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U4 network to expand collaboration

20 November 2015

The eighth Vice-Chancellor conference of the U4 network was held in Uppsala.

The eighth Vice-Chancellor conference of the U4 network was held in Uppsala this November. Aside from Uppsala University, the network consists of the universities of Göttingen, Groningen and Gent. The purpose is to collaborate on education and research.

The U4 aims to:

  • broaden the education offer by pooling resources
  • enhance the students' international experience
  • strengthen the research output through cooperation and joint projects
  • share knowledge and pool resources with regard to university management

The U4 network was formed in 2008 as a strategic alliance between four European universities of similar profiles and size. The goal is to collaborate on four so-called scientific clusters:

  • The Humanities
  • Medicine and Pharmacy
  • Science and Technology
  • Social Sciences, Economics and Law

A fifth administrative cluster, Institutional Management, involves coordination between staff working in supportive functions, for instance academic leadership development, pedagogics, marketing and recruitment, study counselling and museums.

‘I’m very impressed with the range of activities we collaborate on, we have every reason to be proud of this network. The amount of exchange and cooperation between our universities within the various clusters has clearly increased’, said Vice-Chancellor Eva Åkesson, who hosted the conference in Uppsala.

Increasing number of campuses abroad

Around 60 representatives of the four universities in northern Europe gathered in Campus Blåsenhus to listen to short presentations on projects within the different clusters. The presentations showed extensive collaboration on programmes, courses, seminars, conferences and other activities involving two or more universities.

‘It’s very important to share experiences and ideas on how to take things further, especially when it comes to our common task of internationalising more courses and programmes,’ said Ulrike Beisiegel, Vice-Chancellor at the University of Göttingen. ‘But it takes a long time to get to know each other and maybe we should have these meetings more often.’

Andreas Göthenberg, Executive Director of Stint (the Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education), presented statistics showing that the amount of Swedish so-called offices, centres and campuses—including so-called branch campuses—has increased throughout the world, for instance in China.

An important question under the circumstances was how to view the fact that more and more campuses are being established abroad by Swedish universities, which means those students never come here. Or would we rather have more international students come to Sweden?

The University of Groningen is establishing a campus in China, as number nine of the ten that China allows. English-language programmes, sustainability programmes and entrepreneurship are to be the cornerstones of this work.

Future focus

The four universities must deepen their collaboration on marketing to find the right students and allow for more continuity and cross-disciplinary ventures. How to organise the collaboration itself and how to fund international ventures are other important issues for the network to focus on.