Author: Anna Klas

Goofy Meals wins the Aurora #impaktWISE Award

The winner of the 2022 Aurora #impactWise Awards is Goofy Meals. Goofy Meals impressed the judges with their affordable, healthy, convenient home-cooked meals made from imperfect and surplus vegetables and fruits. Their winning pitch resulted in first place and a 20.000 DKK (almost € 2.700) financial contribution. Impact Artists and BeeHome took second place.

#impactWISE Awards

The #impactWISE Awards ceremony was held online on October 4th, connecting people from all over the world who shared a passion for social entrepreneurship. Many of the participating teams had students from Aurora partner universities.

The #impaktWISE Awards, founded by Copenhagen Business School (CBS) in the autumn of 2020, is a competition aiming to shed light on creative and innovative social business model ideas and is aimed at students and early-stage social entrepreneurs.

The awards are split into two categories: the ideation award and the pitch award. Winning projects of the ideation award receive a certificate and further support from the #impaktWISE team, whereas first-place pitch project awardees take home €2500 (with runners-up receiving €600).

Second place

Impact Artists and BeeHome came in second. Impact Artists aim to create awareness and open discussion regarding menstruation through art in India. BeeHome helps parents find care for their children and promotes bonds between daycare providers and families. All three winning projects were created by students enrolled in Aurora member universities.

The next #impaktWISE awards will take place in Autumn 2023. For more information, please follow:

Student involvement crucial in creating a better tomorrow

Cooperation between Aurora universities offers students a variety of exciting ways to gain international experiences as part of their studies and the skills, knowledge, and drive to become social entrepreneurs and leaders. Aurora universities place great emphasis on students’ voices influencing Aurora’s policies, projects, and innovation endeavours. Furthermore, by participating, students have an opportunity to influence higher education in the Future, enhance their professional skills and participate in international collaboration.

Alma Ágústsdóttir, international officer at the University of Iceland’s Student Council, and president of the Aurora Student Council, says that Aurora is a unique opportunity for students. “Through their participation, students are directly involved in international cooperation and policy-making, develop skills that are in high demand by employers and have the opportunity to work with students from other universities and participate in Aurora events here in Iceland and abroad.”

Alma says that Aurora has made great strides in the past three years and a lot has been achieved. “To name a couple of standouts, creating the student handbook is a particular highlight for me. It was a collaborative effort of the entire Aurora student council, and I am very proud of both the process of creation and the final result,” says Alma who believes this work will help get students acquainted with the work of Aurora for years to come.

Collaboration is key

The design thinking Jam in Tarragona that took place in November of last year also warrants a mention. Seeing students gather around a common goal, work on identifying problem areas, and co-creating solutions over the course of three days was an incredible experience that was not only massively beneficial for those who took part in it but ultimately helped us work towards better and more accessible mobility opportunities for all students,” says Alma on the importance of collaboration within the Aurora universities.

She adds, “I can’t wait to see where the work will lead us next, and I have complete faith that Aurora will continue to bring about positive change in the field of higher education,”, dedicated to presenting students’ vision for the Future and improving their experience of higher education and enable more students to take part of their studies abroad.

A video with Alma made for the Autumn Virtual Aurora Biannual held 9 – 10 November on Sustainable Resources and Mobility in Europe:

Pairing scientific excellence with social awareness and responsibility

Aurora universities share a commitment to social relevance and excellence in research. Aurora RI was created to build a platform to maximise Aurora’s research and innovation for societal impact. This means working together towards excellence in research with coordinated research support.

We want researchers and scientists in Aurora:

  • to have an easy time collaborating with one another:
    • Get assistance finding grants
    • Share resources and equipment
    • travel to meet one another
  • to be evaluated fairly with a wider criteria
  • to connect with citizens
  • to have a positive impact on society

To accomplish this, we focus on the administrative hurdles researchers face; the “computer says no” problems. This means building stronger bridges between administrative staff and researchers, academics, and scientists. The people who work in HR, research support services, grants offices, IT, international offices, rectorates, and communications are coming together to work on changing policies, identifying areas where collaboration is easy and also areas where cooperation is tricky, and working on productive solutions.

Collaboration is key

Auður Inga Rúnarsdóttir is one of those people, as she is the project manager of Aurora Research and Innovation. According to her, collaboration is key to changing the world of academia. “We can make academia fairer, evaluating researchers based on wider criteria, for example, not focusing only on the number of publications but also other factors. We make sure that research is societally relevant and in line with the SDGs,” she points out.

The final goal is to develop a shared support plan for research and innovation where all the universities agree on joint next steps and what changes need to be made. “We work on open science policies, open access to data and publications. This allows researchers to use information that may otherwise not be available to them or blocked by a paywall. Institutions must choose which paywalls to break, and the selection is always imperfect. Wealthier institutions can grant more access, fostering inequality in academia,” says Auður on the importance of the project.

