It has given us a stronger voice in Brussels and led to increased involvement in these matters at the University. The network has presented numerous policy documents in various public connections. As a result, it is becoming increasingly widely known. (You can read more about the network’s latest interventions in important policy issues here.) Alongside its conferences, policy documents and proposals for change, The Guild has strengthened the member universities’ internal understanding of the EU system.
As a member of the Board, I am deeply engaged in the network’s continued development. Having said that, the most important thing is the work done in The Guild’s working groups, in which representatives from various parts of our University participate. Sverker Holmgren from the Department of Information Technology, for example, is in the Open Science working group. Although this group is relatively new, it has already discussed and commented on highly topical issues such as Plan S and the management of research data. Together with other European university networks, this working group gives the European universities – which, after all, is where research is conducted in practice and an awareness of needs is most acute – a voice in the development of major new European initiatives, such as the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC).
Senior representatives of faculties in the domain of medicine and pharmacy recently visited The Guild’s office in Brussels and returned to Uppsala with very positive impressions. There are several major EU-funded research programmes in this disciplinary domain, e.g. EIT Health and IMI Enable, in which Professor Mats Larhed and Professor Anders Karlén respectively have been involved from the start. Next year deans of medicine in the network will meet in Uppsala to discuss the need for cooperation on research infrastructure.
As one of Europe’s most active universities in Erasmus+, it is also a great advantage to be involved and exert an influence via the working group for this programme. We also represent The Guild in the Commission’s reference group for Erasmus+ cooperation projects.
Next week I will meet another network, U4+, in Tartu. Our cooperation in this network has developed very positively since it started in 2008. We have invited four more universities to our annual rectors’ meeting, with whom we hope to begin cooperation ahead of the second pilot call in the European University Initiative.