Group: For society

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.



Aurora European University Alliance Programme Accepted

Proud and happy, we announce that the Aurora European University Alliance programme has been accepted by the European Commission. The Aurora European University Alliance programme will be one of 41 projects leading the way in helping to create a European Higher Education and Research community.

The Aurora Alliance has been selected by the European Commission as one of the now 41 European University initiatives supported through the Erasmus+ programme to lead the way to a European Higher Education and Research sector that contributes to a Europe of prosperity and well-being.

The Aurora Alliance stems from the Aurora Universities Network. Originally formed in 2016, Aurora is a network of research-intensive universities deeply committed to the social impact of our activities, and with a history of engagement with our communities.

The Aurora Alliance consists of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, University of East Anglia, University of Iceland, University Duisburg-Essen, University Rovira I Virgili, University of Naples, University of Innsbruck, Copenhagen Business School, and Palacky University in Olomouc. The Alliance has a number of associate partners, four of which are universities in Central and Eastern Europe.

Aurora President Prof David Richardson said: “I’m extremely delighted with this news. Universities are here to serve society, and therefore they have to be socially inclusive. Aurora is a socially inclusive network with exciting ideas on how to deliver relevant inclusive curricula for the future.”

Aurora Board member and Vrije Universiteit President Mirjam van Praag shares her gratitude as the Aurora Alliance receives the European Universities Alliance Grant. She says that the Aurora Alliance can now start building programs based on social entrepreneurship and apply it to societal relevant topics.

Callum Perry, President of the Aurora Student Council, finds Aurora to be remarkable and is honoured to be part of such a grand network of students and staff. The crux of Aurora lies in that Aurora doesn’t ask what society can do for universities, but what universities can do for societies. Please watch his video testimonial below:

We are looking forward to implementing and executing our strategy in the coming months to kick off the Aurora Alliance Programme.

For further information please contact Aurora Program Director Sabine Allain Sainte-Rose:

Cooperation between URV and Mozambique in the area of malnutrition

The Erasmus project forms part of the cooperation project between URV Solidària, the URV’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences and the Infant Nutritional Support Centre on the island of Ibo.

The work begun by URV professor Maria Eugènia Vilella Nebot in Mozambique in 2007 to combat malnutrition on the island of Ibo has led to new forms of collaboration involving students and researchers from the Faculty of Medicine and Health. Through a project funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Commission, these collaborations will pave the way for a new research line in malnutrition at the URV.

Specifically, until 2022, five Mozambique students will study at the URV to complete their Bachelor’s or Master’s theses as members of research groups, and a doctoral student from the URV will carry out fieldwork in Mozambique. There will also be an exchange of five professors and researchers between the URV and the Eduardo Mondlane University (Maputo) and Lúrio University (Nampula), who are also members of the project.

This Erasmus project will form part of another cooperation project by the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (with support from URV Solidària), which funds initiatives from the university community for cooperation in development. This initiative will enable two students of Nutrition from Lúrio University to carry out an internship and Bachelor’s Thesis at the Infant Nutritional Support Centre on the island of Ibo, accompanied by Maria Eugènia Vilella and two professors from the Lúrio University. It will also allow a student on the Interuniversity Master’s Degree in Nutrition and Metabolism run by the URV and the UB to complete their master’s thesis at this centre.

In the centre, the professors from the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, M. Eugènia Vilella and Josep Ribalta, head of the Postgraduate and Doctoral School, with members of Lúrio University in Nampula, Mozambique.

A specialist in developing countries

The origins of these projects lie in the work of Professor Maria Eugènia Vilella Nebot, a specialist in nutrition in developing countries. In 2010 she created the Infant Nutritional Support Centre in Ibo, with the Ibo Foundation, for studying, providing training in and treating infant malnutrition on the island. The nutritional intervention was also subject of Vilella’s thesis, who managed to reduce rates of malnutrition in children under the age of five on the island of Ibo and to encourage their mothers to adopt healthy nutritional habits.

