Group: For society

Looking back at the International Summer School: Refugee Law & Rights

In support of our Ukrainian partners at V.N. Karazin Kharkiv National University, the International Summer School Refugee Law & Rights took place between the 15th and 25th of August, in Olomouc. The hybrid school, co-organized and implemented by Palacký University Olomouc and Karazin University, welcomed 24 participants both online and in person.

The participants came from six countries including United Kingdom, Austria, Germany, Italy, Luxemburg, and Ukraine. They comprised both undergraduate and postgraduate students of social sciences, mostly from law studies, sociology, and human rights.

During ten dynamic days, the participants followed lectures, engaged in discussions and participated in an extensive evening program, during which the students had a chance to engage with professionals in the field, UNHCR experts, as well as a plenary sessions on Peace Building and Recovery with Karazin University Staff and Peace Education MA student from the University of Innsbruck.

As part of the ongoing Aurora Universities donations and support campaign for Karazin University, the school was able to provide 5 students from Karazin University free of charge online participation, and to engage another 5 university professors and 2 administrative stuff in its organization and full program implementation, alongside the UP and International experts.

A detailed report of the International Summer School on Refugee Law & Rights can be found here.

The full program of the summer school can be found here.

Workshop Outcomes – Peace Education for Karazin University, and GRT inclusion in higher education.

On 30 June 2022, two workshops titled ‘Developing a Peace Education Programme for Karazin Kharkiv National University in Ukraine’ and ‘Removing barriers to Higher Education for Gypsy, Roma and Travellers’, were organised and moderated by Dr Spyros Themelis (UEA) and Dr Selma Porobic (Palacky University Olomouc) at the University of East Anglia (UEA). The two workshops, implemented under the framework of the Culture: Identity and Diversity pilot domain were a great success and will produce concrete outcomes in the future.

‘Developing a Peace Education Programme for Karazin Kharkiv National University in Ukraine’

One of the developing features of Aurora support to Karazin Kharkiv National University is peace education programme. Peace education is an emerging field focusing on peacebuilding efforts through education in situations of collective trauma such as war, mass displacement, and genocide. This pedagogy focuses on the creation of safe environments for teachers and students to foster dialogue and reflection by enabling sharing of their own traumatic (and often conflictual) narratives and supporting perspective-taking.

Under the guidance of Dr. Selma Porobić, this workshop brought together 14 experts from over 9 different institutions, and aimed to  explore a collaborative model focusing on the development of peace education programme for Karazin Kharkiv University. During the group discussion two set of questions were addressed. Group A focused on how to develop Peace education (PE) as integral part of general competences for academicians at Karazin, while Group B focused on researching PE in the ongoing war situation in the city of Kharkiv and in the Eastern Ukraine.

Among the most significant outcomes of this workshop, are the establishment of the International Expert team for peace education platform at Karazin University and initial planning of peace education programme including timeline for different components, research methods, staff training and COILs.

Thanks to the SPACE Network, represented in the workshop by Elke Kitzelmann (UIBK), an initial donation was made towards the realization of the Peace Education platform and further Aurora collaborations with Karazin University. In addition, collaborations with UIBK’s new MA Peace Studies program, under prof. Andreas Oberprantacher were initiated as well.  As part of International Summer School in Refugee Law and Rights, co-organized by Palacky University and Karazin University, on August 24th, students from UIBK’s Peace studies  program will engage with Karazin University’s MA students in the plenary session ‘ Prospects for Peace Building, Recovery & Reconstruction.

We look forward to engagement from more Aurora universities. Enquiries about the PE program at Karazin University can be sent to Dr. Selma Porobić, coordinator for Aurora support to Karazin University.

‘Removing barriers to Higher Education for Gypsy, Roma and Travellers’

Gypsy, Roma and Travellers (GRT) are the largest ethnic minority and at the same time the most marginalised in Europe. It is little surprise, therefore, that they are also one of the most, if not the most, underrepresented group in higher education.

This workshop explored the types of barriers facing Gypsy, Roma and Traveller students in accessing Higher Education and experiences of inclusion and exclulsion. In total 15 participants attended the event, including academics, practitioners, reseach students, as well as inclusion leaders in schools and local councils. Participants were of Roma and non-Roma origin and they shared perspectives from a variety of European countries (including Germany, Greece, Iceland,  Sweeden, the Czech Republic, Romania and the UK) and institutional contexts, including, schools, universisties, musuems and local couincils.

