“With ENLIGHT we are shaping the educational landscape of tomorrow”

The University of Bern is a member of the European university alliance ENLIGHT. In this interview, Rector Christian Leumann explains why the University of Bern joined ENLIGHT and what it means for students and staff at the University of Bern.

«Den interkulturellen Kontakt und Austausch erachte ich als so wichtig, dass er in jeder akademischen Ausbildung vorkommen sollte», sagt Christian Leumann, Rektor der Universität Bern.» © Universität Bern
“I think intercultural exchanges are so important that they should be offered by every academic education,” said Christian Leumann, Rector of the University of Bern © University of Bern 
Christian Leumann, despite the exclusion of Switzerland from Horizon Europe and Erasmus+, the University of Bern is intertwined with Europe in a variety of ways: through research projects and networks such as The Guild and ENLIGHT. Why is participation in such networks important?

Today's scientific challenges, whether in medicine, health or climate research, do not stop at geographical borders. Therefore, being part of international networks means we ensure shared access to knowledge and infrastructure.

In the next ten years, university alliances will reshape the educational landscape in Europe. We want to be actively involved in these changes and help define them. I believe they will be the precursor to the third Bologna reform. If we are not involved early on, we run the risk that our education and mobility programs will someday be no longer compatible with those of the EU.

What is the difference between ENLIGHT and The Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities, a network that the University of Bern joined in 2017?

The Guild is a lobbying organization for the interests of European universities, which consists of 21 research-intensive universities. Together, we provide the European Commission and other institutions with inputs to help them shape the European Framework Program for Research and Innovation and make sure they take the views of universities into account in their decisions.

ENLIGHT is an alliance of ten European universities focusing on mobility and exchange. However, it is not solely concerned with exchange programs for students or lecturers. Above all, we are working together to make education fit for the next generation. All ENLIGHT members have similar goals, comparable research priorities and a common understanding of research excellence.

«At ENLIGHT we are working together to make education fit for the next generation.»

Christian Leumann

What is your vision for the education of tomorrow and how can ENLIGHT help to realize it?

Education will probably become more personalized in the future. Maybe there will be fewer subject-specific degrees, such as art history or physics, but more customized courses that we develop in collaboration with scientists.

Of course, a single university cannot do that on its own. I could imagine building within ENLIGHT a virtual eleventh university, so to speak, which will bring together the best elements of all ten partner universities.

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The image film of the European University Alliance ENLIGHT

You mentioned making education fit for the next generation. What will student exchanges and teaching within ENLIGHT look like?

Within ENLIGHT we create opportunities that go well beyond what we have done in the past. We are no longer talking about just doing an exchange semester at a single university, as with the SEMP program, but about networked cooperation to create innovative forms of mobility. This includes virtual forms of mobility.

I could also imagine launching specialized master's degrees in collaboration with other member universities of ENLIGHT. We could create high-quality programs by leveraging the diversity of subjects offered by different ENLIGHT universities.

«I could imagine building within ENLIGHT a virtual eleventh university, so to speak, which will bring together the best elements of all ten partner universities.»

Christian Leumann

How will students benefit from the ENLIGHT membership of the University of Bern?

A significant benefit for students arises through intercultural contact and exchange. I think this is so important that it should be offered by every academic education.

ENLIGHT will energize the courses we currently offer and contribute to the development of new ones. Students will benefit from a broad range of competencies because we will be able to offer classes and degree programs that were jointly created by ten universities. ENLIGHT also gives students more certainty that they will be able to obtain credits for the classes they have completed at other member universities.

ENLIGHT ist eine europäische Hochschulallianz aus zehn Universitäten mit rund 325'000 Studierenden, 65'000 Mitarbeitenden und über einer Million Alumni und Alumnae. © ENLIGHT
ENLIGHT is a European University alliance of ten universities, with approximately 325,000 students, 65,000 employees, and over one million alumni. © ENLIGHT
How will researchers benefit from the ENLIGHT membership of the University of Bern?

Initially, the European university alliances were focused exclusively on teaching. During discussions about the successor program to Horizon Europe, universities have expressed a desire to include a research component in the alliances.

On a master’s level, student mobility also benefits research cooperation. If such projects result in doctoral research, students and researchers will both benefit from an exchange within ENLIGHT.

«Fundamentally, universities are all kindred spirits.»

Christian Leumann

How will staff benefit from the ENLIGHT membership of the University of Bern?

In ENLIGHT there are not only networks for students and lecturers but also on an administrative and managerial level. Through these networks we will be able to develop joint exchanges and study opportunities. I am thinking here particularly but not exclusively about the Vice-Rectorates of Teaching and Development.

Fundamentally, universities are all kindred spirits: we have the same understanding of scientific integrity and a similar understanding of excellence in science and teaching. Yet, until now, we have underutilized our commonalities. With ENLIGHT, we are now collectively harnessing the potential of ten universities, which will create lots of exciting new opportunities.


ENLIGHT is a European University alliance of ten comprehensive, research-intensive universities, with approximately 325,000 students, 65,000 employees, and over one million alumni. The alliance consists of the universities Ghent (Belgium), Tartu (Estonia), Bordeaux (France), Göttingen (Germany), Galway (Ireland), Groningen (Netherlands), Uppsala (Sweden), Bratislava (Slovakia), Basque Country (Spain) and since December 2022 includes Bern (Switzerland) as associated member. Together, they develop flexible international forms of exchanges in research and teaching; in the long term, ENLIGHT members strive for common curricula and degrees. ENLIGHT focuses on societal challenges in the following areas: health and well-being, digital revolution and impact of digitization, climate change, energy transition and circular economy, equity, culture and creativity. The acronym ENLIGHT was derived from European university Network to promote equitable quality of Life, sustaInability and Global engagement through Higher education Transformation.

European University alliances

The European University alliances are an important part of the European Strategy for Universities and of Erasmus+ (2021-2027). The alliances are seen by the European Commission as the "universities of the future". The European Union funds 44 European University Alliances, comprising 340 universities in 31 countries. Each alliance formulates a long-term strategy with the aim of creating a “European inter-university campus”. In addition to universities, they also include 1,300 partner organizations, such as non-governmental organizations, companies, regional and city governments. Since 2022, Swiss universities have been able to participate in European University alliances as “associated partners” for the first time. The State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) supports the participation of Swiss universities in Erasmus+ via Movetia, the Swiss agency for exchanges and mobility. In addition to the University of Bern, the Universities of Basel, Geneva, Lausanne and Zurich have also joined different alliances.

The Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities

The University of Bern has been a member of The Guild since 2017. The network comprises 21 research-intensive universities from 16 European countries, including six ENLIGHT members. The aim of The Guild is to strengthen the voice of academic institutions and contribute to shaping European research and education policies. Since its foundation in 2016, The Guild has established itself as a trusted interlocutor of policymakers in Brussels. Members of the European Commission reach out to The Guild for the expertise of its researchers and staff. In this way, member universities make their voices heard by policymakers at the EU institutions and learn about the latest developments from Brussels at an early stage. The Guild has been actively advocating for Switzerland's participation in Horizon Europe since 2018, both directly in discussions with the European Commission and in its outreach activities.

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