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The ECIU University is a massive joint effort of the ECIU member universities and their regional partners. More than a few hundreds of staff members at the member universities and in the regions are collaborating to making the ECIU University a reality. This new issue of the magazine showcases several activities of ECIU University and the opportunities to engage with the European University.

Enjoy reading, be part of and stay connected to the ECIU University!

Please read the whole magazine here.

  • 'We are reinventing ourserlves thanks to ECIU'

    The landscape of higher education is changing. This requires a different kind of university, with more focus on skills, providing personal, flexible learning paths. The ECIU University meets that need. Victor van der Chijs will stop as president of the European Consortium of Innovative Universities (ECIU). A retrospective - and an outlook.

    Text: Sandra Pool

    Almost four years of being president, now nearly over. How do you look back on that period?

    'With pride and with great pleasure. I've noticed that the thirteen partner universities are growing closer. That was everyone’s wish from the get-go. The call from the European Union, which led to the creation of ECIU University, accelerated the pace of cooperation. Initially, it was mainly about exchange, education and the leadership program for future leaders. Now, we are taking bold steps together to develop the education of the future. And we can, because the consortium has existed for almost 25 years now. We know each other well and there is a lot of mutual trust. Each partner university has reinvented itself in part thanks to ECIU.'

    What are the next steps?

    'Of the 41 European university alliances participating in the European Commission's call to consider the university of the future, ECIU is the largest group with the longest history. Our programme is ambitious; that makes us one of the frontrunners in Europe at the moment. For example, we recently wrote a whitepaper to gain a better understanding of issues relating to micro-credentials. The contact with Brussels is also good. This is partly due to having our office in the Belgian capital. We regularly speak with European Commissioner Mariya Gabriel, whose portfolio includes education. She said to us recently: “You are the future of higher education in Europe and are showing how things should be done." A wonderful affirmation. Now it's up to us to deliver.'

    And how does that work in practice?

    We are making full use of the potential of the consortium. We take full advantage of each other's knowledge and skills. On the topic of micro-credentials, for example, Dublin City University is in the lead because of their experience in this area. And when it comes to digital learning, Tampere University plays that role. There is a lot of enthusiasm and commitment and our learning curve is very steep. If something ever doesn't work out, we are honest with one another and look at how we can help each other to achieve our goals. There have been plenty of such examples in recent years. It is a huge puzzle, and if you want to do it right, you need to look ten years ahead. That's what we agreed upon together. This won't stop after the pilot. For example, we are already working on getting an ECIU digital platform aligned.'

    What does ECIU University mean for UT?

    'The ECIU University is a vehicle for innovation, in terms of both research and education. This must be embedded within the faculties. We had a great discussion with the University Council on how we, UT, can derive maximum benefit from the consortium. The faculties are very eager but also still putting the puzzle together. This is pioneering. Within the academic world, there are always people who want to experiment and say 'come on, let's get on with it'. We are part of a pilot, and that things are going wrong is part of the process. We have allowed room for that.’

    What ingredients should definitely be included in the recipe for future-proof education?

    I think about my sixteen-year-old son, who will soon be going to university, and what I would love for him to have access to by then. Definitely the option of adjusting his learning path along the way. I studied law myself, simply because I didn't know what I wanted. If only I could have changed halfway! Eventually, my interests turned more towards political science. Room to experiment and switch must be built into the system, along with options for gaining international experience, learning to work together and finding out how society works. My son will soon learn that a problem can have several solutions and that these ought to be tackled together, in multidisciplinary teams. That is exactly what we are doing with ECIU University.'

    And if you look at the university itself, how will it evolve?

    On top of, or parallel to, or within the current educational institutions, a flexible structure is starting to arise. This allows students to learn in a different way, to get acquainted with new disciplines and to contribute to solving social problems. It is up to the student whether he or she does eighty percent of his or her studies within the 'established order' and twenty percent within the 'super structure', or fifty-fifty or even one hundred percent superstructure.’