One of the outcomes of this workshop, was the decision to create a network of Roma inclusion research in higher education. It was also agreed that this network will aim to map national and international policies of inclusion and examine national and international reports relevant to the topic. Finally, it was agreed that the network will explore the possiblity of setting up courses on Roma education across the Aurora network and more broadly, and work with outreach officers to explore innovative practices on access.

Dr. Spyros Themelis, who led the workshop, will explore options for hosting a face-to-face meeting at the start of the new academic year. If you have any suggestions or would like to get involved, please email Spyros at:

We welcome contributions from across all Aurora universities.

Mental Health at UEA and UIBK

Written by Emily Reeves, University of East Anglia, BA International Relations and Valerie Bauder, University of Innsbruck, BA Psychology


It seems almost obsolete to talk about the importance of friendships and being socially connected for mental health.

During this pandemic, most of us experienced a massive downturn in our social contacts. It is not insignificant that many students feel isolated and therefore more unhappy than before. As social creatures, we strongly crave new friendships, exchanges or even just something as simple as a hug.

Within the Aurora Student Champion scheme, the pen-pal activity connects two Aurora students from different institutions to facilitate the discussion of Aurora topics and events and communication between like-minded individuals. This activity led to the partnership and friendship between myself, Emily (UEA), and Valerie (UIBK). We chose to produce a piece of writing together comparing mental health at our institutions in the UK and Austria. From this, we decided to focus on friendship, how people socialise with one another, and why this is a positive thing.

Due to the pandemic, new students are less likely to meet new people. If they don’t get on particularly well with people they live with, they have no way of meeting other people through clubs, societies, or their courses; this limits their friendships and has arguably negatively impacted students’ mental health and wellbeing. Covid-19’s impact on people meeting others and forming friendships at university is something we were interested in exploring more deeply and comparing how our institutions have decided to tackle the issue.

At UEA, many people use Facebook groups to do things like advertise upcoming events or rooms which are available to rent. This year, there has been a new theme featured in these groups; advertising yourself to try and find friends. The past academic year has been difficult for everyone for various reasons, heavily impacting people’s ability to meet and interact with new people. Friendships at university are essential to good mental health. When students come to university, they establish friendships that encourage socialisation, get them out of their comfort zone, and provide a sense of belonging. Loneliness and alienation at university are detrimental to a student’s wellbeing, especially since mental health is already a big issue amongst them.

Students in university accommodation who have struggled to bond with their housemates have not been given the opportunity to meet new people in the same way as student’s pre-pandemic. In other circumstances, students would meet their housemates, the people living in accommodation around them, their coursemates, and members of societies or clubs. There were endless ways to meet new people pre-pandemic, but in the environment, we find ourselves in now, digitalised communication has been one of the only options. While this does offer a route to make friends, it is not personable. It is difficult to transmit emotions through written messages or over a video chat. Events to meet new people or find potential housemates and student-led programmes to help people settle into university life have provided a few possibilities. However, it is clear that those who started university this academic year have struggled.

In Innsbruck, it is also quite visible that emotional wellbeing has taken a hit during these times. At UIBK, the student counselling has been more sensitive to mental health-related topics noticing that students were increasingly demotivated and sad. On that matter, the ÖH (Austrian Student Union) in Innsbruck did a survey where they asked students about their mental health. Here, for example, they found out that 81% agreed or rather agreed to the statement, “I am currently listless and don’t manage to motivate myself to study very well.” And roughly 73% “agreed” or “rather agreed” to the statement that “The prospect of online lectures and virtual seminars/exercises lower my motivation to study.” And less than half say they felt happy at the moment. As of my own experience of those I heard from, many students felt like they had not much to look forward to, especially during the hard lockdown. Also, many students had to cancel their exchange programs, therefore, missing out on some valuable experiences meeting new people with different backgrounds and cultures. Although it cannot replace the scope of experiences that students would have had by studying abroad, there are possibilities to connect internationally anyways.

Aurora has helped students from multiple institutions come together across a digital space, make new friends, and form new connections. To be able to implement further the opportunity which Aurora presents for breaking traditional barriers to communication could be a great way to address the issues discussed. While we may be moving back to ‘normal’ in the UK with the lockdown easing measures, there are still students who remain away from university, or alternatively, away from their families. International students have travel bans to contend with, and some students may be shielding.