Generating knowledge is necessary for achieving these three tasks, hence the proposal for the URV to have a research line in malnutrition, which responds to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Objective of zero hunger. By analysing dietary habits and nutritional data in the population, researchers will be able to design and implement a specific and sustainable intervention for the population with supplements based on the foodstuffs from the area, which will been to be reinforced with nutritional education and the promotion of food safety and hygiene.

How is Covid-19 affecting our most vulnerable and their caregivers?

The true impact of Covid-19 on some of society’s most vulnerable people and their caregivers were explored through an international survey from researchers at the University of Aberdeen.

In collaboration with Queen’s University Belfast, the project hopes to provide rapid feedback to the NHS and charitable organisations about the current needs expressed by patients with cancer, precancerous conditions and rare diseases and those who help to care for them.

It is understood that caregivers and patients are experiencing a major impact of Covid-19 on their lives with health services forced to change in order to ensure the safety of patients.

The survey will assess the impact that these and other changes due to the coronavirus pandemic have had on caregivers and patients.

Working with healthcare providers, patients and researchers it is hoped that the immediate, medium and long-term impact of the coronavirus pandemic on caregivers and patients with cancer, pre-cancerous conditions and rare disease can be identified.

The information obtained will be shared with doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers and charitable organisations to identify the best ways to support patients during this time.

Read more here:

The well-being of Icelanders during the COVID-19 pandemic

Scientists at the University of Iceland, in collaboration with the Directorate of Health and the Chief Epidemiologist, have initiated a study called the COVID-19 National Resilience Cohort.

The aim of the study is to gather as much data as possible on the impact of the pandemic on the health and well-being of people in Iceland, in order to inform future responses to the impact of a societal shock such as a pandemic. All individuals aged 18 and over who have electronic ID are invited to take part in the study at The University of Iceland is a member of the Aurora University Network. The study is sponsored by a presidential couple of Iceland, Guðni Th. Jóhannesson and Eliza Reid.

It is safe to say that COVID-19 pandemic is one of the biggest challenges to ever face nations across the world, having a major impact on economies and public health. Iceland has not escaped these hardships rather than other countries in the world. Scientists, therefore, believe it is important to get as clear a picture as possible of the effects of the pandemic on the Icelandic nation.

They plan to investigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on stress-related symptoms, psychological health and lifestyles among people in Iceland, but also to explore whether a history of a disease or other risk factors or potential or confirmed COVID-19 infection, are linked to poorer well-being and lower quality of life. It is important to map which factors have supported good health and well-being in individuals and families during these uncertain times. The research team also hopes to shed light on whether strong stress responses during the COVID-19 pandemic have a wider impact on long-term health. All this knowledge will be important to the authorities and can be used to better organise healthcare services and civil protection during times of societal shock such as the COVID-19 pandemic. An experienced team of scientists are involved in the study, led by Unnur Anna Valdimarsdóttir, professor at the University of Iceland Faculty of Medicine.

The study is part of an international research project in this field and is, as previously stated, open to all individuals aged 18 and over with electronic ID.

“Icelanders generally have a positive attitude toward taking part in research and the nation has probably never been more aware of the importance of science than just now. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused societal shock across the world, but we Icelanders have a unique opportunity to better understand the factors that are beneficial and detrimental in these unusual circumstances,” says Unnur.

“We can tell there are higher levels of stress in the population. The number of people contacting the health clinics has gone up, for example, due to anxiety and fear of infection, but there has also been an increase in people calling the Red Cross helpline due to loneliness. There is a danger, too, that alcohol consumption will rise and according to the police, there are indications that domestic violence is increasing as well. It is likely that the effects of the pandemic on society could be protracted. It is thus very important to explore what these effects are and research these things carefully so that we can respond correctly,” says Alma D. Möller, the Director of Health.

The research has already been approved by the National Bioethics Committee and the Data Protection Authority and has received a grant from the government of ISK 1.5 million.

On the photo, Arna Hauksdottir and Unnur Anna Valdimarsdottir, both professors at the University of Iceland are playing a leading role in the new research. Photo: Kristinn Ingvarsson.

