A clear voice in Europe
"On its own, the University of Oslo is small, but together with like-minded research-intensive universities from all over Europe, our voice is heard." This is how former University of Oslo (UiO) rector, Ole Petter Ottersen, expressed himself in Norwegian newspaper Khrono ahead of the launch of The Guild of Research-Intensive Universities in Brussels 21 November 2016.
One of the driving forces for the University of Oslo to be amongst the founding members of The Guild was to be able to better influence the design of the EU framework programmes. However, no one had really expected the network to establish itself so quickly, and on such an extensive note, as one of Europe's most influential university networks.
The Guild’s success is of great importance to UiO since there is a clear expectation from Norwegian authorities that higher education institutions extract a significant share of the funds available from European framework programmes. Along with our 19 Guild partners, our voice is strong and our opinions are taken into account when we emphasize, for example, that Horizon 2020 and its successor, Horizon Europe, must have a broader perspective than short-term economic gain, or when we insist that the Universities of the Future must build on a strong foundation of academic values.
Over the past year, questions related to Horizon Europe's profile and development, a renewed European research area (ERA) and the development of the MSCA scheme have been central issues to The Guild. These are large and complicated political issues and processes where one cannot take for granted to be involved at the top level.
The policy dimension is not the only aspect of The Guild: our ambition is that The Guild also contributes to setting the agenda in public debate, and contributes to capacity building and cross-border cooperation within the network. As an active member on all fronts, UiO has led the initiative to ensure that cooperation between the EU and the African Union (AU) helps build robust, research-intensive African universities. An insight paper written by UiO's Peter Maassen informed a joint position paper with the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA). The Guild now continues this work with ARUA to ensure that investing in African research universities in a new way is a priority in further EU-AU cooperation.
At The Guild, capacity building is primarily done by sharing best practice among working groups. Topics include open science, quality assurance, research support and innovation. More recently, a group has also been set up to share experiences regarding gender equality and diversity.
At the same time, collaboration between The Guild members is typically developed through groups of Deans. These have been instrumental in recording the development of the thematic clusters in Pillar II of Horizon Europe, with detailed academic in put being developed in position papers for the clusters on health, culture, creativity and society, and digitization, industry and space .
The Guild is important to UiO, but we dare say that the network is also important for Norway and Europe. Not least, it covers the North-South, and East-West dimensions in a strong and clear way. Recently we have strengthened the network with another university – Babeș-Bolyai University, Romania's leading university and the highest ranked university in southeast Europe. The breadth of European perspectives is central when, for example, we develop our thoughts and ideas on the EU's new excellence initiative.
In the shadows, Brexit is sadly a fact. We are determined to support our British friends and partners, and hope and believe that British universities will, also in the years to come, continue to raise the standard of European research. Europe needs it.
Many deserve credit for having made and making The Guild the strong network it is, both the secretariat in Brussels and staff at the various Guild universities. But being heard involves two parties. We are also grateful to colleagues in the Commission and in other European institutions for their welcome, and for the dialogue. Here you will find The Guild's smoking fresh annual report that provides more information about the Guild’s work. Thank you to everyone who has contributed in various ways.