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EUNITE (European Universities Network for IT in Education) was initiated in October 2000 by a joint effort of EuroPACE 2000 and the Coimbra Group, following the VirtUE (Virtual University for Europe) project (Ten Telecom) recommendations. It was a strategic alliance between the following universities: Aalborg Universitet (Denmark); Universidad de Granada (Spain); FernUniversität in Hagen (Germany); Teknillinen Korkeakoulu (Helsinki University of Technology) (Finland); Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Belgium); Lunds Universitet (Sweden); University of Strathclyde (Scotland - Great Britain) and Universiteit Twente (The Netherlands). For various reasons, Lunds Universitet and Universiteit Twente left the network after some years, whereas the remaining universities narrowed the original objectives and activities towards virtual mobility.

Original objectives and activities

EUNITE was aimed at the implementation of ICT in teaching and learning through the creation of a co-operative network of universities with the objective to provide a wide range of ICT supported offerings in teaching and learning: a “European Virtual Campus” (EVC). The EVC should be used for exchange of courses, sharing of courses and joint development of programmes and courses.

Its general goals were:

- to promote the use of ICT as tools for improving teaching and learning in higher education,

- to capture the market for life-long learning on a university level,

- to enhance and develop the co-operation of the EUNITE universities in these fields.

In achieving these goals EUNITE wanted to develop the following opportunities for co-operation:

- the innovation potential of ICT for on-campus higher education,

- new ways for open and distance learning,

- the internationalisation of learning programmes,

- enhanced inter-university networking in the provision of courses and programmes/curricula, and the production of learning materials.

Virtual Erasmus

The idea of a “European Virtual Campus” gradually became the most important objective and with the increasing popularity of the Erasmus mobility scheme in Europe, it was focused on “virtual Erasmus”, which was defined as “an exchange scheme between universities that enables virtual attendance to courses in another university than the one the student is residing in. Like in the physical Erasmus exchange programme, these courses become an accepted part of the student’s degree programme”. (see EUNITE Background document for the Working Group on Virtual Erasmus)

Virtual mobility can offer a – financially affordable - enlargement of the (physical) Erasmus mobility scheme as students take “virtual” courses (eventually even full programmes) in a partner university. But it can also make the physical mobility scheme more effective by offering “virtual” preparation or follow-up courses in the guest university of the student’s Erasmus mobility programme, or providing virtual access to courses in the student’s home university, while on physical Erasmus. Through participation in the cEVU and REVE projects (eLearning), EUNITE could build up expertise and develop tools for the purpose.

Closing down of the network

In Autumn 2008, the EUNITE Steering Committee concluded during an evaluation meeting that the period of study, development of tools and experimentation/piloting with virtual Erasmus should be exchanged for full implementation in Europe’s mainstream higher education at large. It was however at the same time concluded that a small network such as EUNITE had neither the scope, the organisational capacities and facilities, nor the financial strength to realise such transition. It was therefore decided to close down the network, offer its findings and tools to the European academic world and continue the promotion and concrete activities in the larger framework of existing academic networks in which the EUNITE partner universities are involved.

Findings and tools

Useful findings and tools to prepare and effectively run the Virtual Erasmus courses within a network, are provided in the following documents:

- EUNITE Memorandum of Understanding: document, signed by the Rectors (Principal) at the creation of the Strategic Alliance, in which the general goals, governance and support structure, tasks of the various working groups is described.

- EUNITE Project Management Committee Working Document: document that describes scope and remit of the Pedagogical, Technical and IPR support Working Groups, the steps in the EUNITE course development and delivery procedures and in the EUNITE Virtual Erasmus implementation, including flowcharts and templates.

- EUNITE Consortium Agreement: binding agreement that specifies and describes the policies and procedures for the provision of courses under the terms and conditions, rights and obligations defined within the document.

- EUNITE Background document for the Virtual Erasmus Working Group: intended to provide the Working Group members with the ideas of the EUNITE Steering and Project Management Committees on the topic as basis for the Working Group activities.

- EUNITE Final Recommendations: letter sent to the national representatives in the Bologna Follow-up Group of the EUNITE partner universities

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