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Staying connected with Europe

12 October 2020

5 minutes to read

Staying connected with Europe

‘Staying connected with Europe’ is written by Sally Faulkner, Exeter’s Assistant Deputy Vice Chancellor (Europe).


Sally Faulkner

Prof. Sally Faulkner

When I wrote my first blog as Assistant Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Europe) in May 2020 we were in a national lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic and our future relationship with the European Union through the Brexit negotiations was very uncertain. Six months on and I am not sure we are much further forward! Nonetheless, I do hope some were able to enjoy some of the freedoms and travel opportunities in the summer.

I think we are again facing a very difficult few months in Europe and it may be another month or so before we know the details of our new relationship with the European Union from January 2021. As I said in my first blog, though, I think universities must be at the forefront of bringing nations and communities together through this time of crisis and renewal. We must use our influence, knowledge and experience to help shape a healthier and happier world that we can sustain for future generations.

I believe the way we can do this is to focus on our strengths in education and research, to support learning, progress and solutions – working across boundaries and building partnerships with like-minded institutions across the world.

In Europe, I am delighted that we are now forging even stronger partnerships with 8 institutions. I want to thank colleagues from across the university who helped choose the 8 organisations to deepen our education and research connections.  The selection process was collaborative, involving colleagues from each college looking at research, teaching, mobility and study abroad.

The 8 strategic partners are:

In addition, we have an exciting new collaboration with Venice International University (VIU). In December 2019, we became the first and only UK University to join this consortium, which is an association of 21 of the world’s top universities, including, in Europe: Bordeaux (France); Leuven (Belgium); Lausanne (Switzerland); LMU (Germany); Padova; Ca-Foscari; MC Venice; CNR; TV Rome (Italy); and Ljubljana (Slovenia).

Europe is culturally diverse and multilingual, and hence fundamentally different from the other regions of the world with which we engage in our Global Strategy. Exeter has impressive research links in the Europe (14th in the UK for EU Horizon funding) and long-standing educational connections, consistently in the top 10 in the UK for student mobility. These are successes we want to build upon regardless of what happens with Brexit and the course of the global pandemic.

Broadly, academic colleagues can engage with Europe in three ways. First, with their own grants and personal research or scholarship allowances – colleagues are free to engage with any European partner that they judge enhances their research or education goals. Second, College Global funds (curated by Associate Deans Global) will encourage engagement with specific partners that are particularly strategic to that College. Thirdly, at University level, we will focus on the eight priority partners above, along with VIU, which will form the basis of our European strategy through to 2023 when we will review the progress we have made to deepen research and education collaborations in Europe.

All of this work builds on the successful Europe Network Fund which was established in 2018/19 to fund research and education projects in Europe. There have been 3 rounds of this funding to date – in January 2019; August 2019; and January 2020. 37 projects have been funded, for a total of £131,290, with £15,590 of funding from partners – so a total of £146,880.

Over the next three years we plan to make further significant investment to enable academics to develop faculty-to-faculty links with our 8 strategic partners and achieve new education initiatives (especially given the opportunities digital connections now give us to teach internationally), author leading publications, and submit joint grant applications. We will be innovative and creative in the way we support partnerships recognising the restrictions on travel for Covid-19 and environmental reasons, but also the opportunities for digital engagement in research and education.

I believe this is a fantastic opportunity for our academic staff and students and I am genuinely excited by the potential of these future connections with Europe. We will be signing Memoranda of Understanding with each partner shortly and I welcome your feedback and support over the next few years to develop our European strategy.

I will leave with you just a few recent examples below of the outstanding work and connections that we have already achieved. We attracted some excellent European media coverage earlier in the year when we launched this blog and translated eight stories from across the Colleges into 5 European languages. For the first time, we moved beyond English and translated media stories utilising the skills of our MA Translation Studies students to target European language media outlets with great results for our coverage and the skills of those on the course.

We have now established a dedicated European blog and news page and we welcome content each month with the aim to translate at least one story each month from different Colleges. You can contact me or the with your European stories.

Examples of our outstanding European work and connections:

Mathematicians from the University of Exeter will play a pivotal role in a new collaborative research project to help enhance our understanding of climate tipping points
This pioneering European-wide collaborative project, called CriticalEarth, has received €4.1m in awarded European Commission funding. The project, for which Exeter will receive €600,000, will provide research training opportunities for early stage researchers hosted at the University to investigate the crucial global climate issues. Professor Peter Ashwin is Principal Investigator for the project at Exeter. The project is led by the University of Copenhagen and involves additional beneficiaries at Reading, Utrecht, Lyon, Tromsø, Madrid, Munich, Berlin, Oldenburg, Brussels and Rome.

COVID sparks volunteering boost
The Healthy Aging through Innovation in Rural Europe (HAIRE) project relies on volunteers to achieve its aim of empowering older people to improve their communities. It is working in eight rural locations in the UK, France, Belgium and the Netherlands – and the team have been delighted by the community response to the COVID crisis. Professor Catherine Leyshon is the project leader at the University of Exeter.

A change at the top before elections boosts MP turnover across Europe, research shows
Athanassios Gouglas and Gabriel Katz from the University of Exeter, and Bart Maddens and Marleen Brans from KU Leuven Belgium, analysed statistics from 251 parties in Europe between 1945 and 2015. They looked at the impact of changes in parties’ leadership and name, the formation of electoral cartels, mergers and divisions on the turnover rates of politicians in Austria, Belgium, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK. They found the proportion of new and re-elected MPs is almost 5 percentage points higher on average for parties which changed their leadership before an election compared to those that did not do so.

Related Links

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Prof. Sally Faulkner


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