General Assembly sets strategic direction in light of new EU plans

Student participation, the European Commission’s plans for further rollout of the European Universities Initiative, Brexit and a global Circle U. strategy were among the topics discussed in the first Circle U. General Assembly on Monday 7 June.

The European Council recently agreed on a full rollout of the European University Initiative ( The European Universities are seen as central to transforming higher education in Europe and realizing the ambitious goals of the European Education Area and European Research Area. It is expected that future EU funding calls will be linked with the European University Initiative as a major flagship for the EU’s education, research and innovation policies. In order to include a critical mass of higher education institutions, the European Commission has proposed strong financial incentives for alliances to include at least nine member universities. The UK’s exit from the Erasmus programme also means that King’s College London may not count towards the nine full members. In light of these developments, the General Assembly discussed the possibilities for inviting new universities as members of the alliance. 


The General Assembly gave strong support for King’s College London’s continued participation Circle U. after Brexit, stating that “Circle U. is strongly committed to its members. Our Alliance consists of equally committed universities with a shared dedication to Circle U.’s long-term transformational processes and future. As a founding member and member of its legal entity (AISBL), King's College London is and will always be an important and full member of our European University Alliance.”

Global strategy

A Circle U. Global strategy was also on the agenda. The General Assembly decided on a process for the association of non-EU partners to the alliance aimed at stronger global impact, building on synergies between the existing strategic partnerships of the member universities with global partners outside of Europe. 

Student participation vital to success

On behalf of the Circle U. Student Union, Henry Maes and Linnea Barberini gave clear recommendations to the General Assembly on the strategic direction of the alliance, emphasising the need for physical, inclusive and sustainable student mobility. Virtual mobility, as pointed out by Ms Barberini, has advantages, but can never fully replace physical meeting between students and between students and academics. Circle U. should also be an alliance where students can be mobile regardless of their socioeconomic background, and the alliance should connect with the Erasmus by Train initiative to promote sustainable mobility. The student representatives also stressed the importance of creating a Circle U. identity and more Circle U. activities involving students, launching the idea of appointing a student coordinator to map, coordinate and tap into the student engagement that already exists in the large number of student associations at each university. 

The Circle U. project is on track

President Svein Stølen, rector of the University of Oslo, gave a status update on the seven work packages of the project. Eight months into the pilot, Circle U. is on track. Highlights include a first virtual Staff Week organised by Aarhus University, involving more the 200 students and staff from all the member universities. The Academic Chairs Programme is being set up, with 35 Chairs to be appointed by the end of July. A seminar series on “Evidence and Democracy in Times of Crisis” has been scheduled as a first pilot activity in the Knowledge Hub on Democracy, and a joint communication and dissemination strategy has been drawn up. Circle U. is also in the final stages of appointing a secretariat, who will play an important role in coordinating the activities in the alliance.

The General Assembly is the strategic decision-making body of Circle U. It includes the rectors from all the partners and two student representatives, and is responsible for the strategic direction of the alliance as well as overseeing the financial and administrative management of the alliance. 

The Circle U. General Assembly consist of:

The Rectors of the alliance; Rector Svein Stølen, University of Oslo (Circle U. President), Rector Brian Bech Nielsen, Aarhus University, Vice President & Vice Principal, Funmi Olonisakin, King's College London, President Sabine Kunst, Humboldt University of Berlin, President Christine Clerici, Université de Paris, Rector Ivanka Popovic, University of Belgrade, Rector Vincent Blondel, UCLouvain, and two representatives from the Circle U. Student Union: Henry Maes, UCLouvain and Linnea Barberini, University of Oslo.

Published June 17, 2021 2:49 PM - Last modified June 17, 2021 2:49 PM