The Advantages of the Periphery
Flensburg, March 2, 2022. On March 2, the president of Europa-Universität Flensburg (EUF), Prof. Dr. Werner Reinhart, signed a special agreement: EUF's joint application, together with several other universities from France, Ireland, Norway, Spain, Cyprus and Slovakia, for European Union funding as a "European University."
"These ‘European universities’ are higher education alliances from various European countries," explained President Reinhart on the occasion of the signing, which took place at the Irish Embassy in Brussels. "The EU intends for them to develop into universities of the future. For EUF, participating in this initiative offers a major opportunity to shape and live out our European focus digitally and internationally, for the benefit of our students, employees and regional partners."
Led by the University of Limerick in Ireland and awaiting the decision of the EU later this year, the international alliance has dubbed itself "EMERGE," an acronym for "European Margins Engaging for Regional and Global Empowerment." All eight of the participating universities are located on the European periphery, and all of them view their outerlier status as an opportunity. Indeed, they have made it the unifying element in their proposal. "Broadly speaking, we see the periphery as a geographically decentralized location with comparatively less access to resources and with specific regional socioeconomic challenges," explains Prof. Dr. Ulrich Glassmann, who as Vice President for Europe and International Affairs at Europa-Universität Flensburg is responsible for the project there. "Although it tends to be viewed as disadvantageous, we see in this position a strength: namely, the strength to act flexibly and creatively far from the centers, with their often exhausting struggles to dominate and displace."
The joint proposal focuses on "productive and creative periphery" as its core topic. Over the course of the four-year funding period, the alliance will explore this topic within three clusters of excellence – "Social and Economic Cohesion," "European Citizenship," and "Quality of Life" –which will connect scholarship in the social and economic sciences, the cultural and linguistic sciences, and the natural and life sciences, respectively. The partner universities plan to continue working together even after the funding period has ended. "This project is designed for the long term," explains Glassmann. "Institutionalized cooperation in European higher education is especially important right now, in the current constellation."
Within the initiative, a special task of EUF is to introduce the so-called "European Education Pathway" to the university alliance. "By this we mean to create a flexible, easily accessible and inclusive way to attend European-oriented, problem-based and interdisciplinary teaching and learning activities at all eight universities within one's own degree program - not only on site, but also virtually," Glassmann explains. "In this way, students will experience other cultures, acquire stable knowledge of at least two other languages, and gain European competencies. By the latter, we mean a set made up of knowledge, skills and attitudes, such as interdisciplinary knowledge of Europe, intercultural skills, or the willingness and ability to assume social responsibility."
The consortium's goal is ambitious: "Joint virtual campus, joint degree programs, joint research: the long-term goal is to create a truly collective European university, one that is deeply rooted in civil society and that works with regional partners such as schools, companies, clubs, associations and other institutions, such as ECMI, for the benefit of the region," explains President Reinhart.