Group: For Academics

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.

Linguistic diversity, intercultural competences & European identity: and Aurora Blended Intensive Program for Europe to come

25 participants from 4 European universities with over 22 languages spoken. Students, teachers, and staff were working together towards a common goal: to train and discuss European linguistic and cultural plurality and the development of intercultural skills. In the background Naples and the Mediterranean Sea, its cultures, its languages.

The Aurora Blended Intensive Programme (BIP) Erasmus+ “Linguistic diversity, intercultural competences & European identity”, was carried out in mid-September to educate teachers, students, and staff for a plurilingual and intercultural Europe. BIPs are blended intensive programs of study and research. The BIP is coordinated by the University Federico II (UNINA) in partnership with the Innsbruck Universität (UIBK), the Universitat Rovira i Virgili of Tarragona (URV), and the Univerzita Palackého v Olomouci (UPOL), was designed as part of the Aurora programme activities and financed with Erasmus+ European funds.

The four thematic sessions addressed the topics of European political identity, European multilingualism, the educational methodologies of linguistic ethnography, and the development of intercultural competencies in multilingual education and training.

The topic of European political identity was addressed in two seminars by Alessandro Arienzo (UNINA), designed to understand how our recent history and culture have shaped our ideas of Europe and how Europe as an idea is the result of stratified historical and political paths closely connected to social and individual experiences. The concept of European multilingualism was addressed in two workshops by Ulrike Jessner-Schmid (UIBK) in which the participants, working in groups, by expressing their linguistic portraits, experienced how their prior (multi)linguistic knowledge can help them in learning a new language or decoding texts in other languages. Two workshops by Lidia Gallego-Balsa (URV) dealt with the topics of pedagogical translanguaging and linguistic ethnography as a tool for developing competencies in an additional foreign language. Finally, intercultural competencies were the subject of three workshops by Markus Öbrink (UPOL) with the aim of discussing intercultural communication and conflict mediation. The group developed a common intercultural basis by practising techniques such as asking questions, listening effectively, communicating clearly, and anticipating conflicts.

Participants were engaged in the co-creation of workshop activities, as well as in small group activities and plenary discussions. All activities were based on teamwork and challenge-based: the participants, divided into groups, tried to tackle specific problems through discussion and debate. The educational experience was enriched by participating in the Erasmus Welcome Day organised by UNINA with a visit to the Paleontological University Museum, the National Archaeological Museum, and the Morra Greco Art Foundation.

With an outstanding 90% of participants responding to be “highly satisfied” with the activities, and willing to continue in some for the experience, and an overall 80% “satisfied” rate for each of the workshops, this Blended Intensive Program was a success!


Some comments from the participants:

“The event with the Aurora community was an unforgettable experience. I have learned a variety of new things and skills, both for my professional and my personal development”;

“I will forever be grateful for the many new things I have been able to learn, the people I have met, and all of the great moments lived in this city”;

“Participating in the Blending Intensive Program was a wonderful experience for me. The program’s discussion approach was excellent, and I learned a lot from it. I am now even more motivated to continue researching multilingualism after completing my PhD studies. The BIP program enhanced my understanding of how multilingualism can be beneficial and provide social and cognitive advantages to those who speak multiple languages”;

“This ensured that the course met my expectations of a course focused on Linguistic diversity, intercultural competencies & European identity. It also exceeded my expectations in many ways in terms of meeting new people and learning methods from other universities”;

“Meeting students and professors from different universities and getting to know their opinions on various topics has been an enrichment for me”.


The scientific and educative collaboration initiated in Naples will continue next year in Olomouc, with a new Blended Program dedicated to the study of European multilingualism and educational perspectives for Europe to come.


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 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.

Professor Florian Freitag receives 2023 UDE Teaching Award

A highly contagious passion for his topics, high-quality lecture slides which engage students, clearly formulated learning outcomes, and topicality with respect to content are just a few reasons why the University of Duisburg Essen (UDE) student council nominated American Studies professor Florian Freitag for the 2023 UDE Teaching Award. The award was presented to him at the Dies Academicus in May.

UDE students praised Freitag‘s interdisciplinary and intercultural approach to teaching, which included collaborations with fellow students from the Aurora University partner Universitat Rovira i Virgili in Catalonia via the COIL (Cooperative Online International Learning) format.

“The nomination itself was a special honour since it came from the ranks of the students,” says Freitag, who has been teaching at the UDE since 2019. “And when not only ‘my’ students, but also my colleague Prof. Dr Barbara Buchenau spoke a few words during the laudatory speech, I was ready to cry. The award motivates me to continue to develop new tools and formats within Aurora.”

Along with this prestigious honour comes an award of 10,000 Euros. Freitag plans to establish a social fund to enable Master’s students in Anglophone Studies with a specialization in American Studies to take part in excursions to North America. In collaboration with colleagues from the University of Innsbruck in Austria, Freitag is also developing a “Survey of Canadian Literature” with instructional videos involving North American colleagues.

