French president Emmanuel Macron’s speech at Sorbonne University in September 2017 is likely to spur the establishment of new university alliances in Europe. In his speech he called for a closer collaboration and networking between European universities, and this initiative is now gaining support from the European Commission. As pointed out in a recent article in University World News there will probably be provision for position funding for ‘Macron initiatives’ in the Erasmus+ budget for 2021-27.
Need to build trust
President Macron underlines the need to build trust in a Europe that now stands as fragmented and in the midst of a crisis that in Macron’s words amounts to a ‘civil war’. In his call for trust he looks to the universities and argues that we should create “a network of universities across Europe”. I believe President Macron is spot on when he emphasizes the paramount role of universities in building trust and understanding across geographical and cultural boundaries. But Macron’s initiative must not feed mediocrity. It is important that new resources be targeted to those academic environments that already excel in international exchange and high-quality education and research. As I say in my comment in the above article in University World News: We must build on what works.
KI’s mission highly relevant
Karolinska Institutet’s mission is highly relevant for the future of Europe. We must be attentive to the need to improve human health, and we must be attentive to the fact that the stark inequities in health are fomenting the distrust that Macron refers to in his speech. Macron does not incorporate health in his vision of future university networks but he would have been well advised to do so.
“The big picture” when looking at the development of EU’s policies is that societal challenges will be driving a significant share of the future research funding. UN’s Sustainable Development Goals will figure prominently in upcoming framework programs, and health is very much in evidence in a majority of these goals. Our position must be that health is seen as a key theme for mission driven research in the time to come and that quality remains an essential success factor. There is also a need to avoid undue eurocentrism and to stay faithful to the global perspective. Under these conditions I am convinced that KI’s research community will be eager to contribute.