The transnational alliance "European University for Academic Continuing Education" (EU.ACE) is working towards the goal of further developing and redefining lifelong learning at its institutions in line with the Bologna Process in order to facilitate access to higher education for students through suitable formats and, accompanied by qualified staff, to ensure future-proof academic continuing education for them and for societal benefit. The alliance welcomed new members at the end of 2023. The founding institutions of this alliance, including the University for Continuing Education Krems, were joined by seven other universities from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, Romania, Switzerland and Spain. Together, the alliance reflects the higher education landscape in Europe.

The four founding institutions of the "European University for Academic Continuing Education" the University for Continuing Education Krems, the Conservatoire national des arts et métiers (France), Andrássy University Budapest (Hungary) and Ulm University (Germany) are delighted about the expansion of the transnational alliance. High-ranking representatives from Turku University of Applied Sciences (Finland), the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart (Italy), University of Applied Sciences Utrecht (Netherlands), Alba Iulia University (Romania), Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts (Switzerland) and the San Pablo CEU University Foundation (Spain) agreed their participation in Brussels by signing the Memorandum of Understanding. The University of Zenica (Bosnia and Herzegovina) completed the consortium's expansion phase at the end of December 2023, meaning that the Western Balkans are now represented in the alliance. In order to advance academic continuing education at a European level, the partners of the EU.ACE alliance pooled their strengths and experience for a joint submission as part of the Erasmus+ European Universities Initiative. The consortium is convinced of the importance of the project for academic continuing education and will therefore definitely implement this project.

Grown partnerships

The links between the partner institutions have developed over the years and are manifold. The cooperation between the University for Continuing Education Krems and the Conservatoire national des arts et métiers began in 2019. Both institutions are universities specializing in continuing education and have been working together more closely since 2022. The University for Continuing Education Krems, Andrássy University Budapest and Ulm University were already connected via the Danube Rectors' Conference network. The University of Krems also works together with Andrássy University Budapest in the Political Communication Network (netPOL).

Cooperation between the university sectors

EU.ACE is of particular interest to Alba Iulia University, as Romania has a particularly low participation rate in the field of lifelong learning, which is partly due to the high fragmentation of this sector. The Catholic University of the Sacred Heart was an obvious partner for EU.ACE for two reasons: firstly, because of its Centre for Internationalization of Higher Education and, secondly, because of its status as one of the best private universities in Italy. The San Pablo CEU University Foundation, the largest educational foundation and sponsor of three universities in Spain, also belongs to the private sector. This institution offers education from primary level to university for senior citizens and has experience with alliances.

Thanks to funding from Movetia, the Swiss Agency for Exchange and Mobility, the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts is participating in the EU initiative as an associated but de facto equal partner institution. It contributes its experience with a well-developed and proven continuing education system with certificates and academic degrees. Both Universities of Applied Sciences from Turku and Utrecht are at the same time part of the Consortium for Applied Research and Professional Education (CARPE) and enrich EU.ACE with their strong links to small and medium-sized enterprises.

In its diversity, the alliance reflects the academic continuing education landscape in Europe: it includes both public and private universities that offer comprehensive and application-oriented training. The EU.ACE consortium is made up of eleven equal partners as well as other higher education institutions and non-university institutions as associated partners. The Ukraine is also represented in the consortium. It is EU.ACE's conviction that a model for academic continuing education can only be thought up, tested and ultimately implemented with perspectives from the entire higher education sector. In the Memorandum of Understanding, the partner institutions agreed to cooperate more closely within EU.ACE and beyond.

About EU.ACE

The EU.ACE alliance is developing a European university model and innovative, tailor-made pathways of lifelong university learning as an integral part of the Bologna Process and the European Higher Education Area to meet the demands of 21st century societal and labor market needs. The alliance focuses on conveying European values against the backdrop of globalization. The long-term cooperation also takes into account the SDGs, the sustainability goals of the United Nations; in particular Goal 4 - Quality Education. As a catalyst for developments in the field of academic continuing education, the alliance aims to revitalize benchlearning internationally with the support of professional networks such as AUCEN (Austria), DGWF (Germany) and FCU (France) as well as ASEM Education and Research Hub for Lifelong Learning. The associated partner institutions extend the context and visionary scalability of the transformative university model beyond the EU, including Odessa Mechnikov National University and Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv (Ukraine), McGill University - School of Continuing Studies (Canada), Thapar Institute of Engineering & Technology (India), Singapore University of Social Sciences and the Lifelong Learning Platform, an association of 44 European educational organizations from across Europe and beyond.

EU.ACE sees itself as a transformative process that further develops the participating universities in many areas, far beyond teaching. Joint training programs for the academic and administrative staff of the partner institutions will focus on soft skills, digital, green and resilient skills as well as language skills. Knowledge transfer will also be promoted through Living Labs with their service-to-society and research projects, sharing best practices and learning from each other through face-to-face exchanges on site and virtually by staff and students.

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