The Initial Idea

Individually and collectively, the institutions of our initiative ERUA are committed to a fundamentally experimental approach.

We thus claim that:

  • beyond being academic institutions, universities are creative spaces;
  • experimentation and  play  are  essential  to  human  creativity,  its  flourishing  and prosperity;
  • there is no difference between producing knowledge and producing change;
  • what counts  are  problems,  not  disciplines  –  structures  must  accommodate  the questions, not vice versa;
  • there is a circular movement from progress in knowledge to progress in organisation and back;
  • people are what matters and diversity is therefore our key resource for innovation.

These convictions are what brings us together and defines us as reform institutions; they help us maintain our critical edge. And they are also the reason for which we bring added value to the development of European Universities: Europe is looking for a new organisational paradigm. Universities are national institutions. Yet their mission of fostering the intellectual prosperity of humanity is inherently global. It is therefore only fitting that Europe should seek to go beyond the 19th century state-based organisational model. Still, how this will work, what true European Universities will look like and what their conditions of success will be still remains to be developed – to be experimented.

ERUA members share a tradition of critical thinking, innovative pedagogy, an interdisciplinary and disruptive out of the box mindset, which makes them ideally suited to develop this experimental approach.

Albeit a  comprehensive alliance, we are  particularly  strong in the Social Sciences and Humanities. This enables us to develop original interdisciplinary approaches connecting the SSH to the Natural Sciences, Computer Sciences and Engineering (via competences notably of Konstanz, UAegean and Roskilde) and to the Arts (via Paris 8 and NBU).

This crossing-over of the SSH to other fields of study is also a strategic focus of our strategy for societal engagement and our networking strategy. We will increasingly reach out to technical institutions to provide them with the critical skills that are increasingly valued in contexts of Human Tech and Responsible Technology.

With this impact-focused profile in the SSH, we combine local engagement and a global vision: locally we link up with regional actors, offering them a far larger teaching and research portfolio han we could individually thanks to our capacity at dissemination and networking throughout Europe and beyond.


Our European Reform University will be a living laboratory:

  • we will build a university that is flexible, participatory and responsive in structure so it can adapt and be modeled to fit changing requirements;
  • we will build a place where researchers, administrators and students alike have the time, space and resources to play, to experiment and to innovate individually or collectively;
  • we will bring together the diversity of geographical and social origins – of mindsets – which an effective innovation system requires and foster this diversity through a multilingual and multicultural environment spread across Europe drawing on physical and virtual mobility;
  • together, we will find out what a European University can


Concretely, to move forward on our ambition during the funding period, we will advance on the following goals and objectives:

  • We will engage in a bold reform of our current paradigm of collaboration to counteract institutional separation along national lines.
    • We will construct common curricula and increase the compatibility of existing ones through the implementation of a bottom-up process of  needs assessment, wide consultation and collaboration. We will ensure that these curricula enable either physical or virtual student mobility with a long-term target of 100%.
    • We will create a strong community spanning our campuses placing specific

emphasis on staff, since this is where identity and feeling of belonging are fostered in a durable fashion, and this, in turn, will boost student identity.

  • We will create a common campus that seamlessly combines physical and virtual components.
  • We will set up the institutional structures within which individual policies and activities of ERUA’s members will unfol
    • We will develop a flexible and participatory governance model and organisational forms that will be reflexive and capable of continuous transformation to adapt to changing environments.
    • We will develop this organisational model in a way that ensures wide participation of the communities of ERUA and those of the wider circle of

stakeholders and partners in the definition of our trajectory.

  • We will establish a strong culture of dissemination and outreach based on powerful and well targeted services.
  • We will establish ERUA as a prime destination for students, academic institutions, policy makers and civil society with a focus on the contributions of the social sciences, the humanities and the arts to solving societal challenges.
    • We will foster creativity and open experimentation at ERUA according to our belief that all science is problem-solving – in the domains of research, teaching and outreach, but also concerning the very setup of our own institution by creating feedback loops that link creative work back to governance.
    • We will be a relay for innovation in the academic sector by providing Think- Tank-type services to other actors to help them build on innovations developed at ERUA or elsewhere.
    • We will accompany creative work and experimentation in a way that helps increase its innovative edge, its capacity for scaleup, its dissemination and ensures its social impact.


ERUA is built for …

  • … students: ERUA’s experimental culture, its diversity, its flexibility in terms of learning pathways, its strong commitment to pedagogical innovation focusing on challenge- and project-based learning and the initiative’s its decentered, multipolar nature, will offer a unique experience and a unique and attractive skill-set to students. Our alliance alone currently counts 6400 students, which can count as the core beneficiaries, but via our dissemination activities we reach out beyond the boundaries of our institutions.
  • … staff: Experimental spaces and guidance by dedicated structures will empower staff (academic and administrative) to feel free to reimagine and reinvent their profession in its different aspects, whilst reaching out beyond institutional borders and enabling others to contribute to and benefit from our innovations. ERUA counts 3123 academic and 2567 administrative staff.
  • … the academic community at large: ERUA experiments and innovations will be disseminated in a way that makes it easy for others to pick up our initiatives. It shall be a hub for teaching innovation and interdisciplinary research around the SS
  • … external actors: Its profile of an experimental institution exploring the boundaries around the SSH and seeking collaboration with institutions of other profiles will offer to external stakeholders, regional, European and international actors a unique partne ERUA is geared towards impact and collaborative development of research and teaching portfolios.