    What do you wish for the ECIU University?

    ‘To continue innovating. The partner universities have found each other on all fronts. That step has been taken. Now the ECIU University needs to land the plane within the institutions. This movement has been set in motion and is our answer to the call to develop the education of the future. Society needs broadly developed talents with more focus on skills. It is a great thing to be able to anticipating for this already.'

     This article was publised in ECIU University Magazine. Please read the whole magazine here.

  • Màrius Martínez new president ECIU

    Màrius Martínez, Vice Rector for International Relations at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) will take over from Victor van der Chijs (University of Twente), who has been president of the ECIU since 2017.

    Martínez now will be in charge of directing the Board and the ECIU network, as well as leading the ECIU with its ambitious ECIU University into its next level of development, taking it beyond its initial phase conducted under Erasmus+ funding.  

    After being appointed president on 19 March 2021, Màrius Martínez affirmed that it will be ‘a true privilege and honour’ through the consortium's presidency to contribute to making a reality this process that is already so much more than a joint project. ‘Our main active is a powerful and competent team who is doing excellent work in bringing to life a vision that is shared and upheld by all our members.’

    As president, Martínez will play a crucial role in transmitting the ECIU University's 2030 vision, both internally among the consortium members, and externally to all stakeholders, and he will be working on accelerating actions. He also will seek to strengthen relations with the European Commission and other entities to make sure long-term funding is available for the ECIU University.  


    About Màrius Martínez

    Màrius Martínez is currently Vice Rector for International Relations at the UAB and Senior Lecturer in Professional Guidance at the UAB Department of Applied Pedagogy. He has lectured in Pedagogy, Psychopedagogy and Social Education, in the master's degree in Teaching in Secondary Schools and in the master's degree in Psychopedagogy.

    His lines of research and knowledge transfer are related to professional guidance, educational networks and learning communities. He has done academic and knowledge transfer stays in Belgium, United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Denmark, Italy, Portugal, Chile and Nicaragua.

  • ‘ECIU University is an inspiring alliance'

    ECIU Presidium meets EU Commissioner Mariya Gabriel

    The ECIU Presidium discussed the ambitions of ECIU University for 2030 with Mariya Gabriel, EU Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, on 12 March. Gabriel concluded that ECIU University is a promising alliance and that ‘we all have the ECIU University 2030 Vision in mind’.

    In the meeting, the President of European Consortium of Innovative Universities (ECIU) Victor van der Chijs, Vice-President Per Michael Johansen, Treasurer Màrius Martínez and ECIU University Director Sander Lotze shared the ECIU University Vision 2030 and elaborated on the ECIU University’s take on the European Degree and Agora model.

    Van Der Chijs underlined the urgent need for funding: ‘EU-funding helps us pressure our national regulations and frameworks to innovate Europe’s higher education’’. He asked the Commissioner how to move towards a sustainable funding model. The Commissioner referred to the EU Recovery Fund that the EU Member States are currently implementing. Gabriel also underlined the extraordinary support for the European Universities Initiative by her colleagues Schmit, Timmermans, and others.

    ‘The European Degree is an opportunity to create something new, innovative, flexible and personalised’, stated Johansen. This vision and the ECIU University work on research-based micro-credentials was welcomed by the Commissioner, stating that this can serve as a reference to other universities in Europe. She invited ECIU University to continue to share their input for the future development of micro-credentials in Europe.

    The Commissioner applauded ECIU’s work on life long learning, challenge-based learning and its Agora model.  Màrius Martínez about the Agora model: ‘A European ecosystem where education, research and innovation questions and knowledge of the member universities and their stakeholders come together.’

    The Commissioner promised to avoid a funding gap when the second phase of the European Universities’ Initiative starts in 2022. She concluded by inviting ECIU University to share input on the Higher Education Transformation Agenda, to continuously seeking synergies with other European programme and policies, and to share ideas and raise issues to strengthen the next phase of the European Universities’ Initiative.

