We are used to see the university as a centre of higher education. I remember a research done in 2000, together with an international team for the European Institute of Romania, regarding 4 topics in the agenda of the Romanian universities: education, training, research and consulting.
But, what is happening in Euro-Brussels from the university point of view? Most of the big universities understand how the system functions and they actually maintain a “permanent representation” in the capital of Europe. I remember a meeting I had some years ago with the Director of the International Relations Department of the University of Madrid. He explained why his university has 10 people permanently on staff in Brussels: “EU research funding programmes contribute millions of euro every year to our university. It is normal to have people to implement and manage the relationship especially with the European Commission”.
Given that the EU has little competence in field of education, most of the universities therefore focus their lobby activities in Brussels on the research policies. This is the priority of the European University Association as well, representing the interests of more than 800 universities.
There are 2 more associations of universities with permanent representations in Brussels: the Network of Universities from the Capitals of Europe and the Santander Group European Universities Network.
The University of Madrid, the university with the biggest number of students in Europe, is not only university with physical presence in Brussels: the University of Helsinki has support from the Representation of Helsinki to the EU; the University of Ljubljana can count on support from the Slovenian Business and Research Association; and the University of Parma is supported by the regional representation of the Emilia-Romagna Region.
In my opinion the universities have a very good relation with the local and regional representations in Brussels, but they don't manage to have a common agenda to the Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
To summarize, the motto of universities in Euro-Brussels combines “academic seriousness” with “financial pragmatism”.
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