Power of education and research to nurture Europe

In light of the debate about the reorientation of the European Union, in 2017 President of the German Rectors' Conference Professor Dr Horst Hippler and the President of the French Rectors' Conference (CPU), Professor Dr Gilles Roussel, have formulated a joint statement on the future of the EU. The statement is based on a resolution of the HRK General Assembly on the “European Education, Research and Innovation Community”.

The German version of the statement forms the basis of a joint article by the two presidents, which appeared in the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper on 20 March 2017.

Both presidents lament the fact that, increasingly, the strengths of the European Union are being cast into the shade by the EU's crises. The responsible politicians hardly ever talk publicly any more about the EU's successful flagship projects in the field of the sciences or in mobility programmes for education and research. Erasmus, probably the best known and most popular funding programme in Europe, does not even rate a mention in the scenarios about the EU currently doing the rounds.

But positive feedback and high participation in exchange programmes such as Erasmus+ and Marie Curie demonstrate admirably that education and research are successful at creating bonds between the people of Europe. It is these programmes that have brought Europe to life for many young people in the truest sense of the word.  For this reason the HRK and the CPU are calling for education, research and innovation policies to be better coordinated at the European level and for them to be declared the leitmotiv of a new Europe.

The resolution of the HRK General Assembly in November 2016 on a “European Education, Research and Innovation Community” calls upon the European Commission to more effectively engage with and make use of the potential of higher education institutions for society in its policy initiatives.

The preservation and development of culture is an obligatory part of the mission of universities. In an article on the EUA platform "Expert voices" from 5 May 2021, the President of HRK, Prof. Peter-André Alt, shows how this mission widens the knowledge triangle of education, research and innovation to a knowledge square – with universities at the centre. In particular, human and social sciences are absolutely essential to make us understand human existence and behaviour.