The European University for Knowledge
Project No. 101004048
OUR BACKGROUND AND RATIONALE:
Owing to the achievements of the European integration process over the past decades, the European Union has acquired a solid political, economic and social basis. While preserving the richness of its cultural diversity, the EU offers high common societal standards and guarantees freedom, justice, the rule of law and the principles of an open, diverse, tolerant society. Core values like the power of reason and knowledge-based progress are consistently recognised, and European higher education is highly attractive. European small and medium-sized enterprises are well-positioned on the global market and bring high value in terms of innovation and quality.
Nevertheless, the European Union has been facing unprecedented challenges in the past decade and is currently undergoing a period of serious change due to several factors: Brexit and emerging signs of Euro-scepticism in other member states, the enduring economic crisis, the aftermath of the so-called refugee crisis of 2015, a rise in populism and xenophobia, and institutional paralysis on a number of key policy issues. Over the coming years, Europe, like the rest of the world, will continue to undergo significant political, economic and social transformation. The next decade will thus be defining for the future of the European Union and its role in the world. In this context, three major changes will need to be shaped and managed – climate change, societal change with migration and ageing populations, and digital revolutions.
The Transform4Europe partners are convinced that these challenges can only be overcome with innovative solutions created by a new generation of highly motivated and skilled Europeans. We believe it is the duty and aspiration of our universities to educate and train this new generation to actively contribute to and shape the necessary transformation processes on all levels, thereby driving transformation ourselves.
BY EDUCATING AND TRAINING
Transformation at all levels is both a reality and a necessity, and must be addressed through a global approach. These complex processes will affect all actors, including universities. Ultimately, these actors must decide between being either individual spectators and passive recipients of the results of these transformations, or becoming an integral part of them, proactive in working with joined forces in order to become drivers of the transformation process as a whole.
Universities can play an important role in European transformation processes by educating and training students, staff and stakeholders from their surrounding regions, creating new knowledge, developing research, and delivering solutions for major current and future societal challenges. Similarly, the regions in which universities operate are cornerstones of the transformation process as the direct frames of reference and the economic and social environments for all actors and important intermediators between the individual and the European level.
We believe that universities can help to transform Europe by organizing themselves in permanent, structured and coherent multi-actor networks that make a major contribution at a systemic level according to their vision, needs, ambitions, experience and capacities. In this way, they can become active agents of transformation and change, and powerful engines for the mutual development of each other’s innovation and performance capacity. Together, they can contribute to the development of a European knowledge-based economy, better employment rates, European identity, civic engagement and welfare. This is a powerful way to improve the competitiveness of the EU as a whole and the further integration of the EEA.
In addition, Europe needs smarter regions to tackle the challenges of our time – smarter, sustainable knowledge ecosystems that make effective use of new technologies and transform their traditional economies into climate neutral, sustainable models of development in which the universities play a central role. Yet the potential of university-region cooperation in the European transformation process has not yet been fully exploited; researchers collaborate with regional stakeholders at an individual level, but there is often a lack of structured collaboration at an institutional level. The Transform4Europe alliance sees a need for new models and strategies harness this potential and network university-region cooperation throughout Europe in order to achieve a greater impact. As a response to this necessity, the Transform4Europe universities will join forces with key players from their regions in order to educate and train not only highly qualified experts, but also European knowledge entrepreneurs who can act as dynamic agents of transformation through a networked, applied, multi-actor approach.
The knowledge-entrepreneurs that Europe needs are by definition capable of recognizing, seizing and creating opportunities and acting on them in order to contribute to innovation and change. Knowledge-entrepreneurship differs from the traditional economic concept of entrepreneurship in that it does not aim at producing or maximizing monetary profit, but rather the enhancement of knowledge production and the development of knowledge and expertise through an applied approach. The T4E alliance complements this concept of knowledge entrepreneurship with a more social, value-based dimension towards comprehensive social responsibility and European citizenship. The transformational T4Europe knowledge-entrepreneurial mind-set is characterized by specific competencies (creating new values, reconciling tensions and dilemmas, taking responsibility) and specific knowledge (systemic, critical, generative and reflexive, with both societal and scientific impact). In this sense, the entrepreneurial mind-set at the heart of the T4E alliance can be differentiated from the concept of entrepreneurial universities as defined previously by the European Commission and the OECD (https://www.oecd.org/site/cfecpr/guiding-framework.htm).
