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European elections: "Get university communities out to vote" (A-L. Claeys-Kulik, EUA)

News Tank Academic - Bruxelles - In-depth interviews  #325384 - Published on 22/05/24 at 08:00
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Anna-Lena Claeys-Kulik - © EUA

"We invite our members to mobilise university communities, students, and staff to go out and vote. It's about the civic role of universities to inform students and staff that these elections are happening and that they have an impact", Anna-Lena Claeys-Kulik, Deputy Director of Policy Coordination and Foresight at the EUA European University Association , tells News Tank on 17/05/2024.

According to her, "what is at stake in this election is the maintenance of the EU European Union 's multilateral framework for strong and continuous cooperation", since this framework governs European programmes such as the Framework Programme for Research and Innovation and Erasmus+, as well as the European Research Area, the European Education Area and the European Higher Education Area.

In January 2024, the EUA published a document containing eight key messages addressed to the future Commission and the next MEPs. Anna-Lena Claeys-Kulik highlights three: autonomy, strengthening the multilateral framework and international cooperation.

She also states that the EUA "advocates for maintaining one commissioner responsible for R&I Research & Innovation and education, because these are the missions of universities and it is very important that they are together under one portfolio".

"The risk is that the EU's multilateral framework will be less solid"

The EUA organised a members-only webinar on the European elections. What messages should we take away from it?

What is important for the EUA at the moment is to inform its members of the importance of European cooperation for universities and of the multilateral framework of the European Union, i.e. the set of structures, rules and mechanisms that enable cooperation and decision-making between EU Member States, as well as with third countries and other international organisations.

Our slogan to our members was: "We're not telling you who to vote for, but why you should vote". We invite them to mobilise their university communities, students and staff to go out and vote.

It is the civic role of universities to inform students that these elections are taking place and that they have an impact on policies that directly affect universities, but also more generally, on policies that are crucial to the future of our democracies.

A lot of important political decisions for universities are taken at the European level. »

Furthermore, the multilateral framework of the European Union and cooperation is important for our members - not only those in European Union member countries but also in wider Europe, who also collaborate through EU programs -, because a lot of important political decisions for universities are taken at the European level. 

For the next mandate of the EU institutions, we will have to discuss the next multiannual financial framework and the next generation of new programs for research, education and innovation, which is important for universities, but also many other policy areas.

Universities are also impacted by other policies beyond traditional higher education and research policy, like digital transition, foreign interference and strategic autonomy, and there we are not the main stakeholder, but one among many.

However, we know that these important discussions will also impact higher education, research and innovation, and the way we can collaborate not only within the European Union but also with third countries. Therefore it is important to go and vote in these elections.  

The results of the European elections will certainly bring changes. What risks do you see?

What is at stake in this election is the maintenance of the EU's multilateral framework, geared towards strong and continuous cooperation. For me, what is at stake now is that this framework, depending on the results, may be more or less strong in the future. 

Three key messages from the EUA to the next Parliament

What are the main messages you would like to send to the next members of the European Parliament?

In January 2024, we published the eight key messages of the EUA for the next mandate of the Commission in a publication titled "A Renewed Social Contract for Europe and its Universities." This is also a message to future MEPs to truly consider universities as important and independent societal actors. Indeed, they play a crucial role in the future of open, democratic, and sustainable societies in Europe. 

This document is called a renewed social contract, because a contract has two parties, and that's what we need.

  • We want the next European Parliament and Commission to actively promote the values of academic freedom and institutional autonomy.
  • This means giving universities this independence from the state and refraining from political interference.
  • For their part, universities also have a responsibility to work for open, democratic and pluralistic societies. 

We would also very much like to see a strengthening of this European multilateral framework for European programs, as well as for the European Research Area, the European Education Area, and their interaction with the European Higher Education Area through the Bologna Process.

We believe that, particularly concerning the broader discussions on the possible future enlargement of Europe, the university sector has much to contribute, as we have already been collaborating for many decades in this wider Europe.

Universities as responsible bridge builders globally. »

A third key message is to support universities as responsible bridge builders globally. We continue to advocate for international cooperation, knowing that the context is much more challenging than it was a few years ago.

This also means taking a fine-grained approach to risk assessment, where universities must also protect their values, ensuring that their researchers and staff enjoy academic freedom, and also when collaborating with international partners. 

"Keep R&I and education in a single portfolio"

Ursula von der Leyen has grouped education and research in the portfolio of a single commissioner. Some say this could change in the next Commission. What are your views on this?

We strongly advocate for maintaining one commissioner responsible for R&I and education because these are the missions of universities, and it is very important that they are together under one portfolio.  

We believe that the fact that this has been the case during the current mandate has also contributed to better collaboration between the Research & Innovation and Education Directorates-General, even though it can always be improved further. 

I'm thinking of the European Universities Initiative and how that has helped to move towards a more integrated perspective.

Anna-Lena Claeys-Kulik

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European University Association (EUA)
Deputy Director for Policy Coordination and Foresight
European University Association (EUA)
Policy Analyst & Project Manager
European Commission
Trainee & afterwards Policy Officer

Studies & Diploma

College of Europe
Advanced Master, European Political & Administrative Studies
Universität Münster
Magister, Communication Science, Political Science & PhilosophyMagister, Communication Science, Political Science & Philosophy
Sciences Po Bordeaux (IEP Bordeaux)
Certificat d'Etudes Politiques à titre étranger (C.E.P.), Political ScienceCertificat d'Etudes Politiques à titre étranger (C.E.P.), Political Science

# 51614, created on 21/05/24 at 14:37 - Updated on 21/05/24 at 15:39

Anna-Lena Claeys-Kulik - © EUA