Today, President of France Emmanuel Macron visited Vilnius University (VU), where he was awarded the title of Doctor Honoris Causa of VU at a solemn ceremony. During the visit, the French leader also took part in a discussion in which he discussed in detail the current issues of the European economy, relations with the world’s major powers and shared insights on the future of global Europe.
The goal is European integration
In an exclusive discussion with VU students, moderated by Assoc Prof Margarita Šešelgytė, Director at VU Institute of International Relations and Political Science, President of France discussed Europe, its identity and future, the situation in Belarus and emphasized the importance of European cooperation. While responding to students’ questions, Mr Macron stressed the importance of unification at the international and national levels, especially at such important moments as the coronavirus crisis.
“Young people are going through a very difficult period right now, we are asking for their help in protecting others, especially the elderly. I do not want us to forget in the future what we are asking of young people today. Some places, cafes, where young people often gather, are being closed, studies are continued remotely, which also causes some inconveniences, creates a completely different study atmosphere. Young people also have difficulty entering the stagnant labour market due to the pandemic. Of course, these solutions are necessary and important to protect the majority, but because of that we must feel the responsibility for everyone around us and we cannot leave future generations in unstable Europe, debts or with the problems of global warming,” in a discussion with VU students Emmanuel Macron said.
The French leader, in his support of united Europe and European university networks, emphasized the need for integration processes and investment in knowledge and education to achieve good results in the social and economic fields and to help solve problematic issues in all European states.
Emmanuel Macron’s initiatives in the field of education and higher education have been praised not only by leaders of European universities but also by the European Commission (EC), which has provided funding for such a project. The French President was the title of Doctor Honoris Causa at VU for the idea of creating joint European university networks and expanding the Erasmus + exchange initiative, as well as for the constant promotion of innovations in the field of education.
“New opportunities for cooperation and integration between European higher education institutions have been made possible by your visionary initiative as President of France. For the first time since long, the idea of university received new development at the political level.
It is a solid basis and honour for Vilnius University to award you the title of Doctor Honoris Causa for the contribution to the integration of European universities and the development of the idea of a modern university, while expressing your commitment to the idea of European universities’ cooperation and alliances,” VU Rector Prof Rimvydas Petrauskas said.
The European universities initiative is a breakthrough in the field of higher education
The initiative of the French President to create networks of European universities was first raised in September 2017, in Emmanuel Macron’s famous Sorbonne speech. This speech formed the basis for the vision in the field of education and culture formulated at the European Union summit in Gothenburg. These proposals are now included in various European Union initiatives and programmes.
Emmanuel Macron proposes to set up networks of European universities, which should become centres of educational innovation and top competences and achieve a higher level of student exchanges by 2024, with half of European university students having to spend at least half a year in another European state. The French leader is also aiming for European students to be able to speak at least two foreign languages by 2024.
After the EC’s first call for the creation and funding of European university networks was announced in 2018, 17 networks were selected already in 2019. Among them was VU, which together with 6 other European universities (Bergen, Granada, Graz, Leipzig, Lyon, Padua) joined the university alliance Arqus.
“The seven universities together are building the strong foundations of a new type of cooperation that will impact not only the students, but also staff development, the quality of the research and the integration with socio-economic fabric of our regions. We are committed to achieving a systemic impact that will help us to reach our long-term vision and also to bring on board the rest of the national higher education systems to improve the quality of our education, research and innovation provision”, says Dorothy Kelly, Arqus Coordinator.
Despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, a significant number of achievements has been reached on the Arqus path towards the construction of a truly European University Alliance. Good examples are the Arqus Open Mobility Agreement, that allows students to freely move between the seven institutions, the development of common institutional policies, joint degrees, or the successful application for Horizon 2020 funding to strengthen their joint research and innovation capacity.
The principal ambition of the Arqus Alliance is to act jointly as a laboratory for institutional learning from which to move forward in the design, testing and implementation of an innovative model for deep inter-university cooperation. The Alliance aims to consolidate a joint governance structure to facilitate the development of consensual joint policies and action plans, to consolidate participative structures to facilitate cross-cutting integration at all levels of the partner institutions, and to share its experience with other groupings in order to communicate the added value to be found in its model of integration.