T4E knowledge-entrepreneurs are global citizens capable of being critical towards the current status quo, demonstrating an integrative, applied approach across diverse European cultures, understanding and dealing with complex systems, and applying interdisciplinary and co-creational approaches to problem-solving. They dispose of a comprehensive set of knowledge to grasp social, cultural, economic and political consequences in a world of interconnected economies, ecosystems and climate patterns where the local is inseparable from the global. They are equipped with the necessary skills to contribute to Europe’s development towards a green and sustainable continent characterized by strong values of peace, justice, social cohesion, inclusiveness and active citizenship, and with a shared sense of European identity as an underlying principle. They transform Europe from within through networked engagement across the T4Europe regions. Their transformative knowledge-entrepreneurial spirit will help to turn creative ideas into reality, thus contributing to solving the major challenges Europe is facing today.
OUR VALUES AND APPROACH:
THE FOUR PILLARS OF TRANSFORMATION
As members of the Transform4Europe alliance, we share a common concept of transformation and our goal is to train and educate agents of change towards a more just, sustainable and resilient future, thereby acting as drivers of transformation ourselves. Proactive transformation as we understand it is the result of an analytical process and based on transformative knowledge-entrepreneurialism as described above.
Based on this common understanding and our own individual transformation profiles relating to our individual experiences of historical, regional and institutional transformation, we base our approach on the following four pillars of transformation:
1) TRANSFORM4EUROPE INDIVIDUAL MINDSET:
Individuals as drivers of transformation should be at the centre of the process, as the orientation and mind-set of each individual actor are the starting point for any form of comprehensive transformation. Thus, European transformation needs individuals who can actively contribute to shaping a world in which well-being and sustainability are achievable.
2) TRANSFORM4EUROPE UNIVERSITIES:
In order to empower students, staff and stakeholders to act as agents of transformation, universities are responsible for conveying the values, skills and knowledge needed by all-round citizens with both academic and societal responsibilities, starting from the local regions of the alliance and moving towards global citizenship.
3) TRANSFORM4EUROPE REGIONS:
In collaboration with their universities, the regions have major potential to drive the transformation of Europe and the EEA as knowledge and innovation ecosystems. In order to reach their highest potential, the regions represented in the Transform4Europe alliance must be interlinked in an interregional network so to expand their impact at the continental level.
4) TRANSFORM4EUROPE EUROPE:
The complex societal challenges that Europe and the whole world are facing cannot be solved by individual actors. European transformation concepts need to be as diverse as Europe itself, and require different perspectives, approaches and solutions directly linked with and shared by the local and regional population. Transform4Europe will pursue true European added value by networking complementary regional transformation networks from across Europe that share a joint vision for facing major challenges.
We believe that these four pillars are crucial for a successful transformation of university-region cooperation, which will have a major impact on the enhancement of European integration.
AN ALLIANCE OF ENTREPRENEURIAL-MINDED TRANSFORMERS
Transform4Europe is a new partnership composed of like-minded universities. Despite our differences in size, scope and profile, we share a common vision for higher education in Europe as a major player in shaping the future of Europe through a knowledge-entrepreneurial approach embedded in our regions.
