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.

Seminar “Conducting transdisciplinary research (PhD)”

The Department of Social Sciences of the University of Naples Federico II, in collaboration with Aurora Sustainability & Climate Change Pilot Domain, is glad to invite you to the seminar “Conducting transdisciplinary research (PhD)”.

The seminar can be considered a key step in shaping the Aurora Doctorate Schools.

Research is a collaborative journey; seldom is it undertaken in isolation. In today’s landscape, research funding institutions emphasize the importance of transdisciplinary approaches, urging projects to transcend the boundaries of universities, countries, disciplines, geographies, languages, and places. This shift in focus encourages researchers to engage in a collective effort to address complex challenges. However, the path of a doctoral researcher, especially the thesis defence, remains an individual endeavour.

The seminar, guided by Professor Patrik Zapata (University of Gothenburg), will delve into the intricacies of navigating the research world. With a wealth of experience as a director of doctoral studies and an expert supervisor, Professor Zapata brings valuable insights to the discussion.

The seminar will be held at the Department of Social Sciences (Aula Ovale, vico Monte della Pietà, 1, Naples) on November 28th, at 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM and online on zoom here.

For more information please download the Flyer.

European Universities Associations Response to Council’s Research Career Recommendations

Based on the outcomes of the European Research Policy Agenda Action 4 on research careers and talents, the European Commission has proposed EU Council recommendations regarding the implementation of activities related to research careers and retaining talent.

As part of the university sector Aurora Universities, together with four university associations (EUA, The Guild, Coimbra Group, and YERUN), supports the proposal. Although this proposal is about recommendations to EU Member States, the actual implementation of the activities and use of tools mentioned in the proposal, including the Research Competence Framework, a revised Charter for Researchers, a pension scheme (RESAVER), and an observatory on research careers (ReICO), may not be optimal for the sector. We recommend further steps to include:

  • The presence of enabling framework conditions for institutions and the stability granted by long-term core funding needed for sustainable research careers;
  • Envisioning a holistic and long-term perspective for flexible and multiple career pathways;
  • The empowerment of universities to offer stable and more predictable research careers;
  • And the need to develop the evidence base for monitoring research careers in an open and sustainable manner.

We also conclude that the Charter for Researchers, the Research Competence framework, the HRS4R label and the Agreement on Reforming Research Assessment are incentives that should remain voluntary and inspirational. Finally, it should be noted that the voluntary status of the Council Recommendations may lead to further divergence in career pathways and talent retainment strategies between countries already having mechanisms in place versus countries not implementing the recommendations.

The full statement can be read here.

Fostering Community Building through Blended Intensive Programme at Universität Innsbruck

Foster community building: This was the overarching theme of the first Aurora BIP Staff Week, which took place at Universität Innsbruck from October 2-6, 2023. Participants from almost all Aurora partners – coming from both academia and administration – exchanged manifold ideas with colleagues from Universität Innsbruck to develop new activities and projects.

With more than 50 members of staff, the first Aurora Staff Week at Universität Innsbruck was a great success. In different formats and settings, the main topics of Transformative Education, Innovation Management, Societal Engagement, and Internationalization were explored in depth over several days. Best practices from Universität Innsbruck and the Aurora partner universities served as the basis for the exchange, stimulating a mutual dialogue in the sense of peer learning and opening space for creativity and new ideas.

“Personal encounters are incredibly important for a network like Aurora to be filled with life,” emphasises Rector Veronika Sexl, who is responsible for international affairs at Universität Innsbruck. “I am very pleased that so many colleagues, both in-house and from the Aurora partner universities, have actively taken up the invitation to exchange ideas and that new projects are already in the pipeline.” The “matchmaking sessions” were particularly fruitful, where concrete new activities, such as the development of joint courses, could be discussed in individual smaller settings.

First Erasmus+ Blended Intensive Programme (BIP) hosted by Universität Innsbruck

The Aurora Staff Week, which was funded and organised as an Erasmus+ Blended Intensive Programme (BIP), took place in Innsbruck after a virtual exchange of participants in September. For the first time, the Universität Innsbruck served as a hosting institution for the event. The Aurora Staff Week will conclude with a virtual follow-up meeting at the end of October.

BIPs are teaching/learning formats jointly run by several universities and combine virtual components with physical short-term mobility (“blended”). BIPs are a new mobility format embedded in the Erasmus program, implemented as part of the Erasmus program generation 2021-2027. Within Aurora, the general goal is to develop more joint BIPs between Aurora partners in the coming years. These can be used for training as well as teaching purposes.

Aurora signs Joint Statements on the updated NIH Policy Guidance for Subaward

Over 85 universities and research-performing organisations, including the Aurora Universities Network (and of its member universities, University of Duisburg-Essen, University Federico II Napoli, University of Iceland, and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) signed a joint statement coordinated by KU Leuven on the updated NIH Policy Guidance for Subaward/Consortium that will become active for grants starting as of 1 October 2023.