  • Take the European Universities Initiative to the next level

    A streamlined and open programme can build on existing energy, say Dorothy Kelly and colleagues.

     In recent years, the European Universities Initiative (EUI) has become a prominent feature on the landscape of higher education. Since its pilot phase was launched in 2019, the initiative has created 41 different cross-border university alliances involving more than 250 universities. There has been a proliferation of different models, programmes and formats, but one constant theme has emerged —enthusiasm for these alliances.

    The initiative has unleashed a wave of positive energy, which could transform European higher education. How can we maintain this energy, point it in the right direction, and maximise its impact? Or, to put it another way, how can the initiative reach its full potential when it is rolled out more widely? One obvious point is that the initiative will only succeed with adequate support, both financially and in terms of more flexible national legislation and frameworks for international collaboration in European higher education.

    Beyond this, though, to effectively channel the positive energy generated, the initiative must be as holistic and open as possible in terms of its activities, participants and governance.

    Simplify support

    Universities naturally integrate education, research and innovation. With traditional boundaries between teaching, learning and research becoming increasingly blurred, future funding instruments—whether at European or at national level—need the flexibility to accommodate and support new ways of working. Strengthening research and innovation, for example, will make the institutions in EUI alliances better and more able to fulfil their primary educational mission. In turn, the schemes would increasingly act as catalysts in their local research and innovation ecosystems, in the process helping to address regional disparities across Europe. In this regard, the dedicated budget allocated to EUI pilots in the Horizon 2020 programme was a step in the right direction. This topped up funding from the Erasmus+ exchange programme and kickstarted the initiative’s research and innovation dimension.

     It also, however, meant the initiative had to deal with different instruments, timelines and reporting structures for the two funding streams. This risks hampering efficiency and, ultimately, eroding impact. The start of the new EU financial framework, which runs from 2021-27, provides a unique opportunity to streamline support for the EUI, moving beyond simply encouraging synergies between European universities to funding true integration between education, research and innovation.

     In the short term, the Erasmus+ and Horizon Europe programmes need to be more closely coordinated in support of the EUI. As participants, we would welcome a single call that encompasses all strands of our mission. In the longer term, there should be a move towards a more sustainable block grant that would fund delivery of all our EUI activities.

     Look outwards

    If Europe is to take a leading role in education, research and innovation, the EUI should be as open as possible to ideas and approaches. We would like to see the initiative open up to institutions beyond those countries participating in Erasmus+. Education, like so many other challenges facing society, is a global issue, shaped by factors such as worldwide demographic patterns.

     To fully harness the potential of the EUI, dialogue on education, research and innovation is needed at regional, national, European and international levels. This calls for mechanisms that channel and integrate discussion, and allow those who govern, fund and participate in the initiative to work together to shape its future. We are ready to join this discussion, together with the European Commission, EU member states and the broader higher education community. Speaking from experience, the EUI is arguably the most exciting thing happening in European higher education right now. We are committed to keeping the energy high and enthusiasm contagious.

    Dorothy Kelly is coordinator of the Arqus European University Alliance; Joan Guárdia Olmos is coordinator of CHARM-EU; Victor van der Chijs is president of the ECIU; Jean-Marc Ogier is chair of the governing board of EU-CONEXUS; Eva Wiberg is chair of the board of EUTOPIA; Verena Blechinger-Talcott is chair of the board of directors of Una Europa; Tanja Brühl is president of UNITE!; Martin Paul is chair of the strategy board of the YUFE Alliance.

    This opinion piece was published at Research Europe, March 10.

  • SMART-ER is on

    Thursday, February 4, with the kick-off meeting, ECIU University has opened SMART-ER, a research institute for smart European regions. The virtual research institute will bring researchers, businesses, citizens and society together to develop the ECIU University research and innovation activities. SMART-ER will focus on: open science, sustainability, co-creation with society, and upskilling research talents.

