25.04.2024 | Blog

Blog: European Universities shape the future of Finnish higher education

European Universities, the European Universities Initiative, European Universities alliances. The project that transforms European higher education has many names. However, few Finns or even students are aware of the initiative.

Established in 2017, European Universities is an initiative whose core idea is to fund alliances between different European higher education institutions to increase cooperation. The idea is to promote European values and improve the quality, attractiveness, and international competitiveness of higher education.

For students, what this could mean in practice is the establishment of transnational inter-university campuses. In the future, some students may not only study in one higher education institution, but could move between different countries at different stages of their degree. At their best, improved student mobility opportunities give students access to more diverse and multidisciplinary degree programmes internationally.

The first European Universities alliances were selected and funded in 2019. The European Commission intends to fund a total of 60 alliances by the end of this year. This means that there are more than 500 European higher education institutions involved.

Finnish higher education institutions have had great success in the initiative, with 12 universities and 7 universities of applied sciences currently active in the alliances, and many more that have applied for alliance partnership in spring 2024. Given its extensive participation, Finland has good opportunities to influence the future of the alliances.

The development of European Universities has been a significant step in the EU’s education policy, which will also affect our national education system. Although education is governed by national legislation, the EU has strived to take on a bigger role in promoting transnational educational cooperation. In the future, the alliances could have more power over decision-making and funding, which is why it is important for the student movement to influence their future.

From the student movement’s perspective, the most important advocacy areas related to the future of the alliances are democratic student representation, funding, and the question of the European degree. Currently, students’ chances of influencing the administration of alliances vary, and democracy has not been realised in some situations. When it comes to funding decisions, it is important for students that priority be given to actions that promote international student mobility and that the alliances will not bring paid education to Finland.

As the EU becomes increasingly active in the area of higher education, it is important that Finnish MEPs contribute to its development. In this 5-year period, none of the Finnish MEPs have been members of the Committee on Culture and Education (CULT), and that’s where we want to see a change in the next term. Although educational policy officially falls within the EU’s supporting competences, we Finns should not sleep on developments that will inevitably affect our higher education.

Read the European Election Programme of SAMOK and SYL here.

Writers are Roosa Veijola (SAMOK’s European Policy and International Affairs Advisor) and Yuri Birjulin (SYL’s International Affairs and EU Advocacy Advisor)