Author: Niels Hexspoor

Looking Back at the Aurora Fall Biannual 2023

On October 17th and 18th, Palacký University Olomouc, located in Olomouc, Czechia, hosted the Aurora Fall Biannual 2023. The event served as a unifying platform, bringing together more than 200 participants from 18 universities within the Aurora community and beyond.

The Fall Biannual event centred around reflecting on Aurora’s notable accomplishments as a part of the European Universities initiative. These European developments took centre stage in the plenary sessions and panels:

  1. Aurora Pilot Phase: Aurora Model Alliance?
  2. The impact and role of European Universities on the future of Higher Education in Europe
  3. Alliance Exchange – Balancing Education, Research Innovation and Social Responsibility
  4. Toward student-centred European University Alliances

Rector Tetyana Kaganovska, who was a panel member during the Aurora Model Alliance plenary session, underscored the belief of the Aurora community in Karazin Kharkiv University. This confidence breathed new life into their commitment to advancing online education. The message “our colleagues believe in us” ignites a glimmer of hope, inspiring their community to persevere and celebrate even the smallest triumphs.

Aurora’s commitment to sustainability was also highlighted during the event, with an opening presentation and plenary session dedicated to Aurora’s work on making our community greener and more sustainable.

Collaboration within Aurora was further strengthened by the momentous signing of a Memorandum of understanding on the sharing of research infrastructure, as well as the signing of the second version of the Multilateral Aurora Mobility Agreement (MAMA).







Next to the retrospective of Aurora’s remarkable accomplishments, the Aurora community came together to look forward to the exciting prospects that lie ahead. Participants also engaged in thought-provoking Thematic sessions on prominent Aurora topics such as COIL, the Aurora Competence Framework, and Technology Transfer.  

Want to relive the biannual or catch up on any sessions you missed? You can watch the recordings of the plenary sessions below:

🎥 17/10/2023 –  Day 1

🎥 18/10/2023 –  Day 2

The full photo gallery of the biannual can be downloaded here.

Aurora’s MoU on Sharing Infrastructure and Resources paves the way for research collaboration

Aurora Fall Biannual 2023 witnessed a momentous occasion on October 17th, with the Aurora Research Infrastructure and Resources Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signing. This event marked a significant commitment to research collaboration among thirteen esteemed Aurora universities, including the Aurora Associate partners and Université Paris-Est Créteil.

The purpose of the MoU is twofold. Firstly, it serves as a definitive statement of intent from partner universities to engage in research cooperation, with a specific focus on Aurora’s mission and pilot domains. By doing so, it aims to facilitate seamless access to shared resources for researchers within the alliance. Secondly, these universities aim to fortify their global research standing by working closely together. By promoting international cooperation across a diverse range of research areas, they aspire to exchange research resources and data with fellow research groups.

This collaborative endeavour not only underscores the commitment of Aurora Universities to advance research but also showcases their determination to foster a richer culture of global research collaboration.







For those interested in exploring the MoU in detail, a publicly accessible version is available here. This document showcases the commitment of universities to research collaboration and global knowledge sharing. Access the MoU

Aurora welcomes its universities to contribute their research infrastructure resources. By sharing resources and knowledge, you enrich your institution and engage with a global community of research excellence. Ready to join this collaborative effort? Add your research infrastructure resources here.

Meet Markéta Šemberová, Education Coordinator at Palacký University Olomouc

Markéta Šemberová shared her background, her passion for education and intercultural competences, and her journey studying philology in the Netherlands as a master’s student to obtaining her PhD, which focuses on strengthening intercultural competences in university teachers. She also expanded on her role and responsibilities as Education Coordinator, highlighting her work in supporting education-related activities at Palacký University Olomouc and collaboration with partner universities. Read on for the full interview.

Could you tell us something about yourself?

Markéta: My name is Markéta Šemberová. In January 2023, I started my new role as Aurora Education Coordinator at Palacký University Olomouc. My interest in education, intercultural competencies, and didactics began during my master’s studies in Dutch philology, where I completed a two-year add-on course in education. From there onwards, I pursued postgraduate studies in education and even completed my PhD thesis on developing a model of intercultural competencies for university teachers in the Czech Republic. Before joining the Aurora team, I was a project manager for lifelong learning infrastructure at Palacký University Olomouc. I also continue working as a multicultural and intercultural lecturer, teach preparatory courses for obtaining a language certificate in Dutch, and supervise bachelor and master thesis students.