  • Paving the road for micro-credentials

    Last week, ECIU University presented its micro-credentials white paper at an online event with 300 participants from all over Europe and beyond. The high interest, engaging discussions and support for the paper, showed that the micro-credentials movement has momentum.

    Sander Lotze, Project Director ECIU University, kicked off by asking why we are investing so much in micro-credentials. ‘If we aim for a European university, it is not our intention to do exactly the same as all the existing universities. We now have the opportunity to look beyond the educational concept, in a European context. We envisage an ecosystem of twelve universities with stakeholders. Our future learners are not only students, but life-long learners. They work together on challenges, choose their own learning path and come back to the ecosystem again and again to pick up or bring in knowledge. All the competencies acquired are then added into a so-called learning passport. To achieve this, micro-credentials are needed. We assume that each individual needs his own learning path. Through micro-credentials, learners can learn in a 'tailor-made' way, throughout their lives.

    After the welcoming words of Lotze, it was Mark Browns, Director National Institute of Digital Learning Dublin City University, turn. 'One of the reasons for micro-credentials in education is the call for more focus on skills and competences,' says Brown. 'The argument for this, is the development of jobs. The World Economic Forum says 50 per cent of all employees will need reskilling by 2025. Jobs are changing and that's going to have an impact.’ Another reason for the need to develop more flexible learning pathways, is to increase life-long learners across Europe, says Brown. ‘As ECIU University we are happy to take up this challenge as a fore runner to pave the road.’

    Vanessa Debiais-Sainton, Head of Unit Higher Education at the European Commission, agrees with Brown. According to her, there are three reasons for creating micro-credentials. ‘There is an urgent need for short learning experiences to acquire targeted competences and skills. Learning and training need to be more learner-centred, accessible for all, and more flexible. And finally, EU standards are needed for ensuring trust, recognition, validation and portability of micro-credentials across the EU.'


    Micro-credentials are an opportunity to fundamentally change universities’ role in transforming learning and being a promising means of aligning universities with wider societal perspectives and valued social goals. Micro-credentials redefine the types of awards and qualifications offered by universities. They can align universities’ missions with wider societal, economic and environmental goals. Through the presented paper, ECIU University shares its vision and commits to concrete actions for the continuous development of the micro-credentials movement.

  • ECIU University one year after launch


    The ECIU University of the European Consortium of Innovative Universities is almost a year on its way. Project director Sander Lotze looks back on an eventful period, with COVID-19 as an extra challenge. He also looks ahead and outlines opportunities and expectations.

    November 2019 marked the official starting in Brussels for the European Universities Initiative of which ECIU University is part. How has the university developed since then?

    ‘We have taken good steps. This autumn, the first challenges have actually been launched in education. Challenge-based learning is at the heart of ECIU University, both in education and in research and innovation. It's good to see that almost all partner universities will be offering CBL education next semester.

    In the field of research, we have received a two million Euro investment from the Horizon 2020 Program. This money is intended to set up SMART-ER, a virtual research institute aimed at our smart resilient regions in Europe. This constitutes an enormous boost for our research.’

    Shortly after the launch of ECIU University, the world had to deal with COVID-19. How did ECIU members deal with this?

    ‘ECIU is a network and it works by being together, through personal contact. Many ideas arise over a pint  after the official meetings: that is where the agendas are aligned. Because of COVID-19, it was no longer possible to come together. Still, I have noticed that everyone, despite the difficult time in which we find ourselves, is committed to the project for one hundred percent. And everyone is still enjoying it. It's just strange to be in digital consultations with several people you don't know very well yet. On the other hand, as ECIU in the COVID situation, we had a big advantage of being an existing network and knowing our partners and each Board members very well. We have continued and everything has been picked up, albeit mostly online. One of the partners is now even working on a digital ECIU University where virtual collaboration is possible'.

    The project has been running for almost a year now. What went differently than you had anticipated?