According to the new policy guidance, such awardees must provide copies of all lab notebooks, all data, and all documentation supporting the research outcomes described in the progress report at least every six months. For EU awardees, this implies legal obstacles (Personal Data Protection Regulations, Clinical Trial Regulations), IPR constraints, issues with using the transferred data by the Pass-Through Entity, increased costs and administrative burden, and a hampered continuation of ongoing grants.

In this statement, the signatories ask the NIH to reconsider implementing these requirements.

For more information, please read this statement

Digital Nomads Workshop Sparks Collaborative Action

In June 2022, a workshop focused on the growing phenomenon of Digital Nomads within the digital workforce was organised. This collaborative effort between Aurora Universities and the Network Institute at VU Amsterdam served as a forum for European Commission policymakers and early career researchers to discuss how society, employers, and employees can adapt to this new way of working.

The workshop highlighted four key objectives: firstly, to identify the necessary actions from policy-makers and scientists; secondly, to foster connections between researchers and European Commission policy-makers; thirdly, to catalyse research collaborations; and finally, to generate a publicly accessible written report encapsulating the discussions and findings.

The comprehensive white paper titled “Digital Nomads: Opportunities and Challenges for the Future of Work in the Post-Covid Society” emerged as the tangible outcome. This document will inform policy and strategy-making efforts, potentially influencing regulations and Research & Innovation (R&I) calls. It has been shared with policy officers in DG Employment and DG RTD for input and consideration and is scheduled for publication in a semi-scientific journal.

The lessons learnt from this whitepaper underscore the value of engaging early career researchers in EU policymaking related to R&I, given the tangible results that can be derived. However, executing such workshops requires a long-term commitment from organisers and participants alike. While the discussion topic needs to resonate with policymakers to ensure early engagement from the European Commission, the autonomy to choose the topic should lie with the organisers, upholding the principle of academic freedom.

To ensure the participation of early career researchers, a limited travel budget is crucial. In this case, the Network Institute commendably provided about 300 euros per person upon request, facilitating their attendance. This act of generosity highlights the importance of funding in enabling such workshops. As such, a heartfelt appreciation goes out to the Network Institute for their invaluable support and sustained enthusiasm, as well as to all the participants who played a pivotal role in the workshop’s success.

Aurora’s first creative writing residency in Tarragona showcases international collaboration and literary talent


In a bilateral collaboration, the Universitat Rovira i Virgili (URV) and the University of East Anglia (UEA) came together to host the first MA creative writing residency within the Aurora alliance. The event held from the 3rd to the 14th of July in Tarragona celebrated literary excellence and cultural exchange.

The residency began with an institutional welcome from URV’s International Centre and Linguistic Service, providing an introductory session on Catalonia’s history and language. Professor Jean McNeil from UEA led an inspiring one-day creative writing workshop at Campus Catalunya, honing students’ writing skills through engaging exercises. UEA students also explored Tarragona’s Creative Writing School, the Escola de Lletres, gaining unique insights into the local literary scene.

The social program allowed UEA students to witness the spectacle of human towers (castells) and a fireworks competition at the city’s beach. The residency’s highlight was the closing event at School House Tarragona, where students presented their literary tapas – a delectable mix of non-fiction, scriptwriting, poetry, and prose, showcasing the talent of the visiting writers.

The success of this inaugural Aurora writing residency was a testament to the dedication and collaboration of all involved parties – the organizers, URV, UEA, and especially, the students.

Looking ahead, URV and UEA are planning a second edition of the Creative Writing Residency for the upcoming academic year involving all Aurora partner universities. This initiative promises to strengthen international ties and provide a platform for budding writers to thrive in a community of literary excellence.

Students of the University of East Anglia with the Commissioner for International Networks of the URV at the first creative writing residency in Tarragona.
Students of the University of East Anglia with the Commissioner for International Networks of the URV at the first creative writing residency in Tarragona.
Students of the University of East Anglia at the introductory session on Catalonia's history and language
Students of the University of East Anglia at the introductory session on Catalonia’s history and language.

Aurora’s European University programme secured continued funding

Aurora is delighted to announce that its European University programme has secured a second round of funding under the 2023 European Universities Initiative Call by the European Commission. This ensures that Aurora can deepen its existing cooperation and continue its mission in higher education transformation.

The upcoming Aurora 2030 consortium, led by the University of Iceland, has been granted a substantial fund of 14.4 million Euros for a four-year period. This programme, which received 90/100 evaluative points from the Commission, builds on the significant progress made during the 2020-2023 pilot phase. Aurora President Jon Atli Benediktsson joyously shares:

“I am delighted that Aurora 2030 has been awarded a four-year continuation grant by the European Commission. This is a strong vote of confidence in Aurora’s mission to equip students with the skills and mindsets needed to address societal challenges. This new grant will allow us to continue working closely with our partners across Europe and beyond.”

