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A European education without borders

Courses spanning countries, and cooperation between culture, community and companies. A new initiative from the European Commission is set on reshaping the educational landscape in Europe and strengthening the European identity among its young citizens. What does it mean for the students and faculty at the Stockholm School of Economics?

What does the future of Europe look like? In 2017, European leaders outlined a vision for a society with socioeconomic inclusion, where every European resident regardless of socioeconomic or cultural background has access to higher education. A society with better cultural literacy, and well-traveled, multilingual citizens – as well as a strong, shared European identity.

An important part of this puzzle is higher education. To that end, and to strengthen the international competitiveness of the European universities, the European Union launched the European University Project in 2018, explains Katarina Hägg, Vice President, External Relations at the Stockholm School of Economics (SSE):

"This initiative is about strengthening Europe in a historical sense. It's encouraging universities to cooperate across national borders to make it easy for students to move across borders in a way we haven't seen before."

Welcome CIVICA!

So in 2018, universities across Europe started forming alliances between institutions with a complementary curriculum. A total of 114 universities spread across seventeen pilot alliances were chosen to take part in the first stage of the project. While some of the alliances focused on tech, engineering and digitalization, others chose to highlight areas such as global health, sustainability or fine arts. Stockholm School of Economics was approached by several of the partner universities of what would eventually become CIVICA.

CIVICA is comprised of seven different universities, among them Bocconi University in Milan, Sciences Po in Paris, and the London School of Economics as an associated partner. The emphasis in the CIVICA alliance is on promoting the social sciences and how they can address our common challenges. CIVICA has identified four research topics they want to focus on, namely: democracy in the 21st century, societies in transition, Europe revisited and data-driven technology for social sciences.

"The idea is to establish knowledge-creating teams around these themes," Katarina Hägg says. "It's about creating closer ties between education, research, innovation and civil society, and jointly finding innovative solutions to address the challenges we face in the 21st century. We talk a lot about the global challenges, but this project also wants to address the local and regional challenges that Europe is facing today."

This, she adds, is where SSE can contribute a little extra. "Our very strong tradition of societal and corporate collaboration makes it easy for us to identify partners in these collaborations. It's something we have already been doing for many years."

Increased mobility for students

Preparations are already ongoing at the different universities. When in place, they will create exciting opportunities for students on all levels, Katarina Hägg explains – some, hopefully as early as the fall term. There will be exchange programs and exchange weeks, multi-campus Master courses and joint seminars between the CIVICA universities. The alliance will see common student cards, joint sports tournaments and access to the library services of the CIVICA universities. Special courses in European studies will be added to the curriculum and there will be a European hub for mentoring and supervision. "It will increase mobility between the universities for our students," Katarina Hägg summarizes.

The EU has earmarked some 60 million euro to fund the three-year pilot period. This will be the first time that SSE receives EU funds at a central level. Katarina Hägg hopes that this spells new opportunities for the School in the way of funding. But it's not just about the money.

"This project is entirely in line with our strategic line of internationalizing SSE. It provides us with ample opportunity to strengthen our position in Europe, internationalizing all educational levels and increasing our ability to attract funding. Even though funding at this stage is limited we see it opening up for much bigger funding opportunities in the future. Both for the students and for new, exciting research."