    ‘I thought we could get the ECIU University story out much faster. But we are working with twelve partners, all online. Something that seems very simple and easy is suddenly a lot more difficult. One example: the development of a challenge within educational units is something that takes place in the field of national regulations, times twelve. Complex, in other words.’

    What challenges still lie ahead?

    ‘We want to make the challenges in the next semester - spring - bigger and more compelling, especially outside the existing curriculum of the universities. Furthermore, we are looking at different models for a competency passport; we will also start with challenge-based research projects and next year the concept will be opened to lifelong learners. And we look ahead: we are working on a clear vision for 2030 that describes the future role of ECIU University and indicates what we need from Brussels and from the national governments.

  • UT invests 4,4 million in ECIU University

    The UT Executive Board has decided to allocate in total 4.415 million euros to the ECIU University project. Their investment plan was approved by the University Council.

    Read the whole article here.

  • Skills Lab about stakeholder management

    ‘People are the key to connecting’

    As an ECIU University student, you will work on challenges. And you don't do that alone. Together with so-called societal stakeholders, who work in a specific field, you get to work. But, who are you going to meet and work with? This week, UT lecturer Tim Jongman takes the participants of the Autumn Challenge into his skills lab on stakeholder management.

    Why this workshop...?

    ‘I want to make students aware of the force field in which they work. Just mentioning 'the municipality' as a relevant stakeholder is not enough. Whose door are you knocking on? Who are you dealing with? Think in terms of people. In addition, I am going to tell the students something about citizens' collectives active in wellbeing, housing and care. .’

    Tell a bit more about that….

    ‘Citizens' collectives are initiatives that originated bottom-up, by citizens. They operate alongside and with the government and the market and form a third, important player in the field. They focus on the local and regional environment and act on the basis of strong norms and values. Think of trust, equality and reciprocity. If you look at the Netherlands, there are more than twelve hundred citizens' collectives in the field of healthcare. And this number is growing. They are formed around all kinds of themes such as energy and housing, and they are influential. The playing field for solving challenges has changed and we have to acknowledge that'.

    And what about reciprocity?

    ‘I think it is important that students think about establishing a partnership on the basis of reciprocity. Not just take it away and pick it up, but also do something in return.’

    What do you want the students to take home?

    ‘Good stakeholder management. The ability to build a good network to solve their challenges. They must know which party needs to be involved and how to achieve this, for example through reciprocity. Often, a pitfall is to think at an organisational level and not on a human level, whereas people are the key to connecting.’


    Tim Jongman is a Social Engineer. He owns T-Projects and is involved in project and process management, transition management, research and social business case development. He also works at Novel-T as a research consultant and is a lecturer at NIKOS. He is the treasurer of Nederland Zorgt Voor Elkaar and a member of the board of the regional coöperation Twentse Noabers.


    The ''smart, resilient and happy communities Autumn Challenge Experience Programme is a unique, alternative international experience organised by the University of Twente and powered by ECIU University. It is a flexible, international short-term program. Students get the opportunity to come together in an international, collaborative and digital environment to work on a real-life challenge and to co-develop solutions, while at the same time they have access to various lectures, workshops, master classes and other fun activities.

  • 2 million euros for research initiative

    ECIU University receives 2 million euros from the Horizon 2020 programme. The financial support is intended for strengthen research and innovation, and for establishing the SMART-ER, a research institute for SMART European Regions.

    The research center implement a new model of doing research and innovation without barriers. Its scientists will overcome the limitations of disciplines, sectors and countries. The research is mainly based on a virtual collaborative environment and will promote the dialogue with society.

    Jointly, the members will pilot capacity building programmes (Seed Programme and SMART-ER Academy). Citizen science initiatives will be used as a testbed to put into practice all the mechanism and structures built.

    The funding allows ECIU University partners to address complex societal challenges together under the framework of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal  (SDG) 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

  • EU Commissioner Mariya Gabriel about ECIU University


    The ECIU Presidium had a meeting with Mariya Gabriel, EU Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, on the future of higher education in Europe, Friday June 5th.