Could you share something about your role as Education Coordinator?

M: As Education Coordinator, my main task is to support any education-related activities at Palacký University. Therefore, I mainly support the Vice-Rector for Education, local WP3 members, and the Aurorisation processes at Palacký University. In collaboration with our Centre for Excellence in Teaching, I help to prepare, plan and organise courses for academics and staff on developing their competences, such as LOUIS and BEVI training. Together with our Mobility Coordinator, we work on the methodologies of our internal processes for ECTS recognition and accreditation procedures connected to Aurora. I also support joint activities and project proposals between Palacký University Olomouc and our partner universities and engage in internal communications at the university by disseminating Aurora opportunities to staff and students.

There are many developments in the field of Aurora Education Development and Coordination. Could you share some of them?

M: Thanks to my talks with the Educational Developer at the Aurora Central Office in Amsterdam, it was possible to connect with educational developers from other institutions. We established a temporary support group that connects people who work with education at their institution. Recently, we have discussed the quality of the courses offered within the Aurora course catalogue, accreditation processes and obstacles with ECTS recognition. This group is a preparatory group for a future work package 2.5, and we will be more than happy to welcome anyone interested in joining our conversations.

Could you tell us a bit more about the increased role of education developers in the following Aurora proposal?

M: Each institution seems to struggle with different aspects internally, which is logical thanks to different legislation in each country. What could be a problem for Palacký University Olomouc does not necessarily have to be an issue for another partner university. Creating a work package that connects all the educational developers in the next phase enables us to get inspired in solving obstacles, removing barriers, and supporting the full potential of activities that Aurora offers. In the next phase, I look forward to testing out new things and progress that happen at Aurora or Palacký University Olomouc internally. For example, UP is currently developing an infrastructure for micro-credential use, and I cannot wait to support them in this next phase.

Are there any other topics you are currently working on?

M: With Kees Kouwenaar retiring in autumn 2023 and LOUIS being transitioned to Vice-Dean Maxim Tomoszek, I supported this transition and LOUIS at UP. The most recent update is, for example, our plan to organise a series of workshops on LOUIS in autumn 2023 that will be a joint initiative between UP and UDE.

Aurora Creative Writing Workshop in Olomouc

In the end of May, the Aurora Creative Writing Workshop will take place in Olomouc. This creative writing workshop builds on the world-renowned expertise of the University of East Anglia’s Creative Writing Department that launched the careers of many celebrated authors such as Kazuo Ishiguro. Hosted by the Department of English and American Studies of Palacký University Olomouc, the workshop will give you the opportunity to develop your creative writing skills in the charming baroque city of Olomouc.

This five-day creative writing residency, organized between 22 and 26 May, 2023, is open to interested applicants from all Aurora Universities. The program will focus on developing your creative writing skills in English through a series of workshops and collaborative exercises together with other students from across Europe. In the evening, a social program will be organized, and on Friday the 26th you will have the opportunity to participate in the Aurora Student Conference in Olomouc, where you can meet even more students from Aurora Universities.

A more detailed program will be announced soon.

Interested? Check out for more information on how to apply!

Palacký University Staff participated in the Open Science Incubator

Tereza Motalová is the first person from within the Aurora Community to have successfully completed the Open Science Incubator organized by VU Amsterdam. Completion of this Incubator plays a crucial role in the creation and further development of Open Science communities within Aurora, and at Palacký University Olomouc in particular.

Building on the renowned Open Science expertise of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, in the Open Science Incubator Dutch Open Science experts trained the participants in how to set up, develop and manage an Open Science community, over the course of a 12-week programme.

Based on the outcomes of the Open Science Incubator, a comprehensive Open Science Community strategy and action plan were created at UP, pioneering these developments in Czech Higher Education. This led to UP making a concrete plan towards the creation of the Open Science Community Olomouc, which aims is to generate interest form a core group of influencers and engage early career researchers and students informally, through a variety of methods.

According to Tereza, “participating in the Open Science Incubator was a great experience, which will be invaluable in developing Open Science at Palacký University. I look forward to putting everything we learned into practice!”

This development directly contributes to the completion of the activities in Aurora RI WP6, and ties into Aurora’s ambitions for the next phase and the activities of the proposes work package and Research and Open Science.