Where do we stand now?

This is a three-year project, and we are one year in. The first year was focused on mapping, gathering information about policies, methods used for outreach, research support, best practices in HR, and citizen engagement. Entrepreneurial activities were analysed to set up plans for communicating and disseminating the work.

We have created a database for infrastructure and resources and are currently working on how to share it. In three years’ time, we will have action plans in place in multiple areas (HR, research support, entrepreneurial activities) as well as new structures for effective cooperation between science and society, thus pairing scientific excellence with social awareness and responsibility,” concludes Auður on Aurora’s dedication to develop platforms for academic collaboration and in the process, hopefully, making academia greener, fairer, and better for all.

A video with Auður Inga made for the Autumn Virtual Aurora Biannual held 9 – 10 November on Sustainable Resources and Mobility in Europe:

LOUIS Training Sessions at Palacký University Olomouc

On Wednesday, October 12th 2022, Palacký University Olomouc hosted an Aurora LOUIS Workshop to help its academics further develop the quality of their courses by focusing on the societal impact of the learning outcomes.

The workshop, hosted by Kees Kouwenaar, aimed to equip the participants with the knowledge and skills necessary for implementing LOUIS into their classes, allowing them to project, design and innovate their own courses.

Following the “Train the Trainers” principle, the participants are currently preparing to train others in their faculty using the LOUIS tool. Three of such faculty pieces of training are already scheduled to take place, with several others currently being planned.

Pilot Domain “Sustainability & Climate Change” bears first fruits

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” this well-known quote highly resonates with the current transdisciplinary educational programme Sustainability & Climate Change, as it makes headway within the Aurora Alliance at Universität Innsbruck. The goal is to create an innovative, transdisciplinary educational joint program dealing with sustainability and climate change in a holistic way.

Christina Raab is an active member of the Pilot Domain Sustainability and Climate Change and is also Deputy Head of the Aurora European Universities Alliance Office at Innsbruck. When not working on all things Aurora and sustainability, she works at the Office for the Bologna Process & Teaching Development. Although the ongoing process has many stumbling blocks, Teaching Development is very dear to Christina.

As part of my job, I have the privilege of developing new, innovative courses with colleagues and academics. For me, it is always important and very helpful that Aurora pays attention to learning outcomes and student-centredness and that I can accompany and monitor this focus with suitable tools”.

The biggest goal for Christina and the Pilot Domain Sustainability and Climate Change members is to create an innovative, transdisciplinary educational joint program dealing with sustainability and climate change in a holistic way — one that considers both ecological and economic concerns. Additionally, this programme will be designed to address complex societal problems in various ecosystems. With this in mind, students will need to learn skills and develop mindsets that enable them to take responsibility for their work and life and become engaged civilians who tackle societal and environmental problems.

Sustainability and Climate Change Joint Programme

The desired mission is going to be fulfilled soon. The Sustainability & Climate Change transdisciplinary educational programme will be open to all Aurora Master students of all disciplinary backgrounds, accounting for 30 ECTS credits. It is jointly created by the Aurora European Universities Alliance.

Christina and her team members have opened Aurora courses at Universität Innsbruck so that students from all partner universities can participate online, on-site or through short-term mobility. Two of these courses form the 10 ECTS credit micro-credential “Sustainability & Climate Change”, developed by the same name’s pilot domain. This is the first micro-credential offered by both Universität Innsbruck and Aurora Universities. Students who successfully complete the micro-credential “Sustainability & Climate Change” receive a digital certificate from Aurora (issued by Universität Innsbruck). These students will have had a learning experience, enabling them to act as social entrepreneurs and innovators, willing and able to take responsibility. With this micro-credential, Aurora students gain an understanding of how their scientific and educational background can be applied in a transdisciplinary and challenge-based way to solve societal challenges. Students also learn to work effectively with other members from diverse, multicultural backgrounds within international teams.

With such a fantastic milestone and achievement in sight, Christina Raab said: “I would like to extend my thanks to all members of the groups for their efforts and dedication over the last year—especially those in Pilot Domain ‘Sustainability & Climate Change and Borderless Learning Group. We are grateful!”

Aurora receives excellent feedback on MTR

Aurora is proud to announce that it received a glowing review from the European Commission on its midterm report for the Aurora European University Alliance.
The commission praised the Alliance for making significant progress across all work packages, reaching nearly every milestone resulting in significant immediate or potential impact. The report reads:

“This alliance has made remarkable progress and can serve as a model of what is possible to achieve as an alliance. This alliance is clearly driving innovation across all partner institutions and collectively as an alliance.”