There is potential for Aurora to provide a space to help this in creating a monthly, student-led gathering where people can just talk amongst themselves about whatever they like.

Although the digital world cannot buffer the loss of embraces, it can provide us with a vast number of possibilities to create social interaction spaces. Especially for us students, it is important to discuss study matters, share ideas and perspectives, broaden our mindsets, and promote academic growth. Here, the fundamental principles of Aurora come into play because the organisation was created to help students boost each other’s potential.

Since Aurora should affect every student from every partaking Aurora University, it would be great to initiate a digital space that is free and open for every respective student. Gatherly could deliver such a space. There, among other advantages, break-out rooms can be created conveniently. When people come together to get to know and help each other out, benefits are guaranteed. From academic collaborations to tandem for language learning, everything can be achieved for engaging students. We can learn mutually, learn about other cultures and traditions, and ask for help if we need intellectual input or discover job opportunities and fields that we would not have thought of otherwise. Also, building international connections is not only useful but also important in this day and age. This is not only valuable for later professional life but also to tackle the major problems we are facing.

Of course, human connections are not only significant in professional life. We think that since the pandemic started, people have come to appreciate friendships more than before. Also, the students would welcome such a platform of exchange and would value it even after the pandemic since they have become used to this form of meeting people online.

So, this is why we see a good possibility that such a platform could be well received, and we would love to see friendships building across the barriers which the pandemic put in place, which will hopefully last beyond it.

Manifesto to promote the discussion on R&I issues within the Conference on the Future of Europe and beyond

AURORA has signed and supports the manifesto and call on the Conference on the Future of Europe, European Commission, European Parliament and Council of the European Union to discuss and deepen Research & Innovation issues as a contribution to solving global challenges over the months to come.

Research and Innovation are at the heart of contributing to achieving the green and digital transitions, ensuring a fair, sustainable, competitive and depolarized society and economy, and addressing health and geopolitical challenges. This should be reached in co-creation and co-design with citizens and all actors. Several European and national programmes are supporting this. While the Conference is discussing many themes related to the challenges including education, Research and Innovation risks are being omitted from the discussions. Therefore, we emphasize that Research and Innovation should be even more at the core of the debate on the EU’s future challenges and priorities. For more information, read the full manifesto, being signed by over 65 national and European umbrella organizations representing research and business:

Link 1 and link 2.

The Year 2020: Vrije Universiteit, at the heart of society

Managing partner of the Aurora European University Alliance, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam has released their Year in review 2020. In their 2020: Year in review and in their 2020 Annual Report, they reflect on some significant and memorable moments. The year 2020 was exceptional for many reasons. Because of the pandemic, they were forced to work and study primarily online, and to transform into a university that operates at a one-and-a-half-meter distance. It also marked the start of their anniversary year, the Kuyper Year.

The Corona Research Fund, the Athena Institute’s COVID-19 platform, Caring Universities and the free COVID -19 search engine from Findest. These are just a few of the many initiatives that the VU community has introduced, along with partners, during the 2020 corona year. In addition, they had to transform their education into a hybrid format, with an online emphasis. Together, they worked hard in difficult circumstances and showed exceptional resilience, adaptability and commitment.

VU Amsterdam turned 140 in the year 2020. With the Opening Academic Year, they kicked off the Kuyper year with the Kuyper Challenge and with many examples of social entrepreneurship. During the Dies Natalis, Her Majesty Queen Máxima also stressed the importance of entrepreneurship and particularly the role of SMEs. In the year review, Mirjam van Praag, President of the Aurora European University Programme and of the VU Executive Board, also emphasized how Aurora is an opportunity for VU students to gain knowledge and skills to foster social entrepreneurship. VU Amsterdam was also named the most sustainable university in the Netherlands in 2020 and they declared their solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. In 2020, VU once again demonstrated its position at the heart of society.

Curious about these stories and more inspiring examples from VU in 2020? Read the Year in review ‘VU Amsterdam: at the heart of society 2020’ in English.

Aurora Spring Biannual 21

On May 20 – 21st, the tenth Aurora Biannual took place, where Aurora presidents, students and staff met to learn from and with each other.