Aurora’s work on Eastern Partnership presented at ACAs “What’s New in Brussels?” Seminar

On the 2nd and 3rd  of February, Selma Porobic was invited to ACA’s (Academic Cooperation Association) seminar “What’s new in Brussels? – Recent Developments in European Policies and Programmes”  to introduce Aurora’s Capacity Development Support (CDS) programme with special focus on its institutional support to the V.N. Karazin Kharkiv National University in Ukraine.

After two consecutive years online, ACAs flagship seminar “What’s new in Brussels?” was this year organized in-person in Brussels, providing its speakers and participants with the full networking experience and overview of the latest developments regarding the European Higher Education Area in a global perspective.  The 2023 agenda gathered various European Commission representatives as well as a variety of policy advisers and experts in the International Education thus offering a wide range of thematic sessions and panels: from the latest policy developments and priorities such as Diversity and Inclusion, to prospective projects involving the Eastern Partnership, Western Balkans, Sub-Saharan Africa & South Mediterranean.

In her session, “Working with Global Regions – Eastern Partnership“, Selma Porobic shared the results of the Aurora’s unique CDS programme in Central & Eastern Europe, and how it was transformed into a  tailor-made support scheme to address the needs of the war-affected Aurora associate partner, V.N. Karazin Kharkiv National University.  Since  March 2022, as Ukraine Support  Coordinator in Aurora, and in a close collaboration with Karazin’s leadership, she has been fully managing the emergency response as well as designing and implementing the long-term, systemic and institutional support for this partner university in Ukraine.

In this panel, Selma also introduced the continuation of this engagement in the next phase of the Aurora Alliance’s programme as part of the work package Capacity Building and Community Engagement. During the next four years, another dedicated task team, Karazin University Peace Education Hub, led by Palacký University Olomouc, plans to work  towards further strengthening of the Karazin University’s capacity for education and training in conflict transformation, and peace building within the wider Kharkiv region.

Looking back at the European Universities Forum at Palacky University Olomouc

On the 1st and 2nd of December, Palacký University Olomouc organised the European Universities Forum. This high-level event, organised in the light of the Czech EU presidency, provided its participants an opportunity to discuss and assess the role of European Universities Initiative pilot phase in the Czech higher education context and within the European aims of building the Higher Education Area.

This forum was opened by the Czech Deputy-Minister for Education Radka Wildova, who stressed the importance of European Universities, which is a priority for the ministry, and praised the Aurora Alliance for its excellent implementation of the initiative’s lofty ambitions.

Following the Deputy-Minister, UP Rector Martin Prochazka’s opening speech pointed in the direction of expressing the importance of European university Alliances in the national higher-education framework as well as overall progress of Aurora Alliance inseparable from institutional contributions of each dedicated member of the Aurora team working together. He noted the excellent feedback received from the Commission for Aurora results so far, who described Aurora as an Alliance that “has made remarkable progress and can serve as a model of what is possible to achieve as an alliance.”

We welcome you to take a look at the aftermovie of the event. Below you can find a detailed report of the various panels and workshops.

Day 1 – High-level Panels

Panel 1: State of Multilateral Collaboration and Support to European University Initiative

This opening panel was moderated by Michal Malacka, Vice-Rector for Strategy and Regional Affairs at Palacký University Olomouc and featured contributions from Ioana Dewandeler, Higher Education Policy Officer at the European Commission; Emmanuelle Gardan, Director of the Coimbra Group of Universities; Tilmann Märk, Rector of the University of Innsbruck; Thomas Estermann, Director of the European Universities Association; and Thomas Baumgartner, Aurora Institutional Coordinator at the University of Innsbruck.

The panel focused on the significance of the European University Initiative as a flagship program of European Higher Education with synergies concerning the European Research and Innovation Area, and its overall contribution to the European Strategy for Universities. It brought to the fore importance of a supportive multilateral environment for European University Alliances and their long-term sustainability.

European Commission representative, Ioana Dewandeler shared a long-term vision and policy support for the European University Alliances stemming from EU Council’s conclusions in May 2021, stressing both finical support until 2030 but also how being part of Alliances contributes to strong and diverse universities which are crucial to the growth of higher education institutions in Europe aligned with European University Strategy and discussed priority areas such as inclusion, student-centered approach, international cooperation, future proof skills and green and digital transition.

