About the Author

Micah Roediger

Micah D. Roediger is a PhD candidate in the Virginia Tech Psychology department concentrating in industrial and organizational psychology. He received his BA degree in psychology from Ohio University in 2013 and a MS in industrial and organizational psychology in 2015. An interest in improving the workforce by optimizing the corporate safety culture, training programs, and employee development practices inspired Micah to pursue an advanced degree.More about Micah ...

What makes Eucor special is the commitment of all the member universities to work together to provide the best end result to students. At face value, Eucor may not seem that special, but it provides a unique level of cooperation for all the universities involved.Micah

“Competition has been shown to be useful up to a certain point and no further, but cooperation, which is the thing we must strive for today, begins where competition leaves off.”
~ Franklin D. Roosevelt

Typical University in the United States:

When an individual thinks of a university in the United States, a clear picture likely comes to mind. Many people will think of the campus, the class rooms, the students, and the faculty. Considering each individual has different experiences with universities, the distinct aspects of a university will not be the same for everyone. After all, some individuals have attended large universities, others attended smaller universities, and some individuals did not have the opportunity to attend a university and rely on exemplars from the media. Despite these differences, common themes can still be seen between in the majority of university impressions.

When generally thinking about the United States campus, it is an arrangement of buildings each with a unique purpose. One building might be the home of the engineering department, while another for the psychology department, and another houses the math department. For some of the smaller campuses, cohabitation between similar departments might exist. For example, physics and chemistry may be in the same building because there isn’t enough space for each to have their own building. In addition to the buildings full of classrooms and faculty offices, there will be spaces for exercising, studying, and relaxing spread around campus.. These buildings, in conjunction, create the image of a university based on individual experience.

One of the aims of a university is to disseminate knowledge. This often occurs in the form of instructors teaching students in standard classrooms. These classrooms have desks arranged in rows, where each student sits in their own desk. Very little room is available for movement of students. The movement restrictions are not limited to students, instructors are often tied close to teaching tools near the front of the room.

Within these classrooms, courses are often taught by a single instructor providing a lecture to the students. Each student diligently takes notes on everything in the lecture, hoping to have enough information to pass the exam(s). Students are focused on learning information for the exam due to the exam(s) being a large portion of their grade. In principle, exams and grades are believed to measure student learning from the course.

Universities promote competition:

It is unfortunate, but university classrooms in the United States promote a great deal of competition. As described above, classes are often predominately lectures where students are the receivers of knowledge and the instructor is the provider of knowledge. It seems obvious, but this provides a basis for students working alone. Each lecture, students come and take their own notes- leaving discussion at the door. Each student focuses on taking good notes for themselves because it might give an advantage during the exam. Sadly, instructors often follow the lecture format so closely, students don’t get asked to participate in group work very often; despite the aim of universities to prepare students for the real world, in which it is likely they will be working in teams on a daily basis.

At the end of the course, each student receives a grade. This is supposed to be a representation of their learning and achievement from the course. However, striving for an individualized achievement further fosters competition. In fact, some courses provide relative grades, where a certain percent of students receive each letter grade. In this instance, each student is pitted against all of their other peers, jockeying for a position at the top of the scale to receive top marks at the end. In the worst case scenarios, students will deliberately sabotage each other and commonly refuse to provide assistance to other students that are struggling. Focusing so much on the grade, the importance of learning is left behind.

When students graduate with their hard earned grade point average, they take what they have learned from the university with them into the real world. Not only do they take the knowledge, skills, and abilities they learn during their time, they take with them the perception of a “dog eat dog world”, one where they must be selfish and competitive to succeed.

Universities promote competition at the individual level (student), but also promote competition at the university level. University rankings, where universities are compared on all aspects, contribute to the competitive nature between universities. Rankings often drive job prospects for graduates due to the prestige associated with top ranked universities, and over time universities build networks of alumni that provide even more opportunities for graduates. University rankings and prestige play important roles in faculty and students desire to be associated with a university. It is extremely beneficial for universities to attract top talent in desired areas because it allows for sharing of interesting ideas and strong collaboration. However, this can limit student access to the best teachers, especially since many universities are well known for a select few areas of expertise and students often change majors during their collegiate career.

As an example, think about a bright young student, Norman, who believes he wants to attend college to study journalism. This student searches through many universities trying to find the best one. After many hours of research Norman narrows his list of top schools with Ohio University as his top choice. Although a relatively unknown school compared to many institutions (e.g., Yale), Ohio University’s Scripps school of journalism is consistently ranked as a top journalism program. During Norman’s first semester he took a few biology classes and decided he wanted to switch from journalism to pre-med. Unfortunately for Norman, Ohio University is not well known for their pre-med programs, and his post graduation prospects will be much lower. The nature of universities has put our bright student in an unfortunate circumstance. This example also illustrates a quote by Franklin D Roosevelt, “Competition is limiting. Cooperation is necessary to combine individual strengths to provide the best end product”.

Eucor – European Campus:

The typical European University might not be identical to counterparts in the United States, but they share many similarities, including the description above of United States universities. Yet, a new development has begun taking shape, a group of universities working together to provide their students with even more opportunities. Located on the Upper Rhine, these universities have decided to build a communal campus that allows students to become affiliated with a “European Campus” (Eucor) instead of a single university. Students of the new campus have full access to five prestigious universities.

There is still a bit more bureaucracy and red tape for students to go through, with the concept still being very new. For now, students are primarily associated with a “home” university and can request courses from the other four universities be accepted for their degree. Students can also pursue degrees with support from multiple universities and receive dual or triple degree assignment from participating universities. The theme inspiring Eucor is mobility, which is why students are encouraged to take advantage of multiple universities during their course of study. Eucor also offers free transportation between the universities to increase student mobility. The five universities are all located within about a 120 mile radius making the trip easy by train for perspective students.

What makes Eucor special is the commitment of all the member universities to work together to provide the best end result to students. At face value, Eucor may not seem that special, but it provides a unique level of cooperation for all the universities involved. More specifically, the universities have the ability to create joint appointments for high ranking faculty. This allows for more students to receive access to the best teachers in their area. Additionally, this permits the Eucor universities to become stronger in more areas than their typical funding would allow, further providing top tier teachers to their students.

The appointment of great faculty will not change the competitive nature taught to students on its own. Rather, it provides the best teachers to more students and allows for further collaboration between the five universities. Part of the mission of Eucor is to promote the design and implementation of new teaching methods. Having a strong core of talented faculty members gives each of these universities a basis for implementing the most current teaching methods, which can aid in reducing the competitive nature often promoted by university courses. This can be seen in the implementation of more cooperative learning strategies- including problem based learning. Problem based learning is thought of as a pedagogical strategy that teaches students through open ended problems. These problems allow students to learn both content knowledge as well as problem solving strategies, while often working in groups. Problem based learning is only one example of many pedagogical strategies that are starting to become more popular in higher education.

Eucor provides an interesting strategy1 for higher education to take a look at. Universities across the globe should begin to form close knit strategic partnerships to offer dual degrees and provide more resources to their students. In this case, the proximity of the Eucor universities make travel to physical classes a reality for students of multiple campuses. As such, it would not be realistic to expect every university in Europe to follow the same practice and join together to be one European University. Nor would it be realistic to expect all universities in the United States to join together, but there are opportunities for parts of this to become reality. One interesting location for an initial test would be Boston where Harvard, MIT, and other high ranking universities are located within a very small radius. This could allow students in the universities to start experiencing a new wave of higher education one that provides students with a new perspective on the power of cooperation.