FORTHEM Alliance of Mainz University and European partners visits the European Universities Initiative kick-off event in Brussels

EU Commission sponsors ideas for building universities of the future in the European Higher Education Area

7 November 2019

In June 2019, the European Commission selected 17 networks of universities across the EU for their visions and ideas to promote European values and identity and revolutionizing the quality and competitiveness of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA). One of these networks is the FORTHEM Alliance, coordinated by Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU). The official kick-off of the European Universities Initiative took place today in Brussels, attended by all the project partners and the Ministers responsible for Higher Education from the participating European countries. The initiative aims at significant improvements in exchange, collaboration, and mobility among students, teaching staff, researchers and research support staff within the EU. FORTHEM – Fostering Outreach within European Regions, Transnational Higher Education and Mobility – is a cooperation of Mainz University and the University of Burgundy in France, the University of Opole in Poland, and the Universitat de València in Spain as long-standing partner universities of JGU together with the University of Palermo in Italy, the University of Latvia, and the University of Jyväskylä in Finland.

"We see the mission assigned to us by the EU Commission to develop innovative and creative ways to shape the future of the European Higher Education Area as both a major mark of distinction and responsibility. We have already officially launched our FORTHEM Alliance with the goal to make learning, studying, and doing research across national borders self-evident", said Professor Stephan Jolie, Vice President for Learning and Teaching at JGU. At the FORTHEM kick-off event in October 2019 at the Universitat de València, some 40 representatives of the seven participating universities met to agree on the structures for cooperation and exchange. In addition, the Executive Committee and the three Mission Boards Mobility, Lab, and Outreach were constituted. The Mobility Mission works to extend the mobility of all university members from all partner universities – both physically and virtually – with the help of the FORTHEM Digital Academy, which will be established in the coming years. The FORTHEM Lab Mission brings together think tanks on various topics that are relevant to the future of Europe, such as multilingualism in schools and universities, diversity and migration, or digital transformation. Through the Outreach Mission, the universities ultimately want to reach out to society, for example by supporting students who work as volunteers and by providing specific training measures for teachers in schools. The FORTHEM office at JGU will open later this month.

"JGU is one of only three German universities and the only university in Rhineland-Palatinate coordinating a European Universities network. Once again, our university is demonstrating its ability to perform and generate innovation as one of the driving forces behind the European idea," emphasized JGU President Professor Georg Krausch. "Our FORTHEM network brings together universities from the north, south, west, and east of Europe, some of which have already been collaborating very successfully for many years through bi- or tri-national agreements." For example, JGU has been cooperating with the University of Burgundy in Dijon and the Universitat de València for more than 40 years. By 2022, the FORTHEM partners intend to merge their existing mobility agreements, research programs, and double and multiple degree courses to consider what can be transferred to the entire alliance by 2025.

The FORTHEM Alliance will be receiving about EUR 5 million from the EU to help realize its plans over the coming three years.

An international, cosmopolitan university in the heart of Europe

Mainz University maintains some 1,000 alliances with 350 European partner universities through the Erasmus Program, and as such embodies the concept of freedom, common values, and fairness. It educates its students to become open-minded and responsible global citizens, and reflects and appreciates internationality and interculturalism in its research and teaching. "Through the FORTHEM Alliance, its ideas, and its activities we are meeting our societal obligations as a university and making our contribution to the fight against a European-wide rise in nationalism and right-wing populism. We strongly oppose hatred, division and national isolation," added JGU Vice President Professor Stephan Jolie.

The European Universities Initiative goes back to the Initiative for Europe speech given by the President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron, on September 26, 2017, at Sorbonne University in Paris. In that keynote, Macron proposed establishing a network of European Universities by 2024. In the initial pilot phase, 54 different networks throughout Europe applied for funding. Of these, 17 European Universities will now receive some EUR 85 million in total, starting in fall 2019. Three of those networks are being coordinated by German universities, namely Mainz, Darmstadt, and Potsdam. By 2025, the EU Commission is hoping to have established a European Higher Education Area in which learning, studying, and doing research across national borders will be self-evident.