education development in Europe

About the European Universities initiative.

The education landscape across Europe is changing. At the 2017 Gothenburg Summit, European Union (EU) leaders outlined a vision for education and culture. In its December 2017 Conclusions, the European Council called on EU Member States, the Council and the Commission to take forward a number of initiatives, including

…strengthening strategic partnerships across the EU between higher education institutions and encouraging the emergence by 2024 of some twenty ‘European Universities’, consisting in bottom-up networks of universities across the EU which will enable students to obtain a degree by combining studies in several EU countries and contribute to the international competitiveness of European universities. 

The May 2021 Council Conclusions on the European Universities reiterated the support for the European Universities to achieve 

…the ambitious vision of an innovative, globally competitive and attractive European Education Area and European Research Area, in full synergy with the European Higher Education Area, by helping to boost the excellence dimension of higher education, research and innovation, while promoting gender equality, inclusiveness, and equity, allowing for seamless and ambitious transnational cooperation between higher education institutions in Europe, and inspiring the transformation of higher education.

Co-developed by higher education institutions, student organisations, Member States and the Commission, the European Universities initiative responds to this call. Building on progress during the initial phase, the initiative is now an integral part of the Erasmus+ 2021-2027 programme.

The European Universities are also a flagship initiative of the European strategy for universities that sets the ambition to support 60 European Universities involving more than 500 higher education institutions by mid-2024

What is a European University?

European Universities are transnational alliances that will lead the way towards the universities of the future, promoting European values and identity, and revolutionising the quality and competitiveness of European higher education.

To achieve this major step forward, the initiative is offering opportunities to support diverse cooperation models for European Universities through the Erasmus+ calls for proposals.

The alliances

  • include partners from all types of higher education institution and cover a broad geographic scope across Europe
  • are based upon a co-envisioned long-term strategy focused on sustainability, excellence and European values
  • offer student-centred curricula jointly delivered across inter-university campuses, where diverse student bodies can build their own programmes and experience mobility at all levels of study
  • adopt a challenge-based approach according to which students, academics and external partners can cooperate in inter-disciplinary teams to tackle the biggest issues facing Europe today

For more information, see the factsheet on the initiative.

44 European Universities in action

After the 2022 Erasmus+ call for proposals, we now have 44 European Universities involving around 340 higher education institutions in both capital cities and remote regions of 31 countries, including all EU Member States, Iceland, Norway, Serbia and Turkey. 

By partnering with around 1,300 associated partners ranging from non-governmental organisations (NGOs), enterprises, cities, local and regional authorities, the European Universities are able to substantially increase the quality and scope of higher education in Europe.

An overview of the 44 European alliances and their composition

Alliances selected under the 2019 Erasmus+ call finished their initial 3 year-funding period in 2022. They were eligible to apply to the 2022 Erasmus+ call for proposals.

For more information, see the available factsheets on the different European Universities.

2023 Erasmus+ European Universities call – now open

To support the full rollout of the European Universities initiative, a new Erasmus+ call for proposals to support European Universities across Europe has been launched with a total budget of €387.2 million.