European Reform University Alliance – ERUA

What is Reform University?


What is a reform university today?


Since the middle of the 20th century, the idea of a reform university has served as an inspiration for higher education institutions around the world. The reform movement has shaped basic concepts in modern higher education, which is centered on the student and on interdisciplinary studies. The movement was associated with the expansion of higher education in the decades after World War II. In Europe, enrollment in reform universities rose from 5% in the 1950s to 25% in the 1970s. This is an occasion for the creation of new universities. 45% of all universities in the world existing in 1970 were founded after 1945. Most of these new institutes are aimed at training professionals, especially in applied fields, aiming to meet the need for education and a growing economy of the knowledge. Not all of these institutions of higher education are recognized as reform universities. The rapid growth of higher education offers opportunities to rethink what universities should be.


ERUA universities were founded in the second half of the 20th century to reimagine higher education in their own way as transformative institutions. UKON, Paris 8 and RUC universities were founded in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The University of Konstanz, UKON, was founded in 1966. From the very beginning, it was shaped as a reform university that should not only meet the need for, but also redefine the meaning of higher education. The University of Paris 8 was opened in January 1969 as an experimental university center. In 1971, Paris 8 officially acquired university status. The University of Roskilde, RUC, was established in 1972, also as an experimental university center to question traditional forms of learning. The alliance includes two more reform universities, which were formed a little later. The University of the Aegean, UAegean, was founded in 1984 to ensure regional development in the Aegean. In July 1989, the New Bulgarian University, NBU, was founded by a group of scientists and educators who created the "Society for a New Bulgarian University" with the aim of reforming the Bulgarian higher education system. In 1991, the Bulgarian Parliament officially accepted the New Bulgarian University, NBU, as a private/civilian university expressly with this mission.


Each university in the alliance profiles its research portfolio by benchmarking against the ERUA structure today to identify similarities and differences with the others. Alliance members have innovative and experimental educational programs and research methods that are in the spirit of the reform movement, but there is also the question of what makes a university reform. In search of an answer, an internal study was conducted in the field of the institutional macrostructures of the universities of ERA, from which the conclusions presented below regarding the organization of education in the structure of the consortium derive.


A key aim of UKON is to provide the necessary environment for more experimental and innovative research in the humanities. For Paris 8, for example, the integration of the arts into the university is essential. The RUC promotes work in student groups as well as new fields of study in the tradition of Nordic education such as communication and interdisciplinary environmental studies. For UAegean, the main goal is to create a form of higher education and research to be conducted on the university's six campuses located in the Aegean Sea. In the post-socialist context of academic education in Bulgaria, NBU introduced three main innovations: the three-level form of student education (bachelor, master and doctorate), the European Credit System (ECTS), elective courses and interdisciplinary programs.


These renewals require a rethinking of the university's traditional faculty structure. From the Middle Ages to the early 20th century, most European universities were organized on a 4-faculty model with three graduate faculties of theology, medicine and law and a liberal arts/philosophy faculty. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the Faculty of Liberal Arts/Philosophy was divided into the new faculties of Humanities, Social Sciences and Natural Sciences or their variations. From the middle of the 20th century, reform universities further challenged the traditional division of faculties by proposing new ways of organizing the university structure.


UKON is organized into three sections which are 1) Humanities (also called Mind Sciences), 2) Natural Sciences and 3) Politics, Law and Economics. These are then further subdivided into several interdisciplinary units or disciplinary areas, each of which often offers several different undergraduate and graduate programs. In addition, some programs, such as Life Sciences, are offered in collaboration between units. These faculties, different from the traditional German ones, were created with the aim of promoting cooperation between different groups in the university.


Bachelor programs at Paris 8 are organized into five areas: arts; humanities and social sciences; philologies; law, economics, and governance; science, technology and health. A new specialty - culture and communications - organized jointly with the University of Paris Nanterre is added to the master's programs. These areas are divided into 11 teaching and research units and five institutes. Together with Nanterre, Paris 8 created an alliance called the University of Paris Lumières (UPL). UPL is behind the EUR-ArTec (École universitaire de recherche) initiative, the so-called university school of research with master's programs in arts, digital world and creativity.


The RUC is divided into four institutes: Communication and Arts (or Humanities), People and Technology, Social Sciences and Business, and Science and Environment. These institutes are responsible for a wide range of interdisciplinary undergraduate programs divided between humanities, humanities-technology, social and natural sciences, as well as several bachelor's and master's programs in the same fields.


UAegean is located on six islands in the Aegean Sea and has one faculty on each of them: Humanities, Social Sciences, Business Sciences, Engineering Sciences and Environmental Sciences. Each faculty has several departments. Each department offers one bachelor's program and one or more master's programs.


The NBU's research and academic expertise is grouped into 33 different departments and research centers, which represent the nests of groups of scientists from one or more nearby fields. Interdisciplinarity is exercised at the educational and research level. At the educational level, this happens in many bachelor's and master's programs in which scientists from different departments teach. At the research level, this is done through the activity of several interdisciplinary laboratories, as well as through the implementation of interdisciplinary projects. The faculties, in turn, are organized according to the different degrees of education (basic, bachelor's and master's), which distinguishes NBU from all other universities in Bulgaria.


All ERUA consortium universities are organized in a manner consistent with the spirit of modern education. Each of them is innovative in creating the structure of the organization and in the services it offers to be in sync with the dynamics of European culture and education. The educational focus of ERUA consortium participants is on the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences and arts. Unlike many liberal institutions in Europe, ERUA emphasizes public engagement as well as a strong applied side of the disciplines. All participants in the consortium also have a technological component. All of the partner universities offer programs directly related to business and management.


The European Reform Alliance, ERUA, aims to practically transform the idea of higher education in Europe by creating a bridge between different cultures through proven institutions. These institutions should offer modern education through innovative methodology, international collaboration of proven professionals from leading fields in diverse fields of science and art, as well as through increased understanding of the image of ourselves and others, which will create an opportunity for modern higher education in the context of European values.