Campus Europae started as a project based on a proposal of former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl who wanted to give a new impulse to education in the European Union during the German presidency in the first half of 1999.
A group of German experts in university education (chairs: Dr. Konrad Schily, former President of the private University of Witten, and Prof. Meinulf Dierkes, former President of the Social Science Research Centre Berlin) were asked to design a concept which would give a "European dimension" to higher education.
Picture 1: Helmut Kohl in a meeting with students representatives from the CE member Universities
However, the events in Kosovo during 1999 led to other political priorities being placed on the agenda within the European Union, with the result that in early 2000 the government of the Grand Duchy was asked to assume patronage of the project. In May 2000, Prime Minister Juncker announced the initiative as an official Luxemburg project during his inaugural speech. A memorandum, prepared by Dr. Schily, Prof. Dierkes, former Senator Christa Thoben, Managing Director of the Bucerius Law School Hamburg Jürgen Bühring, former Undersecretary Dr. Christoph Ehmann, and former director of Deutsche Bank Luxemburg, Dr. Ekkehard Stork, was distributed in early 2000. It recommended the creation of a university association: “Campus Europae”. It substantiated the concept of a close integration of European university systems, a process initiated in 1999 by European education ministers within the framework of the Bologna process. This memorandum described in detail the steps towards a co-operation between universities in the network, the changes to be achieved, together with the procedures for the implementation of the project.
Under the patronage of Prime Minister Jean Claude Juncker and Science Minister Erna Hennicot-Schoepges, the project was launched with a conference on 20/21 June 2001 in Luxemburg which was attended both by representatives from governments as well as universities. This launching conference resulted in a significant change of perspective of crucial importance. The original idea was that both governments and universities would jointly work towards the development of Campus Europae. Yet, the discussion at the conference showed that this route was blocked by a multitude of formal and ideological obstacles. Nevertheless, the universities in attendance decided to undertake the project fully exploiting their own decision-making autonomy.
Picture 2: Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker welcomes the Tour d'Europe participants in Luxembourg
The universities willing to undertake further cooperation agreed on the following closing communiqué:
"The university representatives agree to examine the establishment of a consortium consisting of universities committed to excellence in research and learning. Therefore, the university representatives agree to consider and to examine the establishment of the European University Foundation as an organizational platform for the cooperating universities. The European University Foundation will be the coordinating framework; it serves to create conditions that are necessary for the successful cooperation between the member universities; this framework contributes to greater self-governance and a strategic vision. The main purpose of the consortium is to create a field of experimentation generating exemplary experiences, which would then feed into the process of establishing a network of higher education in Europe. The consortium mainly aims at allowing students to gather multi-various experiences in at least two participating universities in two different countries as well as to efficiently pursue their studies. This should ultimately lead to the creation of a Campus Europae (CE) label. Close cooperation and effective coordination between universities is thus required."
The participating universities therefore decided to form the association with the interested universities, to fully exploit their own decision-making possibilities and to include governments only in isolated cases.
This included the attempt, at least during the planning phase, to steer clear of direct state finance as much as possible. Between 1998 and 2003, Campus Europae was funded by resources of the Quandt Foundation, the Allianz Kulturstiftung, the Volkswagen Foundation and a grant by the media entrepreneur, Leo Kirch. The government of the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg hosted all the conferences before it took over the financing of Campus Europae in 2004, time at which it provided the present secretariat of Campus Europae with a venue in the Château de Munsbach, close to the capital of the Grand Duchy.
Picture 3: the Chateâu de Munsbach, Luxembourg
Following the 2001 launching conference, seven expert groups gathering professors from all participating universities undertook pilot projects in the areas of humanities, natural sciences, teacher training, medicine, business, law and engineering. The main objective of these working groups was to investigate in which way mobility solutions could be developed to systematically foster student exchange across the network.
Academic cooperation quickly became the heart and soul of Campus Europae and over time the workgroups developed into the CE Subject Committees, which are until the today the organ which provides the framework for intensive academic cooperation and is charged with setting up ex-ante recognition mechanisms.
Picture 4: Prof. Noel Whelan, Prof. Christoph Ehmann and Dr. Konrad Schily
At the end of 2003, the Rectors’ Council elected the first President and Secretary General, respectively Prof. Noel Whelan and Prof. Christoph Ehmann. Prof. Noel Whelan succeeded outgoing President Dr Konrad Schily, who is one of the founders of Campus Europae and one of the main driving forces having overseen the critical period of its establishment.
The year 2004 was poised to be a pivotal year for Campus Europae. Alongside with the first experimental student exchanges, the definitive installation of the Secretariat of Campus Europae in the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg was completed – a most adequate venue due to the country’s multicultural and multi-linguistic long-established tradition.
In the same year, the important role students play in giving student exchange a “normal” place in their lives, led to the constitution of the Campus Europae Student Council. The Student Council, consisting of student representatives of each member universities, is an integral part of the Campus Europae network.
Picture 5: European Commissioner Jan Figel' delivering a speech during the Campus Europae Conference on Student Mobility, jointly organized with the European People's Party in the European Parliament
Prof. Noel Whelan’s four-year long mandate attained remarkable successes in consolidating and strengthening the network which grew from 11 to 18 member universities and launched its first 13 joint study programmes which have been brought to fruition to an excess of about 300 students. During his presidency, the additional CE projects: “Bologna meets Lisbon” which combines studying and working whilst abroad; the “CE-Bursary” offering a possibility for financing the “second year” as well as the outline of a “Campus Europae Degree” were developed.
Picture 6: the Rector's and Rector's representatives of the seventeen Campus Europae Universities during the signing of hte EUF-CE Charta, presided by Minister of Culture, Higher Education and Research François Biltgen, of the Luxembourg Government
In October 2007, Prof. Whelan was succeeded by Prof. Estela Pereira. In December 2007, the constitution of the European University Foundation – Campus Europae was signed by the member universities and came into force on the 28th of January 2008 by decree of the Grand Duke of Luxemburg, Henri.