The Aurora European University Alliance was established with the aim of advancing education and research within Europe. It is made up of 10 universities based in 10 European countries, and it strives to support our teachers in equipping their students with the skills and mindset needed for our graduates to thrive in a rapidly changing society and labour market and to turn them into social entrepreneurs and innovators, willing and able to contribute to solving the major challenges of our societies.

Since its inception in 2020, the Alliance has achieved several milestones, including joint courses across all four of our pilot domains, a pool of Aurora mentors for doctoral candidates, an Aurora certification for courses, the SDG Research Dashboard, which demonstrates how research at our universities done in the field of SDGs is picked up by policymakers; the Aurora Sustainable Campus plan, several experts and support centres, and much more.

Professor Mirjam van Praag, President of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, lead university of the Alliance, said:

“I could not be prouder of the progress that the Aurora Alliance has made and all the staff members who have worked hard to make it happen. We look forward to continuing our work together and providing more opportunities for students, academics, and university staff. I am confident that the Alliance will continue to grow and deliver on our promises.”

Professor Jón Atli Benediktsson, President of the University of Iceland and President of Aurora

“All Alliance partners have worked hard and put their best foot forward. Many thanks to the entire Aurora community for their dedication. This evaluation validates the path we’ve taken and will inspire everyone involved in Aurora to keep going in the coming years.”


Aurora is getting ready for the future

On the 9th and 10th of November, the Aurora virtual Biannual took place, hosted by the University of Duisburg-Essen. Barbara Albert, Rector of the University of Duisburg-Essen, and Jon Ali Benediktsson, Aurora President and the Rector University of Iceland,  welcomed the participants, encouraging them to choose sustainability above all else.

Rector Barbara Albert said: “Now more than ever, we become aware that the big challenges of humanity like climate crisis, peacebuilding, sustainable energy supply, or migration do not stop at national borders. As director of one of Germany’s ten largest universities, it is my strong belief that international cooperation between ambitious and sustainable-oriented universities can be one of the key drivers of progress when it comes to finding solutions to these major challenges.”

Aurora President Jon Atli Benediktsson emphasised the importance of sustainable travel and inter-university collaboration that results in opportunities for staff, students, and the community at large.

The conference also highlighted the future activities of the Aurora Network. Anne-May Janssen, Aurora Secretary-General, discussed the role of universities being drivers of positive social change and ensuring graduates can affect that change in society. She said that, ” […] the role of universities in affecting that change has become increasingly important and the developments over the past years globally.” She continued with the message that the Aurora Network can help its members fulfil those roles. In order to do that, the Aurora Network will focus its work on the following activities:

  • Setting the agenda on the topics that our members want to prioritise
  • Aurora as an environment for our members to share best practices and openly, and in confidence, discuss hurdles
  • Advocacy and engagement with stakeholders on the EU level
  • Safeguarding our partnerships by keeping the long-term vision in mind
  • Sourcing new funding opportunities for our members
  • Reaching out to the global community and learning from future members beyond Europe.

In the Back to the Future of the Aurora Alliance session, Sabine Allain Sainte-Rose shared key results of the various work packages and task teams. Some of them included:

  • Co-Creation brought together 400 academics and opened 70 co-creation and service-learning courses for all Aurora partners this resulted in a total of 1800 students enrolled.
  • 52 courses offered by the pilot Domains
  • 500+ mobile individuals
  • Aurora academic platform pooled infrastructures + doctoral committee members where 272 researchers signed up from 5 universities in all pilot domains.
  • 1400+ open educational resources have been collected

The Aurora Autumn Virtual Biannual: views on Sustainable Resources and Mobility in Europe

On the 9th and 10th of November the Aurora virtual Biannual took place, hosted by the University of Duisburg-Essen. The theme of the Biannual was: Sustainable Resources and Mobility in Europe. The programme focused primarily on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, with supporting keynotes on mobility and aquatic ecosystems.

The first keynote by Florian Freitag of the University of Duisburg-Essen and Salvador Clave of Universitat Rovira i Virgili, addressed how we need to move towards sustainable tourism and highlighted how the pandemic had changed the view of travel towards a more sustainable approach to lessen the carbon dioxide emissions. The second keynote by Professor Bernd Sures of the University of Duisburg-Essen, explored the vast wealth and utility of water—as well as its scarcity. Professor Sures, an aquatic ecologist, found that future population growth, urban expansion and pollution are likely to create growing demands on water supplies. He said, “[…] it is imperative we begin discussing how to distribute scarce water resources.

During the coffee breaks, the programme featured interviews with Academy in Exile artist Diren Demir who showcased two of their artworks, Map of the Seas and Calling back Nature. The Map of the Seas was produced especially for the biannual to support the theme of sustainability. In addition, Sara Mardini, a refugee from Syria, spoke on the criminalization of refugee aid and her own experience making that journey.