- Saarland University (Germany)
- The University of Alicante (Spain)
- The Estonian Academy of Arts (Estonia)
- The University of Silesia in Katowice (Poland)
- Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski (Bulgaria)
- The University of Trieste (Italy)
- Vytautas Magnus University (Lithuania)
We are all deeply rooted in our regions. We consider the diversity in size, background, expertise and profile of our alliance members as a strength since together we are capable of understanding the needs, expectations and potential of most actors within the EEA and can thus provide a diversity of approaches and perspectives to fully represent the territorial and cultural diversity of Europe.
The Transform4Europe alliance brings together seven universities with exceptional experience in cross-border, intra-European and international cooperation, and in collaborating with and for our regions. Our complementary research foci allow us to concentrate on the following Transform4Europe focus topics:
- Knowledge entrepreneurialism for digital transformation and smart regions
- Knowledge entrepreneurialism for environmental transformation and sustainability
- Knowledge entrepreneurialism for societal transformation, community building and inclusion
Considering our common strengths, we have conceived a new approach for enhancing the societal impact of our engagement and for strengthening collaboration with our regions. This will require us to internally and mutually transform our institutions, our academic portfolios and our range of activities towards progressive integration.
In accordance with the strategy for a European Education Area, the Transform4Europe approach is completed by the following transversal components:
- Key competences for lifelong learning
- Digital skills, multilingualism and intercultural competencies
- Common values and inclusive education.
OUR MISSION AND COMMITMENT
By founding the Transform4Europe alliance, we commit to systematically implementing the transformative approach in all fields of our institutions. We will use our well-established and distinctive but complementary profiles, which represent a rich combination of expertise and approaches, to pursue positive change and transformation in a comprehensive and innovative way that none of the individual members of the consortium could achieve alone. Given the potential of our combined approach for the enhancement of Europe and the transferability of the envisaged results of the collaboration to other universities and regions, the Transform4Europe alliance aims to become a major player and a role model within the European Education Area by 2025. We will achieve this goal by:
- Transforming and progressively integrating our universities into one sustainable single European alliance with joint governance and shared support structures and services that is internationally visible and attractive as a European pole of excellence and major driver of change. This European university will pursue student-centred pedagogical approaches and participative, co-creational governance principles.
- Making mobility within the alliance accessible for all members of the universities: Improved, flexible and inclusive mobility framework conditions and options, together with improved language-learning options and incentives, will establish mobility as the norm both for the students and for staff of our European university.
- Creating a Transform4Europe multi-campus European University with an inclusive campus life where students and staff share a participative understanding of being a member of a European University with a strong European identity. This includes customised transdisciplinary study programmes and further training for staff.
- Integrating the transformative knowledge-entrepreneurialism perspective into all study and training programmes and making it a key concept for active European citizenship: We will educate and train future European knowledge-entrepreneurs, providing them with the necessary creative entrepreneurial mind-set, intercultural competencies and language skills.
- Becoming the main drivers of regional transformation by establishing structured partnerships with regional stakeholders: We will contribute to research and innovation with and for the regions, implementing innovative knowledge co-creation models that are replicable elsewhere. This process at the local level and the university partnerships each member has at the regional level will initiate a major, broader process aiming at creating networked European knowledge and innovation ecosystems.
- Becoming a major player in the consolidation and success of the EEA and the European project in general.
Our T4Europe alliance will contribute to shaping the European University of tomorrow.
As a single and sustainable alliance with efficient joint governance structures and services, our cutting-edge academic programmes and innovative learning environments will attract students, scientists and practitioners from all over the world.
Mobility, interdisciplinarity and inclusion will be the norm on the T4E campus. The members of our universities will share a strong European identity and perceive themselves as active agents of transformation. They will identify themselves with the knowledge-entrepreneurial spirit of the alliance and consider it the term of reference for their learning and training needs and actions throughout their lives.
T4E graduates are knowledge-entrepreneurs and will actively transform Europe, paving the way for a sustainable future. As bridges between regions, the T4E universities will create networked European knowledge and innovation ecosystems, driving excellence in research and largely contributing to the attractiveness and competitiveness of the EEA and Europe as a whole.