    The participants discussed the role of the European Universities initiative in the future of European higher education and the urgent need for innovation to counter the economic impact in post COVID-19 period.

    ‍The consortium shared their vision about the future of European Universities. Discussion topics included the challenge-based learning, blended mobility, micro-credentials and lifelong learning: the opportunities that the ECIU University is now is piloting.

    ‍Gabriel was very positive about the ECIU University’s front runner role, especially in micro-credentialing process and asked the ECIU to stay actively involved in discussions around European Research Area, European higher education area and Europe’s digital agendas. 

    The education and research innovations now being implemented at the ECIU University can act as a testbed and pave the way for further development in all European higher education erea, as well as become a catalyst for social innovations in Europe. She encouraged the ECIU University to stay in a close dialogue with the European Commission on the future of universities in Europe.

    ‍The ECIU university has a very ambitious and deep vision to remodel the European higher education and to establish a true European University where learners, researchers, business, public organizations and citizens create relevant innovative solutions for real life challenges with real societal impact.

    Around the table: 

    The President of European Consortium of Innovative Universities (ECIU), Victor Van Der Chijs, the Vice-President, Per Michael Johansen, Treasurer, Màrius Martínez and ECIU University Project Director Sander Lotze participated in the meeting with the EU Commissioner.

  • Autumn challenge has begun

    ‘Come and join our team’

    Initiator Elena Tsigki looks back with satisfaction on the kick-off meeting of the Autumn Challenge, powered by ECIU University, last Thursday. For twelve weeks, the forty participants work on challenges based on social issues. There will also be room for fun activities. It is all about the experience,' says Tsigki.

    The online session started with a riddle activity for the students, which lasted for about 15-20 minutes. ‘They could immediately get to work with a mini challenge,' says Tsigki. The riddle was based on Einstein's five-houses riddle. By answering questions about people, you can find out who lives where. Of course we had questions about the tutors for this edition. The tutor who drinks tea has Marie Curie as a favourite scientist, the tutor who likes blackcurrant fizz likes football as well, and so on. It was a lot of fun. Students had to work under pressure and time limits and already experienced their first challenge.’

    After the break-out session, UT President Victor van der Chijs welcomed all participants with a video message. ‘This course that you are about to enter is an extracurricular, challenge-based program that is hosted by the University of Twente and powered by ECIU, the European consortium of innovative Universities. It is the first time that this program is on offer and it gives students and unique virtual experience to work in an international environment working on real life challenges. You will be working with students from Trento, Tampere, Linköping and Toulouse. That is quite a large group. I hope you will have a good course and a lot of fun.’

    After that, the seven challenge providers were on. In five minutes’ time, they pitched their social issues. ‘It was nice to see that all parties involved were recruiting and really asked participants to “come and join our team”. The challenges came from, among others, the municipality of Enschede, the welfare organisation Impuls, and the platform Lucrum for the creation of a care hotel. ‘But there is also an individual issue provided by Mark Scholten. He wonders how can we improve the availability of spatial information for the vision impaired.’

    The program continued last weekend. The teams were formed. The students could indicate their preference through a ranking from 1 to 7, and on Saturday and Sunday the first lecture and workshop were held. ‘From now on, it is a matter of monitoring, seeing how things are going and supporting the students to have a good experience.’


    The ''smart resilient and happy communities'' Autumn Challenge Experience Programme is a unique, alternative international experience organised by the University of Twente and powered by ECIU University. The Autumn Challenge is a flexible, international short term programme aimed at engaged learners with a vision to make a change in their communities and regions. This programme can be followed aside from your regular curriculum and will fully take place online. It offers the opportunity to learners to come together in an international, collaborative and digital environment to work on a real-life challenge and co-develop solutions, while at the same time access various lectures, workshops, masterclasses and other fun activities.