Aurora Duisburg-Essen Virtual Biannual

In less than a month, the Aurora community will gather virtually for our Autumn Biannual, hosted by the University of Duisburg-Essen.

The program looks to the future of Aurora and premiers research on sustainable futures for our planet. Expect short keynotes on clean water, sustainable tourism, and breaks filled with art, music and accounts of refugee routes by scholars- and artists-at-risk in the UDE Academy in Exile.

Register here to attend the biannual.

Click here to access the programme and biographies of speakers.





Aurora strengthens bonds with the University of Minnesota

New opportunities will emerge at the Aurora universities with increased participation of the University of Minnesota (UMN) in the network. Jón Atli Benediktsson, rector of the University of Iceland and President of Aurora Network, and Joan T.A. Gabel signed an agreement pertaining to increased collaboration with the Aurora Network to explore new ways for UMN to participate in the network. UMN brings a strong international presence into the European network, adding further to the network’s unique position and thus strengthening the collaboration.

Aurora is a network of ten European research-intensive universities with high research impact, united by a shared commitment to social relevance and a diverse student body. The Network incorporates the Sustainable Development Goals in all its work and emphasises social responsibility and student participation.

In Jón Atli’s address at the signing of the declaration of intent in Minneapolis last week, he talked about the goal of the Aurora collaboration in strengthening education, teaching, research, and innovation at all the network universities. This would be done in line with rapid societal changes.

Jón Atli also mentioned that Aurora created a platform for all the universities involved to further contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. He also stressed that the University of Minnesota would be an excellent addition in that regard, as it has a strong focus on the SDGs. It would thus be an important gain for the network to add to the American university.

“The University of Minnesota is a prestigious, broad and dynamic research university. Their approach and emphasis on the same issues as Aurora has focused on will strengthen the foundation of the entire collaboration,” said Jón Atli, on the impact of the entry of the University of Minnesota into the network.

The University of Minnesota is one of the most dynamic universities in the United States and among the best worldwide. Founded in 1851, it currently has over 60 thousand students on several campuses in the state of Minnesota. The largest one is in the twin cities Minneapolis-St. Paul.  The University is a comprehensive research university and is ranked number 86 on the Times Higher Education list of the best universities in the world. It was announced just last week that the University of Minnesota is placed in seat 23 of all the public universities in the United States on a special list published by U.S. News and World Report, which is the highest it has been ranked in over a decade.

Fundamental changes in Aurora

The University of Iceland has been leading in the Aurora collaboration for a while now, with Jón Atli as President. The Aurora Network has grown considerably since 2020, when it was chosen as one of the European University Alliances, receiving a substantial grant from the European Union.  European university networks are one of the European Union’s main emphases in the field of higher education with a view to strengthening European universities, increasing their collaboration, and making them more competitive on the global stage.

“There have been considerable changes within Aurora, especially after the European Union launched the European Universities Initiative. European university networks are a focal point of the EU’s strategy in higher education, and their goal is to strengthen all European Universities. Aurora received a grant from the European Union in 2020, and since then, new European universities have joined the network. There are currently ten universities, with the latest one, Paris-Est Creitel in París.  The universities that have joined the collaboration in recent years are the: Copenhagen Business School – CBS (Denmark), the University of Innsbruck (Austria), the University of Naples Federico II (Italy), Palacký University Olomouc (Czech Republic), and Rovira i Virgili University (Spain),” said Jón Atli.

Strengthens core operations in all Aurora universities

The Aurora Network revolves around core university operations in all these universities, benefitting both students and staff. The network is thus a dynamic, collaborative platform creating new and exciting opportunities in pedagogical development and research. “It is, of course, the goal of the Aurora Universities to better equip their staff to effectively integrate societal innovation and sustainability into study programmes and research.”

“By participating in Aurora projects, academics can learn about new teaching methods, grow in their careers and strengthen their international network. The Aurora collaboration creates diverse opportunities for students to have a meaningful international experience as part of their studies at the University of Iceland as well as taking part in their studies at other Aurora universities. The network furthermore empowers them to participate in societal innovation and contribute to building a sustainable society.  The financial support from the European Union has been vital in this regard. Diverse opportunities in student exchanges, joint degrees, dynamic research work, and shared research infrastructure is, and will become, even more, prominent in the universities’ collaboration,” says the University Rector.

A strong network in the future

When asked about the next steps in the collaboration of these dynamic universities, Jón Atli mentions that they are already preparing an application for continued support from the European Union for the next four years.

“This entails more financing than has already been put into the collaboration, which will strengthen the network considerably if the application is approved. This would benefit students and staff at the University of Iceland and all other universities, of course. The point is to create exciting opportunities and strengthen university operations. The participation of the University of Minnesota is crucial to moving forward.


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