A beacon in the European Education Area: The European Commission funds JGU and partners for their vision of a European University

The European FORTHEM network under the aegis of JGU to receive millions in funding for harmonizing learning, teaching, and research across national borders

26 June 2019

The European Commission (EC) is promoting a new network of various European universities under the leadership of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU). This network will redefine and reinforce cooperation throughout European higher education by increasing the exchange, mobility, and collaboration of students and teaching staff, researchers and research support staff within the EU. The FORTHEM alliance is one of first 17 "European Universities" selected by the EC as role models for others in the European Higher Education Area (EHEA). Members of the alliance together with JGU are its long-standing partner institutions – the University of Burgundy in France, the University of Opole in Poland, and Universitat de València in Spain – as well as the University of Palermo in Italy, the University of Latvia, and the University of Jyväskylä in Finland.

"We are very proud that the ambitious and multifaceted concept of our network proved convincing in a competition at the very highest European levels," said Professor Stephan Jolie, Vice President for Learning and Teaching at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. "We want to promote the European concept of open society and the exchange of knowledge at our universities in its full creative potential – for the benefit of our students, for the generations of the future, for our society as a whole – in other words: FOR THEM. This is the intention inherent in the very name of our network: FORTHEM – Fostering Outreach within European Regions, Transnational Higher Education and Mobility: A pan-European living lab and integrative European University."

FORTHEM brings together universities from northern, southern, western and eastern Europe that share a desire to improve and strengthen the European Higher Education Area – based on existing binational and trinational agreements between the participating universities. The network is seeking to merge the various mobility accords, research programs, and dual and multiparty arrangements of the partner universities into a joint Transnational Higher Education Strategy by 2022 and to then deploy it across the alliance as a whole by 2025. The European Commission will fund the FORTHEM alliance in this with about EUR 5 million over the coming three years.

Mainz University maintains some 1,000 alliances with 350 European partner universities through the Erasmus Program, and as such embodies the concept of freedom, common values, and fairness. It educates its students to become open-minded and responsible global citizens, and reflects and appreciates internationality and interculturalism in its research and teaching. "Through the FORTHEM alliance, its ideas, and its activities we are meeting our societal obligations as a university and making our contribution to the fight against a European-wide rise in nationalism and right-wing populism. We strongly oppose hatred, division and national isolation," added JGU Vice President Professor Stephan Jolie.

The European Universities Initiative goes back to the Initiative for Europe speech given by the President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron, on September 26, 2017, at Sorbonne University in Paris. In that keynote, Macron proposed establishing a network of European universities by 2024. In the initial pilot phase, 54 different networks throughout Europe applied for funding. Of these, 17 European Universities will now receive some EUR 85 million in total, starting in fall 2019. Three of those networks are being coordinated by German universities, namely Mainz, Darmstadt, and Potsdam. By 2025, the EU Commission is hoping to have established a European Higher Education Area in which learning, studying, and doing research across national borders will be self-evident.

The first call attracted applications from 54 alliances from all over Europe. Of these, 17 European Universities will receive some EUR 85 million in total, starting in fall 2019. Three of those networks are being coordinated by German universities: Mainz, Darmstadt, and Potsdam. The initiative is part of the European Commission's push towards establishing a European Education Area by 2025 in which learning, studying, and doing research across national borders will be self-evident.