Rector Märk, representing both Aurora Alliance and his institution reminded us of institutional integration of the alliance results as a way forward to achieving a real transformative impact across our universities. Making alliance European level results strategically embedded within our universities as a way forward towards achieving the aimed goals of institutional relevance.

Thomas Estermann pointed out right governance models – aligning institutional governance with overarching Alliance one and mainlining enthusiastic group of people running the programme brining n board more and more academic staff as crucial to continuity needed to achieve real change (bottom-up matching the top down). Other panelists discussed EUN Alliances being role models for the entire sector, inspiring institutions who are not part of the initiative to promote the necessary changes in society.

Panel 2:  Ambitions, Challenges & Best Practices of Pioneering European University Alliances

In this second high-level panel, moderated by Roman Klepetko and Lenka Procházková of the Czech National Agency for International Education and Research, Michal Malacka, Pavel Doleček, Břetislav Dančák, Zbyněk Škvor, and Snježana Prijić-Samaržija discussed the key elements for the implementation of the joint vision, mission and strategies of the European University Alliances by zooming in on the transformative leadership, co-engagement and governance models in a transnational European context, and with a reference to regional geopolitical challenges, including the war in Ukraine.

The panel was preceded by an opening speech by Tetyana Kaganovska, Rector of V.N. Karazin Kharkiv National University reminding us how political context can force institutional challenges that need situational ad hoc solutions and how the strength of Alliances already working in the region such as Aurora with Capacity building programme proved to be crucial in urgent responses needed to adapt to new working circumstances.

Rector Snježana Prijić-Samaržija from Rijeka University pointed out how a project-based approach vs an institutional-based approach (from vertical to horizontal) is important and introduced functional integration in the context of decentralised universities as relevant to the success of EUN goals. YUFE Alliance aims for alliance of faculties as well and in that way supports the institutionalisation of the EUN goals. The representatives from CVUT, Masaryk University, and Charles University focused on the Czech national context and collaboration across Alliances to create real momentum for change in Czech legislation toward facilitating more institutional internationalisation in education.

The panel concluded how strategic alignment, policy and funding and scaling up programme managerial teams and bilateral institutional partnerships as well as sending off the right signal to active stakeholders in EUN initiative at national and European level is of crucial importance for the overarching ambition of the programme.

Day 2 – Workshops

European University Alliances  – Research and Innovation

This workshop brought together representatives from all Czech alliances focusing on the most tangible results of the Science with and for Society(Horizon2020) project on the institutional level. They discussed the challenges and best practices of aligning our research resources so far across the Alliances members, and how to move ahead beyond the pilot phase.

Some conclusions of the workshop are that there are notable key differences and similarities; and that we are all tackling similar challenges: Engagement of researchers, Lack of funding, Cultural differences, and different structures: some universities have centralised bureaus for research support and infrastructures, others are decentralized, managed by individual faculties or other bodies, and National context, co-funding as well as Fragmentation of projects, described by Pavel Senderak as a “project jungle”. However, the joint   discussion of values and objectives showcased a lot of similarities in terms of priority areas such as Sustainability, climate, environment, Health and Wellbeing, Digitalisation, Democracy and citizen engagement, Equality and Inclusion and more as well as common objectives of promoting Open Science, Sharing Infrastructure, increasing Research support collaboration, and aiming towards the HR transformation across the institutions.

European University Alliances and Governance Models –Deepened Collaboration

In this workshop we had project managers from all Czech and guest Alliances engaging together in sharing the transnational cooperation models so far i.e., governance prototypes established, and how do they contribute to the implementation of the common vision, strategy, and activities of the EUN Alliances.

The focus was also on student and staff participation and inter-university campuses after the pilot phase, focusing on improvements in the next phase. Aurora, YUFE, EDUC, EUROTEQ all presented their own innovative and new, systemic, cooperation models with new ideas in moving forward. The discussion has been most fruitful and revealed how project management and governance have been overlapping greatly from the beginning of all alliance programs.

After the pilot phase, most alliances required detailed fleshing out of roles and responsibilities for key positions such as programme directors, institutional coordinators, governing board, and central offices, further defining the mandates and workflows. Daniela Trani, programme director of YUFE presented a governance model which recognised the growth of the project portfolio and with that revision of the governance too. Alma Ágústsdóttir, Aurora Student Council President reminded us of the active role of students in the governance model of Aurora which is also given more prominence in the next phase with the entire task team dedicated to this. Dr Selma Porobic, workshop moderator and Aurora Alliance UP Coordinator concluded the workshop by underlining how governance with decision-making process is a continuous effort with further elaboration needed in all Alliances and how this is in line with the very objectives of creating trans-institutional organisation that EUNs aspire to be.