The first day began with an opening plenary focusing on the future of academic collaboration between British and other European universities following Brexit. Ms Adrienn Kiraly, Head of the Cabinet to Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Education, Culture and Youth, touched upon our collaborations with other universities and said “Your alliance is already well placed to be a role model for other higher education institutions in Europe and beyond: Your association with three other higher education institutions in Bulgaria, Slovakia and North Macedonia as well as your commitment to developing a capacity development support programme for more than 30 Universities from Central Eastern Europe and neighbouring countries testify for this.” She also highlighted our collaborations with our students by saying: “ I am very happy to see that you have put in place the Aurora Student Champions Scheme in order to ensure student representation in each of your activities.

During the plenary, Paul Boyle (Vice-Chancellor Swansea University and EUA Vice-President) outlined the 7 key points UK universities must address in order to advance in academic collaborations. One of these points is the need for a European wide funding system open to the world. He mentions that universities in the UK feel fortunate to be part of Horizon EU and participate in the vast majority of that scheme. However, there are many other countries from which they could gain value collaborating too. Karine Samuel (Vice President for International Affairs of Université Grenoble Alpes) stressed the importance of international collaboration and how the Aurora collaboration was especially useful in the pandemic by exchanging experiences and best practices with other Aurora universities. Ms Emily Reise from the University of Iceland added a students’ voice and emphasized the accessibility and mobility of students and sees the advantage of short term mobility experiences for students.

After lively parallel session presentations and dynamic conversations, we entered the virtual reception building where Jón Atli Benediktsson (Aurora Network President and Rector of the University of Iceland) welcomed the Minister of Education, Science and Culture of Iceland, Lilja Alfredsdottir. Ms Alfredsdottir believes that the strength of Iceland lies in its international collaborations and that these collaborating networks have ensured that Icelandic research is truly global and ambitious. She says: “No single institution can tackle world challenges on its own but collaboration brings a strength that can be greater than the sum of its parts. With that in mind, the European Commission has focused its recent efforts in higher education on forming strong European University networks capable of producing internationally competent European students, European research, and European solutions”. Jón Atli introduced Ms Anne-May Janssen who will take over from Kees Kouwenaar as Secretary-General of Aurora from July 25th of this year. The reception also welcomed a comedy sketch by comedian Ari Eldjarn. Ari enthused the public with his charismatic interpretations of the many European cultures.

The second day continued with open parallel dissemination sessions and a wrap up of the reports and reflections. President of the Alliance Board Mirjam van Praag shared the accomplishments and challenges of the last 6 months. Among the achievements are the many courses that have been identified to be Aurorarized, a 2-year master program, an international traineeship program, a framework for mobility grant allocation, the 32 students engaged in the Aurora Student Champion Scheme and 15 student ambassadors. Next to accomplishments, Ms van Praag also shared a key concern about the involvement of academics in Aurora and integrating Aurorarized course into existing degree programs.

In total, 25 of Aurora’s active working groups and task teams met during the Biannual, and 7 dissemination sessions informed a wider Aurora audience on aspects of the Aurora programme of activities.

In the wrap-up, it was announced that it is the last term of Callum Perry, initiator of the Aurora student Champions Scheme and that his successor will be elected in the following months. And lastly, Maria José Figueras Salvat, Rector of Universitat Rovira i Virgili, announced that the fall biannual 2021 will physically be organized in Tarragona.

The Hydrogen Valley of Catalonia affirms the commitment to tackling climate emergency

More than one hundred businesses and organizations attend the official presentation in Tarragona of a strategic national initiative which has already been working for some time on the transition to the renewable hydrogen economy and society

The Vice-President of the Catalan Government, Pere Aragonès, stated that the Hydrogen Valley of Catalonia “is a paradigm of the transformative projects that the country needs and an opportunity to change the energy consumption model”

Enagás and Repsol takes on the commercial leadership of an initiative coordinated by the Universitat Rovira i Virgili which they hope will make the territory a European leader in the hydrogen industry.

Tarragona, 14 May 2021 – The official presentation of the Hydrogen Valley of Tarragona has taken place in the Tarragona Congress Centre. The event has been attended by the more than 100 companies and organisations that form part of the Hydrogen Valley and has been an opportunity for all those involved to reaffirm their commitment to tackling the climate emergency by promoting a society and economy based on renewable hydrogen. This strategic national initiative has already been working for months to consolidate an ecosystem based on the value chain of hydrogen, an energy vector vital to achieving carbon neutrality whilst increasing business competitiveness and improving individual well-being, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The event has been presided over by the Vice-President of the Catalan Government and Minister for the Economy and Revenue, Pere Aragonès, who emphasised the importance of the Hydrogen Valley as “an paradigm of the transformative projects that the country needs and an opportunity to change the energy consumption model”, while the presidents of Repsol and Enagás, Antonio Brufau and Antonio Llardén respectively, have taken on commercial leadership within the Valley as a challenge and commitment to society.