In this renewed commitment, Aurora’s focus will narrow down to four priority areas, each carefully selected with the intention of driving meaningful societal transformations through its students, staff, academics, and communities at large:

  1. Aurora Teaching and Learning for Societal Impact

In the first priority area, Aurora will work on teaching, research, and social entrepreneurship, generating synergies and interdisciplinary programs to tackle societal challenges and foster growth in its collective communities– well-aligned with the European strategy for universities. Aurora’s objective is to further refine the educational experiences with a focus on societal necessities and student competencies enhancement. We believe in a student-centred and comprehensive method emphasising internationalisation practices to prepare students for a globally diverse integrated world.

  1. Aurora Excellent Challenge-based Research and Innovation

In the second priority area, Aurora aims to cultivate an environment conducive to academic collaboration and build a strong community focusing on supporting early-career individuals. As a consortium of research-intensive universities with significant societal influence, we will promote diversity and inclusion by extending opportunities to academics from underprivileged backgrounds. The alliance’s research support services will act as a catalyst for fostering cooperation, talent development, and facilitating knowledge exchange.

  1. Aurora Collaboration and Engagement through Inclusive Communities

In the third priority area, Aurora 2030 will continue and strengthen our connection with partners across and beyond Europe, aiming to reduce research disparities and to learn from each other. Aurora 2030 will focus on outreach initiatives in Central and Eastern Europe while also creating new global relationships with a diverse array of stakeholders.

  1. Aurora Sustainability Pioneers

In the fourth and final priority area, sustainability will continue to remain at the heart of our mission. Aurora aims to set new sustainability benchmarks through education, research, and collaboration, in line with the EU 2030 Agenda and on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Aiming to reduce the carbon footprints of our universities, Aurora is committed to fostering sustainable practice across its campuses, including measures focusing on Sustainable Campus and footprint reduction.

About Aurora
The Aurora 2030 consortium comprises the University of Iceland (UIce), Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VUA), University of Innsbruck (UIBK), University of Duisburg-Essen (UDE), Copenhagen Business School (CBS), Palacký University Olomouc (UP), Universitat Rovira i Virgili (URV), Université Paris Est Creteil (UPEC), and the University of Napoli Federico II (UNINA) as well as seven associated academic and non-academic partners including University of East Anglia (UEA), South-West University “Neofit Rilski” (SWUNR), Pavol Jozef Šafárik University in Košice (UPJSK), the University of Tetova (UT), Kharkiv National University, European Forum Alpbach, Information Centre on Academic Mobility and Equivalence (CIMEA) who together span 13 countries.

From 2020 to 2023, Aurora was one of the 24 European University Alliances funded under the Erasmus+ programme in the 2nd Call. Quoting from the assessment of our Mid-Term-Report:

“This alliance has made remarkable progress and can serve as a model of what is possible to achieve as an alliance. The alliance has delivered exceptional results with significant immediate or potential impact”.

Aurora offers ample opportunities for students, staff, and academics to partake in inclusive university communities.

Aurora in Action: Science with Society Festival at VU Amsterdam

In June 2023, the AURORA in ACTION: Science with Society Festival brought together a diverse group of individuals, including teachers, staff, and students from multiple universities, to address pressing issues related to sustainable development goals. Through collaborative ideation and co-creation, participants discussed solutions for energy transition, food systems transformation, mental strength, and positive psychology.

The festival was held in the bustling city of Amsterdam, specifically at the Public Library, where the first day was dedicated to the students of the Aurorized course – Interdisciplinary Community Service Learning (ICSL). The students were enthusiastic about showcasing their research and engaging in discussions with renowned scientists, experts, and societal stakeholders (residents, community partners, organizations, and policymakers). Attendees were also free to explore the Inspiration Market, where students, welfare organizations, and neighbouring initiatives showcased their work while seeking to gain and share knowledge.

The day was filled with productive discussions and insightful presentations, culminating in a plenary session highlighting universities’ critical role in society. “It was truly refreshing to witness many individuals committed to positively impacting and addressing societal issues. It was a true testament to the power of co-creation and the potential for positive change,” remarked Marjolein Zweekhorst of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

The festival’s second day took place at the VU campus, and it was just as exhilarating as the first. A reflection and co-creation session was held among colleagues, wherein universities’ role in societal engagement and impact was the primary focus. Participants engaged in meaningful discussions, sharing ideas and priorities to enhance societal engagement approaches, including service learning and co-creation, in educational practices across Aurora. Overall, it was an excellent opportunity for everyone to learn from one another and work towards creating a better and more just society.

The AURORA in ACTION: Science with Society Festival brought innovative ideas and solutions to the forefront. The event served as a platform for AURORA universities to come together and demonstrate their commitment to societal engagement and impact. It aimed to foster an inclusive environment where societal stakeholders (residents, community partners, organizations, and policymakers) and Aurora teachers and students (from VUA, URV, UDE, and UPOL) could collaborate to co-create solutions that would benefit everyone.