The European Consortium of Innovative Universities – ECIU is a network of thirteen universities that are have a few things in common: they are of the same size, internationally-oriented, care about quality and innovation in teaching, have a strong focus on research and teaching in ICT and social science, are committed to innovation and entrepreneurship.
The network was founded in 1997 and is growing in popularity especially at European level, because it is seen as an ideal setting to explore new directions in innovation applied to higher education and research.
Its current members are: Aalborg University (Denmark), Dublin City University (Ireland), Hamburg University of Technology (Germany), Kaunas University of Technology (Lithuania), Linköping University (Sweden), Tampere University (Finland), Tecnológico de Monterrey (Mexico, the only non-European member), the University of Nottingham (England), Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (Spain), University of Aveiro (Portugal), University of Stavanger (Norway), University of Trento (Italy), University of Twente (the Netherlands).
The member universities – which are more dynamic and inclined to networking than larger, traditional universities – were able to contribute positively to the European debate with cutting-edge ideas and projects. The fact that these universities are far from Europe's major cities is their point of strength, is what made them establish connections locally and invest in innovation and pilot projects to test best practices.
The mission of the consortium is to challenge conventional thinking in three areas.
First of all, ECIU aims to innovate teaching and learning through the development of high quality educational practices.
Secondly, as regards entrepreneurship, the consortium aims to increase the societal impact of research and to facilitate collaboration with the industrial sector through programmes that respond to stakeholders' demands.
Thirdly, ECIU aims to participate in EU policy and research by promoting joint activities to support research projects through European funds and to bring the point of views of universities in European institutions.
The consortium is very well structured and every partner university has different working groups made up of teaching and administrative staff that focus on specific themes. Mobility will be increased for students, teaching staff and technical-administrative staff, and programmes will be designed to facilitate exchanges among the thirteen universities, including for short periods.
UniTrento and the ambitious ECIU University project
The University of Trento joined ECIU on 11 April 2019.
At the press conference announcing the news, the rector explained the reasons that brought the University of Trento to join the consortium and announced the upcoming activities in which the university will be involved and the goals it will try to achieve with its partners, among which is the creation of a European education area by 2025.
The challenge that ECIU has taken on is part of a large pilot programme funded by the European Commission with 60 million euro whose objective is to encourage networking among universities. The Commission received 54 proposals from different countries to build this "European network of universities", including ECIU's.
The new ECIU university will offer interdisciplinary and flexible programmes, tailored to the needs of society and students.
The members aim to create a European campus where students, researchers and academics can study, work, conduct research in different languages, from different places, on different subjects.
The successful proposal that ECIU submitted to the European Commission is backed by important industrial and business partners. Airbus, Cisco, Intel, Ericsson are already involved, and the University of Trento included local institutions (the Autonomous Province of Trento and the municipality of Trento), and Hub Innovazione Trentino, Confindustria Trento, Computer Science, and Novartis – Sandoz Industrial Product Spa.
This sounds like a revolution in university education, as it requires universities to adopt a new teaching approach and to offer structured international mobility.