European University Alliance FORTHEM granted EUR 14.4 million by the European Commission for additional four years

FORTHEM partners will further expand their mobility offerings for students and staff as well as their common infrastructure moving toward a transnational European University

29 July 2022

The nine partner universities of the FORTHEM European University Alliance will continue to be funded by the European Commission under the Erasmus+ program – with nearly EUR 14.4 million being provided for the coming four-year period from 1 November 2022. The FORTHEM Alliance of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU), the University of Burgundy in France, the University of Jyväskylä in Finland, the University of Opole in Poland, the University of Palermo in Italy, the University of Latvia, and Universitat de València in Spain started their work in September 2019 – being one of 17 university networks in the European Universities Initiative selected to generate and live new visions and ideas for the European Higher Education Area. In 2021, the University of Agder in Norway and the Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu in Romania joined the alliance. FORTHEM invites all members of the partner universities – students and teaching staff, researchers and administrative staff – as well as interested parties from the fields of economics and politics, science and further education, art and culture to take advantage of this network.

"In the past three years, the FORTHEM Alliance has built structures for successful interuniversity collaboration that benefit from great mutual trust and the extraordinary dedication of all partner universities. I’m very grateful to everyone involved at each of the universities of our alliance for their great commitment," said Professor Georg Krausch, President of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. "With FORTHEM, we have given the idea of European Universities a face and we all benefit from the exchange with our neighbors in Northern and Southern, Western and Eastern Europe."

The latest round of funding, with a record budget of some EUR 272 million, focused on two main topics: the intensification of prior and the development of new institutional transnational cooperation of the partner universities. According to the strategic framework of the European Commission for the European Education Area, FORTHEM will engage in five missions on its path to transformation into a European University: European Campus; Skills & Competences; Research, Innovation & Transfer, Labs & Co-Creation; Service to Society.

Establishing an International Classroom and identifying new topics to be discussed in the FORTHEM Labs

"One of our main goals is the establishment of an 'International Classroom' based on the idea of 'Bringing Europe Home'. This means that we want to give all students the possibility of studying in a European and international environment – even at their own home university", said Professor Stephan Jolie, Vice President for Learning and Teaching at JGU, describing this vision. "Because it is exactly this experience of interculturality, multilingual ability, and diversity of life that makes us all open-minded Europeans and truly global citizens."

Another key task in the new funding period will be to identify new topics in which the FORTHEM universities can bring impulses from teaching and research into dialog with the perspective of society – as for example in the FORTHEM Labs focusing on areas of crucial societal relevance such as climate change, migration, and digital transformation. It is in these Labs that members of the FORTHEM universities collaborate with external public and/or private sector representatives to discuss and develop forward-thinking solutions. This future-oriented approach is also reflected in the alliance's effort to impart competencies and skills – to ensure excellence in teaching and science and to provide students and early career academics with the tools to master new challenges and thus improve their competitiveness in today's global job market.

Focus on early-career academics

The FORTHEM Alliance will also place a particular focus on the support of early career academics. "After the FIT FORTHEM project mainly concentrated on capacity building in the research sector over the past year and a half, we now want to approach the target group of our early career researchers – to prepare them for various career paths and to promote the idea of gaining research experience in a European environment", emphasized Professor Stefan Müller-Stach, Vice President for Research and Early Career Academics at JGU. "In this way, we are also driving forward the internationalization of research at JGU." The FIT FORTHEM project, short for "Fostering Institutional Transformation of R&I Policies in European Universities", has been funded by the European Commission since January 2021 with some EUR 2 million in the "Science with and for Society" EU Horizon 2020 framework program. The objective of the three-year project is to develop strategies for all FORTHEM partners in the areas of research and innovation. The network assesses in detail various open science policies and maps out a shared research agenda for the now nine FORTHEM partners that will allow the alliance to sustainably pursue its ambitious goals.

About the FORTHEM Alliance of European universities

FORTHEM is one of now 44 European University Alliances funded by the EU Commission to create a European Higher Education Area by 2025 with learning, studying, and research easily transcending national borders. The idea behind the European Universities Initiative (EUI) goes back to the Initiative for Europe keynote address given by French President Emmanuel Macron on September 26, 2017, at the Sorbonne University in Paris. In that speech he proposed establishing a European University network by 2024.

The FORTHEM Alliance invites its members as well as people from all over Europe to traverse language-barriers, international borders, and academic disciplines to bring the European idea to life together, to promote exchange and to manifest the commitment to common democratic values. The partner universities promote the mobility of their students and staff and support young people to become open-minded and responsible European and global citizens who respect and appreciate international and intercultural differences and join together to find solutions for current challenges facing our society.

FORTHEM has a strong regional anchoring in each of the countries the nine universities come from. The partners share a long history of cooperation and – at the same time – are open to new forms of collaboration with the aim of creating a permanent multilateral and European cooperation environment of innovativeness and a close linkage between education, research, and application.