"The internationalisation of universities cannot be stopped. If you want to compete for funding or projects, you need to have partners in different countries", says Philippe Benassi, International Relations Manager at EURECOM, a French graduate school and research centre in digital science. EURECOM is a new partner of the EIT Digital Master School, offering programmes in Autonomous Systems and Cyber Security.
EURECOM has been asked by EIT Digital Master School to become one of the 18 top universities to offer EIT Digital Master School Programmes. EURECOM did not have to think twice on the offer, says Benassi. "We want to create more high-level partnerships plus we are very interested in the recruitment of excellent students. We know that EIT Digital is a security to us to get proposed outstanding students. Hence, it felt very natural to say yes to EIT Digital."
The EURECOM concept is unique in France. It is a graduate school and research centre set up in 1991 as a consortium of private companies and seven international universities, including the Technische Universität München, the Politecnico of Turin, Chalmers University, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Czech technical university in Prague and Aalto in Finland, which is also an EIT Digital Partner. It is part of the Institute Mines-Télécom, a group of French engineering and management graduate schools, and a founding member of the SophiaTech Campus in Sophia Antipolis. EURECOM is organised around the areas of digital security, communications systems and data science.
Being this consortium itself, is a big advantage for EURECOM in the EIT Digital Master School offering, according to Benassi. "We have very important companies in our consortium, like Symantec, SAP, BMW, IABG, Orange and Monaco Telecom. We facilitate education at a crossing point between education, research and industry. We can be valuable to EIT Digital because we're rooted in industry and work with the industry on projects such as self-driving vehicles, security systems and so on. This is a model that is interesting for the future and fits the philosophy of the EIT Digital Master School. Besides, we already have a Masters and Post Masters in Digital Security, and the Autonomous Systems programme fits perfectly into our curriculum. So, we have expertise in teaching these programmes."
Benassi believes working together in European partnerships is the future for universities. "Internationalisation of universities is a movement that cannot be stopped. If you want to compete for funding or projects, you need to have partners in different countries. Working together with EIT Digital is therefore fruitful. Universities cannot work on their own anymore. That is history. In our case, 70 percent of our students and professors come from abroad. From a sociological point of view, this evolution is very interesting. The different nationalities influence the outcomes of working projects. Everybody brings something different to the table. An example: we've seen that some nationalities stimulate the rest of the students to strive for the best grades. That is interesting stuff."
EURECOM is already a partner for EIT Digital Innovation Activities and it hosted one of the EIT Digital Summer Schools in 2017 as well. From the upcoming academic year, it will also be an academic partner in the EIT Digital Master School. According to the terms of the partner agreement, EURECOM will be a so-called exit university for EIT Digital's Cyber Security Masters from as early as September 2018, and, in September 2019, for the Autonomous Systems Masters. This means students can currently do only the second year of the EIT Digital masters at EURECOM. For now. The first year students can go to the EIT Digital partner universities. Benassi hints at a much broader cooperation in the future. "This is our first step into the EIT Digital Master School Programme. We are a human-sized university, with only 300 master and 65 PhD students, and 25 international renowned professors, so we need to see how we can manage the double degree programme with our European partners. If it works well, we are open to becoming also an entry university for these subject areas in the coming years."
EIT Digital Master School
Students within the EIT Digital Master School study for two years in one of eight technical programmes. During that time, they become immersed in innovative and entrepreneurial thinking, as well as technical knowledge. They study at two different European universities, the first year at an entry university and the second year at an exit university. Upon successful completion they receive a double degree and a certificate from the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT).
One of the programmes EURECOM offers is the EIT Digital Cyber Security Masters degree leading to the title of Masters in Digital Security. Computer security is in the DNA of EURECOM, says Benassi, since the school offers already a masters in digital security for more than a decade.
The students who enrol in the second year of the EURECOM masters, will specialise in Mobile and Cloud Security. "Students try to detect and analyse the security problems, such as malware, that companies face, and find solutions. Cyber Security is an emerging area." Students can do their first year of their two-year masters at the universities of Rennes 1, Trento, Turku or Twente.
Autonomous Systems is a completely new programme for both the EIT Digital Master School and EURECOM. The reason to set up the Autonomous Systems programme within the EIT Digital Master School is the future need for skills that students will need to foster the digital transformation of industry, explained Professor Petri Vuorimaa from the Aalto University in Finland and initiator of the Autonomous Systems programme. Students who follow this track have promising career foresights because of the new business opportunities the subject offers, as Benassi also sees in his partner network. "Autonomous systems are relevant, for example, in manufacturing, logistics, shipping, mining, and recycling industries. In addition, autonomous software systems are widely spreading in application areas, such as media, finance, customer service, and for example healthcare. Our students can easily get a six months internship to conclude the master thesis at one of the outstanding worldwide operating partners in our portfolio and of whom a large portion are also EIT Digital partners."
The students can start this programme in 2018 at Aalto University, the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, the Technische Universität in Berlin or at the University of Trento and finish it in their second year amongst others at EURECOM.
Benassi thinks EURECOM holds good cards for students to choose it as exit university for the Cyber Security or Autonomous Systems programmes. Besides its location in the sunny south of France close to Nice, the Mediterranean Sea and the surrounding mountains, the institute is also situated in the middle of the "largest technology park in Europe", Sophia Antipolis, where science, innovation, business, and research come together. "This means we are so very close to potential internships and good jobs for students. Every year, we have more offers than we have students. We can guarantee interesting posts for internships and jobs."