LERU Rector's Assembly
Last Saturday, May 13, Munich for the first time hosted the leaders of the 20 elite schools that form the League of European Research Universities (LERU). In their talks, the rectors, presidents and vice-chancellors addressed the future of university education and research in Europe with both confidence and concern. On the one hand, the LERU members acknowledged the recent EU emphasis on the key role universities play in society as well as current efforts to found a European Research Council (ERC) and improve the general research climate.
On the other hand, the academic leaders saw room for improvement. The EU does not pay enough attention to the role the different structures and diversity in subjects at universities play in research and education. The members also criticized the insufficient provision of means that world-class research and international competitiveness require. Therefore, they promote a stable framework of funding along with realistic policies of autonomy and responsibility in order to fortify universities for competition.
A controversial topic was the establishment of a European Institute of Technology (EIT), as proposed by Prof. José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission. LERU agreed to offer wide-ranging support while voicing considerable reservations. It is concerned that the EIT will only spread resources more thinly that should be better bundled. Strategic investment in the best European universities is far more urgent.
Prof. Bernd Huber, rector at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU) Munich, a founding member of LERU, was satisfied with the talks in Munich. “We were able to formulate key common positions and demands that we will submit to the European Commission. As an effectively functioning network of currently 20 universities LERU gives those demands an additional weight.”
LERU was founded in 2002 as a network of research-oriented universities. The group places a particular focus on university education and research policy in Europe. The goal of this alliance has been to help form these two areas through direct collaboration and sustained influence at a European level.
Universities become members of LERU by invitation. They are regularly evaluated based on comprehensive criteria such as research volume, supplementary funding and the demands of graduate training. Of the 20 members, Germany is represented, alongside LMU Munich, by the universities of Freiburg and Heidelberg.
At the meeting, the LERU Rector’s Assembly issued a working manifesto that stated the main points and proposals for the group’s future efforts. This manifesto and other information on LERU are available at: