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Cross-border doctoral education at The European Campus

In the Upper Rhine region, the universities of Basel, Freiburg, Haute-Alsace and Strasbourg together with the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology are breaking new ground in cross-border cooperation. The trinational university grouping “Eucor – The European Campus”, opens doctoral candidates to a research landscape that goes beyond the potential of a single university.

In the Upper Rhine region, the universities of Basel, Freiburg, Haute-Alsace and Strasbourg together with the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) are breaking new ground in cross-border cooperation. They have initiated a trinational university grouping called Eucor – The European Campus”, which is a university network covering teaching, research, innovation and administration. It provides doctoral candidates with a research landscape that goes beyond the potential of a single university.

The network strengthens common bonds, enjoys complementary aspects and creates synergies. Situated at the heart of Europe, with barely 200 kilometres between them, the five universities are uniting their potential and defining common visions. Their aim is to develop a distinct area of knowledge and research – one without walls or borders, and with great international appeal. They are therefore already on the path to creating a European university, as proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron in his keynote address on European policy at Sorbonne University in September 2017 and later reiterated by the European Council in December 2017.

Five universities, one campus

The concept behind the Upper Rhine region’s shared campus is innovative cross-border cooperation. For instance, doctoral candidates from all five universities can take courses at the GRACE Graduate Center of the University of Basel or at the University of Freiburg’s Center for Key Qualifications, and have the same rights to use all the services, such as libraries and canteens.

The universities are also developing concepts related to the shared use of research infrastructure, with the goal of making efficient use of resources, enabling synergies and multiplying the possibilities for research by doctoral candidates.

Binational or trinational doctorates

Much cooperation already takes place in the field of doctoral studies. There is the cotutelle de thèse option, a joint doctoral supervision agreement between two or more different higher education institutions, which can lead to a binational or trinational doctoral degree. This aims to intensify international cooperation in research while simultaneously increasing the mobility of doctoral candidates. It creates the possibility of earning a doctoral degree at two universities at once, on the basis of one dissertation. In addition, there is also the possibility of earning a structured cross-border doctoral degree in shared doctoral colleges.

Cross-border networks

Doctoral candidates also benefit from cooperation between the universities in research as a whole. Some subject areas have established networks that promote the exchange of knowledge between researchers, doctoral candidates and other students at the five universities.

For instance, English specialists have the “Eucor English” network – a forum for intercultural exchange that brings together specialists in anglophone literature and culture as well as in linguistics at the partner universities. Each year the network organises workshops and trinational meetings and seminars for master’s and doctoral candidates to exchange the results of research and initiate joint projects. There are similar networks in neurosciences, Scandinavian studies and classical studies.

Enriched by diversity

The great added value of the project lies in the diversity and the wide variety of perspectives it brings. Combining various specialisations and approaches, which are often shaped by national ideas, raises new questions. Using different laboratories and facilities can be complementary and expand the options for a university. Intercultural exchange sharpens ideas and enriches research. It opens doctoral candidates to a research landscape that goes beyond the potential of a single university.

interinstitutional collaboration

All views expressed in these articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of EUA Council for Doctoral Education. If you would like to respond to this article by writing your own piece, please see The Doctoral Debate style guidelines and contact the CDE team to pitch your idea.

About the author

Janosch Nieden is the Director of the trinational university grouping “Eucor The European Campus. Previously he worked in cross-border higher educational cooperation for the trinational metropolitan area of the Upper Rhine region. As a scholar of politics and government with degrees from the University of Potsdam and Sciences Po Paris, he has also worked at the École Nationale d’Administration in Paris and Strasbourg.

Image credits: Sandra Meyndt

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