The Guardian, 1 Jan 2018
writing about the new Europaeum Scholars Programme, and the Europaeum ideology in general:
The University of Oxford will this week become a founding member of a new pan-European network of future leaders aiming to tackle the continent’s problems and “step over” the immediate disruption of Brexit, according to the scheme’s British originator.
Oxford and St Andrews are among 13 elite institutions to have signed up to a scholars programme run by the Europaeum, an association of leading European universities that asks postgraduate researchers to come up with practical solutions to social and political issues such as human trafficking, youth unemployment and regional separatism.
Andrew Graham, a former master of Balliol College, Oxford, said he had the idea for a type of Rhodes scholarship for Europe in the wake of the EU referendum result.
Graham said he found himself “pushing at an open door” when he first proposed the scheme to universities in 2017 and again in his entrepreneurial fundraising efforts to meet the roughly €10,000 cost for each scholar.
“Brexit was absolutely part of it but universities in Helsinki and Madrid and Prague and elsewhere face issues that are just as intractable. There’s the rise of the far right in Germany, the disputes in Catalonia, the tension around migration, and high rates of youth unemployment in places like Greece and Portugal,” Graham said.
“These are European problems, not just EU or eurozone problems alone. But it was Brexit that made me think it was time for something fresh.”
Graham, who worked in Downing Street as an adviser to Harold Wilson, wants the programme to show that universities can act to overcome the issues that provoked Brexit.
“The Brexit result clearly had a lot to do with a fundamental absence of leadership. But it was also about opposition to evidence, and an information barrier among large parts of the public,” he said.
“As academics we have to think: what happened to the values of the Enlightenment and the insights from the scientific revolution? What the hell did we do wrong?”
The 30 hand-picked scholars will take part in the first classes in Oxford in the first week of January, and there will be a further seven modules in 2018 and 2019 in venues such as Leiden, Geneva and Prague. The group includes four graduates from Oxford and three from St Andrews.
The scholars will be expected to divide into working groups and take specific problems to solve over two years. For the pilot programme to be a success, Graham says, its outcomes will have to be meaningful policy initiatives.
“The results of their efforts have got to have value. I don’t necessarily mean monetary value, but value for society. They can be idealistic, but they also have to be pinned into reality – ideally something that could be implemented in one form or another,” Graham said.
“What we want are outcomes that will excite people and be useful, whether to an MP or the European parliament or an NGO or business. It could be all sorts of things, but it has to interest someone and give them a solution that they can bring about.”
The scholars were selected as people who “think for themselves but not just of themselves,” according to the Europaeum’s description. Member universities submitted a shortlist of names of graduates, generally in the first or second year of a doctorate, studying humanities or social sciences.
“Could someone who voted for Brexit join the programme? Absolutely. But not someone who was xenophobic or only a Little Englander,” Graham said.
The Europaeum scheme is the first of a series of efforts by British universities to continue collaboration with their European partners after Brexit.
The University of Warwick is in talks with peers in EU member states to offer joint undergraduate degrees, while the Russell Group of leading research institutions is looking at a creating new student exchanges with Europe if the UK is unable to remain in the Erasmus programme after 2020.
Oxford is also embarking on an innovative partnership with four universities in Berlin, including Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, allowing Oxford researchers to collaborate with German colleagues.