The agreement by all parties to promote the growth of the Hydrogen Valley of Catalonia, with economic development and climate change mitigation as its primary goals, has resulted in the signing of a memorandum of understanding by the principal stakeholders involved in the initiative, represented by Ramon Tremosa, the minister for Business and Knowledge of the Catalan Government; María José Figueras, rector of the Universitat Rovira i Virgili; Noemí Llauradó, president of Tarragona Provincial Council; Josep Maria Cruset, president of the Tarragona Port Authority; Montserrat Ballarín, vice-president of the Social and Economic Development of the Barcelona Metropolitan Area, and Rubén Folgado, president of the Chemical Business Association of Tarragona (AEQT), in addition to the aforementioned of Repsol and Enagás, Antonio Brufau and Antonio Llardén.

The event began with a welcome speech by the Mayor of Tarragona, Pau Ricomà, in which he expressed his support for the initiative and stressed “the city’s commitment to the project and to the implementation of renewable hydrogen”. This was followed by María José Figueras, rector of the Universitat Rovira i Virgili, the institution coordinating and promoting the Hydrogen Valley of Catalonia, who expressed her thanks for the support of all stakeholders and stated that “the knowledge agents and administrations and companies that participate in this initiative seek to consolidate all of their assets and potentialities in order to make the Valley a leader in the transition to a society and economy based on renewable hydrogen, through knowledge, research, production, distribution and use”. In this context, the rector has highlighted that the role played by the URV involves “leading and promoting training, socialization and research into the new value chains of renewable hydrogen”.

Ramon Tremosa has expressed the “total support” of the Catalan Government for the Valley, “a competitive and transformative strategic project with a clear impact on the territory that will contribute to the need for energy transition” and he asked the Spanish Government for “real joint governance in the management of the Next Generation initiatives. We have to play a key role if we want to maximize the resources that Europe makes available to us”, he stated.

Noemí Llauradó, for her part, has stated that the institution that she presides over is committed to making the Tarragona region “lead the implementation of this energy model throughout Catalonia and become a driver of development and a European reference point in this ambit”. According to Llauradó, “the energy transition is a question that can be dealt with particularly well at the local level and in concert and dialogue with fellow stakeholders”. For his part, Josep Maria Cruset has expressed the support of the Port of Tarragona for a project that “brings together the protection of the environment and the sustainable economic development of society”. “It is for this reason that we are making all of the Port’s assets and potentially available for the project”, he concluded.

Montserrat Ballarín has demonstrated the commitment of the Barcelona Metropolitan Area “to the challenges of climate change and sustainability” and has highlighted the BMA’s work both in support of clean energies and in the drastic reduction of emissions from private transport, thus “working towards the carbon neutrality of our territory”. The president of the BMA and the mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, was not able to be present in Tarragona but appeared in the opening presentation video of the Hydrogen Valley of Catalonia, alongside the other stakeholders. Colau referred to the commitment by Barcelona Metropolitan Transport to incorporate renewable hydrogen as a fuel and thus implement the first public hydrogen station in Spain.

Enagás and Repsol are the two companies that have positioned themselves at the forefront of the Hydrogen Valley of Catalonia. The president of Repsol, Antonio Brufau, stated his company will be one of the main actors in the process of transforming the petrochemical hub of Tarragona, “thus helping it to become an industrial leader in Europe”.“All of us who make up the Valley want to tackle the challenge of the energy transition in a way that is engaged with society and we will do so through innovation and technology”, he added. For his part, Antonio Llardén stated that Enagás will contribute its experience in promoting renewable hydrogen projects that are “sustainable in the long term, with innovative technologies that promote a competitive industry and generate wealth and employment”. According to Llardén, “industry is crucial to driving the reconstruction of a strong economy and society”.

Rubén Folgado, president of the Tarragona Port Authority, stated that the chemical industry has a responsibility to play an active part in the Hydrogen Valley of Catalonia.“We are taking on a key role in the energy transition, in this process that can no longer be put off, not only because of our obligation to comply with the emissions restrictions that the European Union has established for the 2030 and 2050 horizons, but also because the survival of our activities is at stake and, above all, because of a sense of conviction. We individuals who make up the chemical industry are the first to insist on our own sustainability and the need to protect the planet.”

