Document Actions

You are here: Home Online Magazine connect & create Continental is the ideal

Continental is the ideal

The European Universities Initiative launched in Brussels – How should the campus of the future look?

Freiburg, Nov 11, 2019

All of Europe visiting Brussels - that is not out of the ordinary. But in early November 2019, the city was devoted to higher education, with representatives of more than 100 universities meeting for the kick-off of one of the biggest projects for the future of education. The groupings selected in the European Universities competition discussed what makes an education region in Europe. Freiburg and its partners were there in the EPICUR consortium.

Photo: Entelechie/, Montage: Jürgen Oschwald


Epicurius’ followers ran the school he founded, the famous garden in Athens, up to 500 years after his death. He has often been scorned by figures such as Martin Luther, who considered him a roister doister who, like an animal, indulged only his lowest instincts. The Greek philosopher Epicurus, born around 341 B.C. on the Aegean island of Samos, influenced generations of great thinkers - and he caused heated discussions that lasted for centuries. Yet over time, Epicurius and his often misunderstood teaching of desire have been rehabilitated. For many nowadays, he is considered the father of lifelong learning; an upholder of the law, who respected good traditions and who did not encourage his students to rant and swagger, but to turn clever ideas into reality.

The University of Freiburg and seven other institutions are convinced that modern forms of teaching and learning can also benefit from this intellectual heritage. His name has been given to the European Partnership for an Innovative Campus: Unifying Regions – EPICUR for short. Behind this is nothing less than a vision for the future, an idea of what a 21st century campus could look like. In July 2019, the universities, from Germany, France, Austria, the Netherlands, Poland, and Greece won over the jury with their EPICUR concept in the European Union’s Erasmus+ program.

The EU is calling for all institutions of higher education to work out new learning formats through dialogue and selected 17 alliances in the first round; in 2020, another 17 will join them. Models for “European Universities” are to be developed by 2024; and students attending them will benefit from a common education region - in the case of EPICUR, the students will number nearly 270,000.

Alliances on the continent

At the beginning of November, the EPICUR partners, together with the other selected alliances, met in Brussels to discuss the future of the European education area - in English, French, German, Spanish and Italian. Linguistic diversity underlines the top priority of the EU initiative: inclusion shall prevail. Away with bureaucratic hurdles, large universities from Western Europe are cooperating with smaller institutions from the southern and eastern regions, researchers work together in teams that transcend subject and national borders, students put together their own curricula on their way to a European degree, and other forms of higher education are also part of the project. The network of alliances between 250 and 300 institutions is to be extended in the medium term.

Such a broad education region can only arise from a common Europe - and at the same time it has the task of securing the cohesion of the continent for the future, emphasises Professor Dr. Hans-Jochen Schiewer, Rector of the University of Freiburg: “We aim to train young people who will cross borders, disciplines, cultures and languages to tackle the big challenges facing Europe. European teaching is the foundation for the strengthening of a European identity.”

Liberal Arts Education

Yet what is the vision of European teaching that EPICUR foresees? The plan focuses on Liberal Arts and Sciences education, digital transformation of teaching methods, and the expansion of student mobility - among other things. Along with that, European languages and the various regional networks comprise core areas of cooperation. This could include seminars in which students from several universities participate via videoconferencing and eventually get to meet each other or internships via the numerous networks that cover, for example, the Upper Rhine or the Black Sea regions.

But how the new campus will be designed is still to be decided. The universities are currently working together on the basic principles. Freiburg is responsible for Liberal Arts and Sciences Education and has relevant expertise in this field. In 2012, Liberal Arts and Sciences (LAS) was launched at the University of Freiburg’s University College; it is taught in English and was the first Liberal Arts and Sciences program in Germany. Now the universities aim to lift this teaching philosophy - which introduces the students in an interdisciplinary manner to the big ideas in politics, society and the environment - to the European level. Starting as early as 2020, students will be able to take individual modules which can ultimately earn them a European Track Certificate. And at some point - so the grand goal - all eight partner institutions will offer a joint LAS program.

Would Epicurius, in his garden at the gates of Athens, have liked this idea? We can at least assume that he did not shy away from new ideas or testing existing laws: “You are not here for a God and his church, nor for a state, and certainly not for a task in great culture,” is one of the maxims he discussed with his pupils. Unlike the famous Platonic Academy, Epicurus also taught people who in his time were considered completely unsuitable for philosophy: women and slaves.

Rimma Gerenstein


EPICUR – One network, eight higher education institutions

In EPICUR, Freiburg is cooperating with three trusted partners in Eucor – The European Campus: The other participants are the French Universities of Strasbourg and Haute Alsace and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. The University of Basel, the fifth institution in the group, cannot throw its hat into the ring because Switzerland is not entitled to take part in a call for applications in the Erasmus+ program. The partners have invited new allies in from four countries. The University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland, Austria’s University of Natural Resources and Life Science Vienna, and Aristoteles University in Thessaloniki, Greece make up the rest of the consortium.

“European higher education” initiative 

Video of the kick-off in Brussels

Press release on selection for the EPICUR alliance