When 250 students get together in Leyden over the next few days to discuss the future role of their home universities, 20 young people from Heidelberg will be in on the proceedings. But the meeting organised by the League of European Research Universities in the Dutch university city is far more than a common-or-garden debating society. The participants attending the conference were chosen systematically on the basis of their qualifications, so a high-quality exchange of opinion can confidently be anticipated.
The background is an initiative started by the University of Leyden and linking the 12 best universities from all over Europe in a special network. The aim is not only the transfer of information and knowledge but the handling of concrete problems like better harmonisation of teaching or the mutual recognition of study content. But even this is not all the League of European Research Universities (LERU) stands for. Equal importance is attributed to closer links between the students themselves. At conferences like this one, they can make personal contacts that will be beneficial to their careers in the medium or long term.
This in its turn is of benefit to the universities, all of which have legitimate claims to belonging to the "premier league". The participating members (alongside Heidelberg, Munich is the other German university involved) have long since realised that the future of Europe depends to a significant degree on the quality of the higher-education landscape in the Old World. Top-flight academic work needs the vitalising factor supplied by personal contacts. Accordingly, the effects of the present conference can be expected to go far beyond the meeting itself.
The "Bright Conference for League Universities" thus concentrates less on specific academic disciplines than on various topics connected with politics, economics and science in Europe. Talks by experts on these different topics will round off the conference and a concluding paper is to be submitted to the European Commission. In future (Leyden is the premiere) a meeting of this kind will take place every year.
In the medium term Heidelberg will also be hosting the conference, though no date has been finalised yet, as Dr. Jens Hemmelskamp, head of the Research Management department of the Central University Administration emphasised. He is the coordinator at the Heidelberg end. "Of course the conference will be taking place in Heidelberg at some point in the future," he says. "But we cannot say exactly at the moment when this will be. LERU only came into being last year, so the structures will need a little time to develop. What we can say at this point is that we are out to engineer the best possible contacts for future education elites. After all we have 12 leading European universities sending hand-picked student delegates to the meeting. In our case, most of them come from the social sciences and the life sciences."
This is why it is of such significance for Heidelberg as an academic location to be represented in this select round of European universities. Accordingly, it goes without saying that the International Relations Office and the Centre for Student Counselling and Continuing Education were involved in organising "Bright" alongside the Research Management department of the Central University Administration. This is however unlikely to be uppermost in the minds of the students present in Leyden over the next few days. Their main concern will to be establish contacts with representatives from Cambridge, Leuven, Edinburgh, Milan, Geneva, Munich, Oxford, Helsinki, Stockholm, Strasbourg and, last but not least, Leyden itself.
For further information go to www.bright-europe.org or www.leru.org .
Heiko P. Wacker
Please address any inquiries to
Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 54317