In the closing speech, Vice-President Pere Aragonès described the Hydrogen Valley of Catalonia as “highly exciting” and that it must be “the first step in reducing carbon emissions”. “This initiative has all of the features that we hope to see in the Catalonia of the future, the Catalonia that we have to start building right now”, asserted Aragonès, who also stated that the Next Generation EU funds are an opportunity that must not be missed. In fact, the Hydrogen Valley is one of the 27 projects for driving the economic recovery that the Catalan Government wants to prioritise in order to access European funds.

The vice-president also explained how the Hydrogen Valley project is much more than an alternative source of clean energy because it “takes advantage of the economic crisis to promote the transformation that country’s manufacturing sector needs”. According to Aragonès, “it is precisely these big, ambitious impact projects that are needed so that the Catalan economy can gain competitiveness, position itself as an international leader, and fight against climate change”.

The event was presented by the journalist Xavier Graset and has also served to formalize the alliance of knowledge, science and technology comprising the Universitat Rovira i Virgili (URV), the Institute of Chemical Research of Catalonia (ICIQ), the Catalonia Institute for Energy Research (IREC) and the Eurecat Technology Centre, which is the research and innovation core of the Hydrogen Valley of Catalonia and which has been working for a long time in the ambit of renewable hydrogen.

Ample opportunity for UI in the UN Sustainable Development Goals

Leads of the Aurora SDG Education Dashboard,  Auður Pálsdóttir, assistant professor at the School of Education, in collaboration with Lára Jóhannsdóttir, professor of environment and natural resources at the School of Social Sciences have led an in that analysed over 3300 courses at the University of Iceland on the sustainable content.


Over the past five years, the UN Sustainable

Development Goals have been guiding principles in international affairs, ever since the member states agreed to work towards them in September 2015. The SDGs, which total 17 and apply for the period 2016-2030, apply to all areas of society, since they are intended, for example, to combat global poverty and hunger and promote economic prosperity, peace, universal human rights, and sustainability in all areas to benefit the climate and environment.

The SDGs have started to receive more and more attention in the work of the University of Iceland. For example, the University has organized a series of lectures in which UI scientists and representatives of Icelandic society have explained the significance of the goals and targets, as well as pathways to achieving the goals. A review has also been carried out to find out where courses at the University of Iceland involve sustainable development and education in the spirit of the UN SDGs. This work was organised by Auður Pálsdóttir, assistant professor at the School of Education, in collaboration with Lára Jóhannsdóttir, professor of environment and natural resources at the School of Social Sciences.

Analysed 3,300 courses

“The project involved analysing the University of Iceland course catalogue for the winter 2019-2020, looking closely at course descriptions and learning outcomes for all courses at all five schools, a total of around 3,300. The goal was to map the available courses and their content in consideration of the UN Sustainable Development Goals,” says Auður.

Naturally, this was a considerable amount of work and so Auður and Lára recruited five students from the School of Education, each of whom completed a Master’s thesis based on the research. “Each Master’s student analysed all the courses at one school. Hafdís Ósk Jónsdóttir analysed courses at the School of Social Sciences, Guðjón Már Sveinsson analysed courses at the School of Health Sciences, Bjarni Bachmann analysed courses at the School of Humanities, Hildur Hallkelsdóttir analysed courses at the School of Education and Atli Rafnsson analysed courses at the School of Engineering and Natural Sciences. Each Master’s student also completed an individual project with a focus of their own choosing,” explains Auður.

Auður and Lára are both members of the UI Sustainability and Environmental Committee which has been working to shape the University’s new sustainability policy. “In other countries as well in Iceland, there is not much information about where university courses are working with the SDGs. We therefore decided to map all UI courses, whether they were taught this winter or not, because many courses are offered every other year but are part of an integral whole in the study programme,” says Auður of the inspiration behind the project.

We need to keep working with the SDGs within the University

In connection with the project, the team developed a special analytical key and a list of terminology in Icelandic and English containing key words for each SDG. These were used in the analysis. The Master’s students then created their own analytical key or criteria, each for their own individual projects, which were also used. The analytical keys were tested and fine-tuned in the course of the collaboration. “The aim was to ensure that working practices were as consistent as possible in order to guarantee reliable results and valid comparison between the schools,” explains Auður.

