Higher education institutions


Action 13 deals with "Empowering higher education institutions to develop in line with the ERA, and in synergy with the European Education Area". The Action will contribute to implementing the Council Conclusions on Deepening the European Research Area (28 May 2021), and follows the Council Conclusions on a European Strategy for Universities (6 April 2022).

Action 13 intends to strengthen investigator-driven research to reinforce Europe’s leadership in science and address the long-term trend of Europe’s decreasing share of research-intensive universities at global scale, notably after Brexit, by (i) supporting more inclusive and deeper cooperation between higher education institutions across Europe to accelerate institutional reform, and by (ii) better aligning Member States’ efforts to strengthen global competitiveness of their higher education sector.

The specific objectives of action 13 are to: raise excellence in science and value creation of Europe’s higher education sector through cooperation; increase the sector’s global and visibility; contribute to empowering higher education institutions in Europe as key actors of change in the twin green and digital transitions; implement the comprehensive framework for attractive research careers within and beyond academia; overall, contribute to implement ERA actions 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 15, 16 in and by Europe’s higher education institutions.

To pursue these objectives in synergy with higher education policies, an umbrella European Excellence Initiative will be setup, consisting of a combination of policy measures and programme activities.

At policy level, following activities are proposed to be established under the European Excellence Initiative umbrella:

  1. Studies to (a) map and model excellence initiatives established in EU Member States and beyond, (b) assess the impact of the current Horizon 2020 support to the European Universities Initiative on the individual institutions and on the alliance.
  2. Policy support for Member States to setup excellence initiatives at national level in support of higher education institutions, through (a) mutual learning exercises on the basis of models, and (b) a potential peer-review mechanism at EU level to support the realisation of excellence initiatives at national level.
  3. Task Force with experts from interested Member States and with representatives from the higher education sector to explore sustainable and joint support mechanism for alliances of higher education institutions under the next Multi-Financial Framework.
  4. Connected Universities consultation platform with experts from higher education sector to create a shared understanding on the relevant definitions, analyse challenges and specific needs of universities on the digital landscape in Europe, such as R&I data storage and management, distributed and interoperable e-infrastructures, digital transition in regions of lower R&I intensity. Following this analysis, the consultation platform will conceptualise a future ‘Connected Universities Initiative’.

The task force and the consultation platform will report back to the ERA Forum.

At programme level, additional measures will be taken through the WIDERA part of Horizon Europe in the Work Programmes for 2022-2024 and 2025-2027. A pilot, testing the pooling of resources from various EU and national level funding programmes in support of alliances of higher education institutions, notably with Erasmus+ and Horizon Europe, and national funding will be part of the WP 2025-2027. The results of the pilot will feed the development of new joint support mechanisms for higher education institutions in the next MFF.

For more information:

Explanatory Document on Action 13: Higher Education Institutions – Empowering higher education institutions to develop in line with the ERA, and in synergy with the European Education Area