The fight against the COVID-19 pandemic

On 25th March 2020, 61 organisations including patients, consumers, healthcare professionals, trade unions and public interest organisations published a letter.

The signed letter expresses views on the importance of the role of public support to research and development during the current pandemic.

Since January, the European Commission and national governments have mobilised millions of Euros to promote research on COVID-19. Together we believe that an effective response requires that all these necessary medical tools are free of charge at the point of delivery, particularly for vulnerable populations.

We strongly recommend that the EU institutions and national governments incorporate collective, pro-public safeguards, such as transparency regarding public contributions, accessibility and affordability clauses and non-exclusive licences for the exploitation of end-result products, in current and future funding calls and investments. These measures will eventually ensure the vaccines and treatments for the coronavirus reach those who need them and save numerous lives.

Aurora becomes Endorsing Partner Network of the SDG Accord

The Aurora Sustainability Group has identified the SDG Accord, an initiative of the Global Alliance, as a light-touch way for Aurora members to show their commitment to the SDGs and report on their work regarding the SDGs.

The SDG Accord is administered by the Environmental Association for Universities & Colleges [EAUC] and endorsed by the UN’s HE Sustainability Initiative.

The SDG Accord invites institutions to sign up (at the most senior level) to a series of commitments around the SDGs and, as part of those commitments, to compile a light touch report. Those reports are aggregated annually across the global HE/FE sector and presented to the UN. They demonstrate the scale of the impact of tertiary education against the SDGs. As of May 2019, over 110 institutions from 80+ countries had officially signed. The Board acknowledges that Aurora institutions are all at different places in their SDG journey.

We believe that signing the SDG Accord provides a clear, unambiguous baseline commitment that we should all be able to support. Therefore, we invite you to sign the Accord as a shared, collective and demonstrable public commitment to the SDGs. Meanwhile, as a sign of support, we have become an Endorsing Partner Network.  The University of Aberdeen, the University of East Anglia, the University of Naples Federico II, the University of  Rovira i Virgili, University of Innsbruck and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam have all signed the Accord.

Simultaneously, the Aurora Student Council has requested the Aurora Board that the member universities of the Aurora Universities Network declare a climate emergency.

Amsterdam Aurora Biannual 2019

On October 27th -29th, the 7th Biannual of the Aurora Universities Network was organized by the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam at the Griffioen and the university campus. The nine Aurora universities discussed the future of the Aurora Network and specifically the proposed Aurora European Universities Alliance.

This Aurora European Universities programme will be part of the EU funded European Universities initiative which aims to revolutionize the quality and competitiveness of European Higher Education. The biannual consisted of a plenary, a general council meeting, 11 parallel Aurora working groups spread across two days; and also a social program.

During the plenary session, VU associate professor Nana de Graaf interviewed some leaders of key groups in Aurora: on the students’ activities (Elisabet Brynjarsdottir), the Sustainability group (Tavis Potts) and the Diversity group (Karen van Oudenhoven-van der Zee) as well as the groups of vice-rectors for education (Neil Ward), and research (Jon Atli Benediktsson).

At the second part of the plenary session, some tips of the veil of the Aurora Alliance proposal were unveiled and discussed, yielding relevant input on what is currently lacking within the network and how the Aurora Alliance can create an environment including a study experience, career opportunities that Aurora might bring and that is not presently there.

The Biannual saw the third Diversity and Equality award being won by Inserlab during an informal reception at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.

The working groups continued on the second day of the biannual. The students, as well as the Aurora communications officers, spread out over the working groups to learn and experience the intergroup dynamics. The day ended with a lunch and an inspiring farewell speech from Aurora Board member and VU Amsterdam President Mirjam van Praag at the new homely and green study space on the second floor of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. This study space is a co-created by the University Library (UBVU) and students to experiment with furniture, decoration, and furnishing.

Next Aurora Biannual: Reykjavik, May 2020 (dates to be announced).

Please view the video and pictures below to re-experience the Amsterdam Aurora Biannual.

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