Auður says that the results of the project have revealed that there is ample opportunity for the University of Iceland related to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. “In many aspects, the University appears to be in a similar situation to other universities who are finding their way in the introduction of the SDGs. However, it seems we urgently need to focus on the key competencies which the UN defined in parallel to the SDGs as a requirement for work towards the goals and which apply to all studies,” adds Auður.

Key competencies are abilities that people acquire regardless of the content of the academic subject. “For example, the ability to analyse and understand different systems and how they are linked, the ability to apply critical thinking and be creative and the ability to collaborate and deal with conflict. Students acquire these key competencies through studying any of a wide range of subjects related to many kinds of knowledge, but also people’s preferences and interests. In light of this, the United Nations has long emphasised that students should be able to influence what and how they learn.”

Auður adds that the SDGs are extremely broad and much of this is not, at first sight, relevant to Iceland. “So we have to discuss and work with the SDGs so that everyone at the University understands their content and aims and how we at UI can do our bit for the global community in sustainable development and sustainability education. We are doing a lot at the University that fits in well with the path to sustainable development, but this is not made sufficiently explicit in the course catalogue,” says Auður.

Aurora Spring Biannual ’21

On May 20th and 21st, Aurora will hold its 10th Biannual Meeting. Spread over the entire day of Thursday, May 20th and Friday, May 21st until Mid-afternoon, academics, students, university leaders and administrators will come together to continue ongoing work, meet new colleagues and celebrate existing friendships.

The Aurora Spring 2021 Biannual commences with a plenary session featuring Head of the Cabinet to Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Education, Culture and Youth Adrienn Király and a panel discussion on the future of academic collaboration between British and other European universities Brexit. Prof. Paul Boyle, the vice-chancellor of Swansea University, UK and EUA Vice-President, will discuss this and join a panel discussion with Prof. Yassine Lakhnech (president of the University of Grenoble Alpes, member of Aurora) and Emily Reise, Aurora student representative (UIce). The panel will be moderated by John Style, Vice-Rector International of the Universitat Rovira i Virgili.

The first full day on May 20th will end with a lively and informal virtual reception. Jón Atli Benediktsson will be introducing the incoming Aurora Secretary-General, Anne-May Janssen

In between plenary and reception, the first Biannual day will offer many active Aurora task teams the time to sit and work together in parallel time slots in the morning and early afternoon. Simultaneously, the Aurora presidents will discuss their vision of Aurora’s future and the future benefits of being an Aurora university.

The afternoon will also feature four broad parallel sessions, each covering one of the more overarching themes of Aurora, such as “Education”, “Stakeholders”, “Academic engagement”, and “Sustainability”. Aurora welcomes president Joan Gabel of the University of Minnesota as a guest of honour. President Gabel will take part in the “Sustainability” session and share her views on the topic.

On Friday, May 21st, both the Aurora Universities Network and the Aurora European University Alliance will have a session of their respective supreme governance bodies: the Network General Council and the Alliance Board of Presidents. These formal meetings will be part of the first and second Friday parallel timeslots. The Aurora Network, General Council meeting, will run concurrently with many dissemination sessions. Aurora Biannual participants can find out about tools and services being developed to help Aurora academics, students and administrators. The Aurora Alliance Board of President’s meeting will run simultaneously with more task team working sessions.

Virtual venue & registration

The virtual conference platform will allow us to switch between formal sessions and meeting informally and casually as we see each other passing by the Aurora Biannual lounges.

Registration is through this link. We will liaise on registered participants with the institutional coordinators of your university, and we invite you to also inform your institutional coordinator of your intention to participate. Once your registration is confirmed, you will receive information by May 13th at the latest on how to log on to the virtual conference platform and instructions on how to navigate it.

 Please access the program by clicking the green button below.



Critical Perspectives on Governance Conferenc

The Conference on Critical Perspectives on Governance by Sustainable Development Goals is a biannual event organised by the Centre for Sustainable Development Studies (CSDS) of the University of Amsterdam (UvA).

The focus of the conference will be SDG4: “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.” It aims to mobilize scholars young and old, policymakers, and civil society to share perspectives on the various roles education can play in relation to inclusive development.

During this conference, you will have the opportunity to assess the relevance of the goal, and its related targets and indicators, as well as develop a better understanding of the toolbox that is used to further its achievement.

More information about the program, different forms of participation and registration can be found below.


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