The “Epicur-Research” project brings a new dimension to the alliance
With the funding of research activities, the European Commission’s design for the European universities now for the first time includes all the tasks of a classical university – teaching, learning, innovation and research.
The Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) is consortium leader of the newly approved project “EPICUR-Research”, in which the teaching and innovation tasks of the “European University” EPICUR – European Partnership for Innovative Campus Unifying Regions – established since November 2019, are now supplemented by the dimensions of research and “interaction with society”. The international alliance of eight universities from six countries has been awarded new project funding of €2 million for the three-year project. Research partners are the Albert-Ludwigs-University of Freiburg, the University of Freiburg Poznań, the Universities of Amsterdam, Thessaloniki, Haute-Alsace and the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences Vienna as well as the University of Strasbourg.
With the ERASMUS+ project “EPICUR”, the eight partners started nine months ago to build a new type of European University. Teaching and learning in a network of existing universities, virtual mobility of students and lecturers, innovative didactic approaches and the networking of the regions were the starting points of the network, with which an inter-university campus is to be created. In addition, the “Liberal Arts and Sciences” programme for the problem solvers of the future was established as an interdisciplinary complement to the existing range of subjects. Research and interaction with society have not been part of the funding so far and thus have not been in the focus of the alliance. With the measures now funded, the European Commission is now completing the knowledge quadrangle of a European university.
The now funded supplementary project “EPICUR-Research” is intended to initiate and implement new types of research collaborations. The Commission hopes that this will provide impetus for future calls for research projects under the “Horizon Europe” research framework programme, which will apply from 2021 and whose funding is currently being negotiated by the heads of state and government of the European Union, the European Parliament and the European Commission under the leadership of the German Council Presidency.
Enlargement to the knowledge quadrangle
“With the now approved research budget, we have the opportunity for the first time to map and process the tasks of a classical university – research, teaching, and innovation – now also in the European University EPICUR”, is pleased to announce Michael Zacherle, the project manager at KIT,. Dr. Günter Schmidt-Gess, in charge of the University of Freiburg, adds: “Our interdisciplinary work in EPICUR thus gains in intensity and depth of content, and of course also in dynamics”. Both are sure that the now planned involvement of civil society will also provide completely new impulses for the work of the colleagues. “We initiate and promote mutual exchange with different representatives of society. The aim is not only to inform them of the results of our research, but also to find out in advance about the needs, but also the fears of people in the regions,” said Zacherle and Schmidt-Gess. This would expand the established knowledge triangle into a knowledge quadrangle. This participatory approach would ensure that civil society, but also companies, authorities, associations and NGOs are not only recipients of data from the ‘ivory tower’, but that the universities would take up the needs of society in advance and incorporate them into their research design.
The spectrum of new activities is very diverse and extensive: the development of a new research and innovation agenda for the European University, the establishment of a so-called EPI Community, in which researchers in early career phases, among other things The development of a new agenda for research and innovation for the European University, the establishment of a so-called EPICommunity, in which researchers in early career phases should have the opportunity to network inter-university (digital), take advantage of mobility programmes and present research projects via a database, the introduction of EPIClusters as a new format for cooperation not only between researchers but also with other sectors of society and for the exchange of research infrastructures, and cooperation with other European universities in terms of content and structure. Together with blended learning concepts, i.e. the fusion of face-to-face and online formats, and the promotion of the Liberal Arts and Sciences programme for future problem solvers of socially relevant tasks, a mission statement is being created that further develops the tasks of a classical university and places them in a societal framework.
Problem solvers for tomorrow
EPICUR embodies the future vision of an interdisciplinary, diverse and sustainable European university alliance that is facing complex challenges and wishes to strengthen cooperation at European level in the long term. EPICUR is dedicated to the development of innovative teaching formats inspired by the approach of Liberal Arts and Sciences Education, the digital transformation of teaching and the facilitation of student and teacher mobility. “The basic idea of EPICUR is that students do not have to transfer completely to the partner universities for one or two semesters, as is currently the case, but can also complete smaller portions such as individual courses or seminars at the other universities using virtual methods and blended learning,” reports project leader Michael Zacherle.