“Challenges in Europe” student conference in Amsterdam

From June 7-9, 2023, the Aurora Pilot Domain “Culture: Identities and Diversities” collaborated with Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam to host the inaugural “Challenges in Europe” student conference in Amsterdam. The Student Conference marked the culmination of the hybrid course, which is an integral component of the Understanding Europe module.

Since April, students from various Aurora universities participated in the online course, forming four distinct groups. Each group, led by a professor from an Aurora member university, concentrated on a specific challenge in Europe” connected to a particular Sustainable Development Goal:

  • “Religious Heritage: Claims and Contestations” (taught by Irene Stengs, VU);
  • “Place Attachment in Mobile Europe” (Ólafur Rastrick and Guðmundur Hálfdanarson, UIce);
  • “Sustainable Tourism” (Florian Freitag, UDE); and
  • “Sustainable Language Education and Critical Pedagogy” (Marián Arribas-Tomé, UEA; Ulrike Jessner-Schmid, UIBK; and Spyros Themelis, UEA).

Throughout the online phase, students designed research projects centred on these themes, with topics ranging from “Community-based Tourism in Tyrol” and “The Future of Summit Crosses” to “Place Attachment in Boarding Schools” and “How Can We Teach about Colonisation?” The conference served as a platform for participants to present and engage in discussions about their research with fellow students and instructors from six Aurora universities, spanning various disciplines and countries. Moreover, students had the opportunity to discover the picturesque city of Amsterdam and the state-of-the-art facilities at VU Amsterdam.

Students particularly enjoyed meeting and discussing with their peers during the conference: “I found the conference in Amsterdam absolutely perfect. It was brilliantly devised,” one student wrote in her class evaluation. Co-organizer Florian Freitag thought the conference was an extremely rewarding experience: “Witnessing the enthusiasm and dedication of the students in attendance, their eagerness to learn, ask insightful questions, and contribute their perspectives was genuinely inspiring.” His colleague and co-organizer Guðmundur Hálfdanarson agrees: “The student conference was an extraordinary event that enriched the students’ academic experience and fueled my passion for teaching and research in my field. I am confident that the knowledge on place attachment in Europe and connections gained during the conference will have a lasting impact on the student’s academic and professional trajectories, and I wholeheartedly recommend this event to my fellow educators and students alike.”

The Understanding Europe initiative will continue in Fall 2023 with “Perspectives on Europe in a Global Context.” The “Challenges in Europe” course will return in the Summer of 2024.

Advancing Research Management in European Universities Alliances: Insights from the Aurora Universities Network

The recent workshop organised by the CIVICA European Universities Alliance brought together various European Universities Alliances and associations, including TORCH, EUt+, 4EU+, UNA Europa, Unite!, FIT FORTHEM, SEA-EU, ECIU, and the Aurora Universities Network, to explore research management practices within European Alliances. With a focus on understanding the development, implementation, and challenges encountered in research management at the alliance level, the workshop aimed to provide valuable insights and suggestions for improvement.

The workshop took place in the context of ERA Action 17, a European Research Area policy action co-led by the Aurora Universities Network, which aims to strengthen the research support capacity in public research organisations. Some of the key findings of the workshop include:
Collaborative research support offices have proven to be highly beneficial for some alliances, as they offer valuable services such as training for research management, support staff, and early career researchers. Additionally, they provide an interoperable digital platform with local databases, primarily focusing on publications. While not all alliances have been able to establish joint research support offices, they are actively working on strengthening their research support activities and collaborations.

Most alliances have made a concerted effort to engage the broader research community of research support and management administrators (RSMA), including grants advice, knowledge transfer, open science, data stewardship, science communication, and research policy advice. However, there are still obstacles to overcome in the pursuit of a common research agenda. These challenges include late engagement of research support and management staff in proposal writing, different types of organisations involved in research support, varying resource allocations, and a lack of incentives for participation.

To address these challenges and improve the research support landscape, several recommendations can be made:

  • Early engagement of researchers, particularly early career researchers, should be emphasized in research management activities.
  • Co-creation principles should be adopted when developing research management activities to foster collaboration and inclusivity.
  • High-level university management should limit their involvement in the operational details of development and implementation, allowing research support professionals to take the lead.
  • Incentives, dedicated time, and adequate resources should be provided for researchers to participate in research support and management activities within alliances.
  • Awareness at all levels within universities about the roles and functions of research managers and research support and administration officers should be enhanced.

By implementing these recommendations, alliances can work together to create a more efficient and effective research support environment, ultimately benefiting the entire research community.

Vision for the Future
The workshop concluded with an inspiring vision for the future of research support and management activities in alliances. Pim de Boer, the EU Liaison representative from the Aurora Universities Network, shared an encompassing presentation that addressed many of the discussed aspects, highlighting the collective goals and aspirations of the participating alliances.

By fostering collaboration, early engagement, and effective resource allocation, European Universities Alliances have the potential to test and enhance research management practices and drive meaningful advancements in research support within the European higher education landscape.