European University Alliances, Challenged-based Approach and Stakeholder Engagement

The third workshop featured a high-level round table discussion. Led Otakar Fojt, research attaché at the British Embassy and chair of the Palacky University Board of Trustees, the discussion brought together various local and international stakeholders to talk about how European Universities can better collaborate with external stakeholders.

During the discussion, the group identified the three main levels of stakeholder cooperation: the global; the European; and the regional level. Moreover, the distinction between governmental and private stakeholders was highlighted.

The global level poses many complications for European Universities, having to strike a balance between institutional preferences and geopolitical developments and tensions.

On the European level, the discussion focused on the need for effective lobbying and engagement of various European stakeholders. It was concluded that in order to effectively reach the various European stakeholders, it is important to provide a unified message, using the appropriate channels, such as the ForEU-platform and established university networks. More can be done to connect European Universities to European-level industrial and business umbrella organisations.

In order to facilitate cooperation on the regional level, the importance of careful matchmaking between the most compatible regions. To facilitate this, clear regional profiles should be made, featuring among other aspects the region’s strategic plans and particular regional strengths. The sharing of such information would allow for the targeted development of cooperation between the various concerned regions, allowing them to bundle forces where relevant.

The overall conclusion was that European Universities can play an important role in connecting diverse stakeholders, by uniting and connecting various fragmented efforts. To achieve this, a clear and unified message is paramount.

For more on the European Universities forum, place take a look a the short interviews and statements below:  

Interview – Radka Wildová:

Interview – Martin Procházka:

Interview – Anne-May Jansen:

Interview – Thomas Estermann:

Interview – Pavel Doleček:

LOUIS Training Sessions at Palacký University Olomouc

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

The workshop, hosted by Kees Kouwenaar, aimed to equip the participants with knowledge and skills necessary for implementation of LOUIS into their classes. In turn 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 faculties already scheduled such trainings, with several others currently being planned.

European Universities Forum at Palacký University Olomouc

On the 1st and 2nd of December, Palacký University Olomouc organises the European Universities Forum. This high-level event, organised in the light of the Czech EU presidency, will provide an opportunity to discuss and assess the role of European Universities Initiative pilot phase in the Czech higher education context and within the European aims of building the Higher Education Area.

This event will be an incubator for new ideas on the mobilisation of universities, in the broadest sense, to promote shared European values and a strengthened identity and also to improve the quality, attractiveness and international competitiveness of Europe’s higher education establishments.

This forum will be opened by the Czech Deputy-Minister for Education and brings together the participating universities from various Member States, the European Commission and, of course, all of the relevant stakeholders, particularly the alliances of European universities.

The two-day programme features:

  • Two high-level panel sessions addressing the priorities of the European Universities’ ambitions
  • Three “Alliance workshops” intended as spaces for exchanging best practices between Czech alliances and their top management focusing on research and education developments, offering initial feedback on their pilot phase to contribute to developing the next steps
  • A closing session, reporting on the panels and thematic sessions to contribute to Czech national and European level on the Future of European universities in Higher Education.

For more information on the event, take a look at For more information on the schedule, take a look here.

Aurora Student Schemes 2022/2023

This autumn saw the kick-off of the Aurora Student Schemes, in which Aurora Students have the opportunity to sign up for the role of Student Ambassador and Student Champion. Ambassadors get the opportunity to take part in a variety of online and in-person workshops and events, together with other students from across all Aurora Universities, to boost the personal and professional development of the participants.

The role of Student Champion was created specifically for students that want to work on key Aurora topics, in addition to the joint activities provided to Aurora Student Ambassadors. After at least 15 hours of combined participation in the program and the working groups, participants will receive the  Aurora Student Champion certificate.

This year’s programme, led by Palacký University Olomouc, received 100 applications for the role of Student Ambassador. The majority of students that signed up were from the University of Naples Frederico II and the University of Iceland, followed by Duisburg-Essen, Innsbruck and East Anglia.

More information on the Aurora Student Schemes can be found at

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