Brexit hullabaloo is alive and well, the election of the new Commission is likely to be postponed, and Ursula von der Leyen’s goals bring the winds of change with them. It would be an understatement to call the atmosphere in Brussels “expectant/suspenseful/excited”.
In the early hours of last Monday morning, I and a couple of other student union representatives left Finland to join the National Union of University Students in Finland (SYL) and Union of Students in Finnish Universities of Applied Sciences (SAMOK) for an intensive work trip to the EU Commission. There we were presented with the newest plans of EU. Those who were interested in following this trip on social media might have already noticed that indeed, there was a lot of discussion throughout the day; discussion about both educational and scientific politics and working life, not forgetting development co-operation.
At the moment, the EU is at a turning point where the new Commission is still not elected and the for the 2021–2027 Multiannual Financial Framework is still being negotiated. As the EU Commissioner Jyrki Katainen’s Head of Cabinet, Risto Artjoki put it: Brussels is currently full of job seeking, soon-to-be ex-cabinet members. The new Commission was originally due to start its work in the beginning of November, but as three candidates were disqualified, the election remains ongoing. Additionally, the collapse of the Romanian government brings extra suspension into the selection of EU Commissioners.
What students might find the most interesting aspect in all this is probably the plan to triple the funding for Erasmus. The increased funding is meant for investing – in addition to Erasmus’ core principle of mobility – in collaboration between institutions of higher education, in improvement of automatic recognition of degrees, and in development of AcademicID, an international students identification service.
This platform model has been the topic for discussion in Finland too, and now it is gaining popularity in Europe as the European Council’s European Universities Initiative from a few years ago is now expected to be realised by 2025. Its goal is to create close collaboration between universities through measures such as multinational degrees involving studies in multiple countries via various university networks. Tampere University is part of the European Consortium of Innovative Universities, ECIU, which has applied for the European Universities project. The project is due to start in November.
Research and institutions of higher education do not stand a chance in Finland without external funding. The funding model steers the university’s operations, so with the external funding, the university can take measures to strengthen its power of decision. In order to direct the government’s funding into basic operations and research, the EU’s funding for innovation and top research is needed
The downside of the trip to Brussels was that it occurred in late autumn. Although a member of the student union’s Board does not have many opportunities to work within academic affairs of the EU, it is obvious that following the EU’s decisions makes understanding the field’s trends much easier. It is no coincidence that great amounts of funding in the Multiannual Financial Framework have been reserved for the theme “Smart and sustainable cities”, meanwhile our University has just established a new study programme called “Sustainable Urban Development”.
Annika (now wiser than before, thanks to Brussels)