Group: For staff

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.

Aurora supports letter to European Commissioner Mariya Gabriel for transparency on R&I budget allocation

Aurora Universities welcomes additional funding to the Horizon Europe (HEU) budget. Aurora Universities also support the letter by EuroTech Universities to the European Commissioner Mariya Gabriel and the Director-General of Research and Innovation Jean-Eric Paquet to provide more transparency on the HEU budget. Horizon Europe is the European Union’s main funding program for Research and Innovation and a vital source of funding for researchers and innovators across Europe.

The letter argues that Horizon Europe’s current budget allocation process lacks transparency and that they are progressively becoming a financial source for other European Commission-led priorities outside of the programme. This covers the European Chips Act, the Health and Emergency Response Agency and lately, the Hydrogen Valley initiative under the REPowerEU Plan. Together, these three initiatives will be financed through HEU with a budget of close to EUR 1bn. This redirection of funds from HEU to other European Commission initiatives gives uncertainty to researchers and innovators across EU member states concerning the availability of funds. In addition, budget allocations are becoming increasingly complex, making it difficult to understand how much money is available for research.

The letter calls on the Commission to improve the transparency of Horizon Europe’s budget by adding a set of indicators to the Horizon Europe Dashboard, which can help assess in real-time how much of the HEU budget has already been committed to which initiative and how much has been paid. This would also provide visibility as to the commitments targeting the original HEU objectives or objectives outside of the programme. Read the full letter here.

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.

Aurora Service Learning Toolbox

At the core of the Aurora is its cardinal goal to equip students with the right knowledge, skills, mindset, and experience to address societal challenges as agents of change. The Service Learning (SL) and Co-creation approach can help bring this core mission of the Aurora alliance to fruition. Service-learning is an academic teaching/learning method that connects meaningful community service with academic learning, personal growth, and civic responsibility. Co-creation is a form of service-learning that entails the collaboration of diverse stakeholders in the co-production of value/knowledge (concepts, solutions, products, services). Together these two approaches foster engagement of academicians and students with societal stakeholders to address societal challenges.

This toolbox provides relevant tools, resources, and inspiration to foster understanding and application of service-learning and co-creation in Aurora universities. We hope these resources will help interested teachers and students to apply service-learning and co-creation in their academic practice. Information on how to use the toolbox is presented below.

How to use the Aurora Service Learning Toolbox

Please choose from the three modules below what you would like to do. The three modules provide pertinent information, tools, and support to foster service-learning and co-creation in Aurora Universities.

The first module provides information, tools and inspiration on service-learning and co-creation.

The second module provides information on available service-learning programs, courses, and practices in Aurora Universities.

 

The third module helps connect those who seek advice or support on service learning or co-creation to experts and their counsel.

Aurora Ranks in Times Higher Education Impact Rankings

Aurora universities have appeared in high positions in the Times Higher Education SDG ranking and excelled in numerous SDGs.

Times Higher Education has ranked universities based on their performance against indicators of global social and economic impact and advancement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The Times Higher Education Impact Rankings consider all 17 SDGs, and each university is scored for its performance in advancing each goal. A university’s overall ranking is then based on its top three SDG scores plus its score for Goal 17, Partnerships for the Goals.

Aurora member university, the University of Aberdeen, has been placed 57th out of 1,115 institutions worldwide in the newly published Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings. Areas in which the university has excelled include Partnership for the Goals (SDG17) and Sustainable Cities and Communities (SDG11), where Aberdeen has been placed 27th globally for both. The University of Iceland has ranked in the SDGs health and wellbeing (SDG3), industry, innovation and infrastructure (SDG9), as well as responsible consumption and production (SDG12). The University of Iceland’s overall position in THE Impact Rankings is 301-400. Universitat Rovira i Virgili (URV) maintains its position, although 347 more institutions have entered this ranking and have high rankings for Climate Action (SDG13), Gender Equality (SDG5) and Quality Education (SDG4).  UEA ranked between 101-200 out of 1,115 institutions in total, placing it in the top 20% for its sustainable development. UEA participated in six of the 17 SDGs, and achieved some other positive results, including 57th place out of a possible 653 for ‘Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions’ (SDG16). Joint 74th out of a possible 871 for ‘Good Health and Wellbeing (SDG3). The four SDGs to which VU Amsterdam connects the most are Climate Action (SDG13), Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure (SDG 9), Gender Equality (SDG 5), Reduced Inequalities (SDG 10). The overarching position of the university in the Impact ranking 2021 is in the range of 101-200. Aurora associate member university, Palacký University Olomouc, has rankings in Good health and wellbeing (SDG3), Decent Work and Economic growth (SDG8), Sustainable Cities and Communities (SDG11), and Partnerships for the Goal (SDG17). Overall the university is ranked in the 401-600 position.

Aurora congratulates its universities with these outstanding results. Aurora is extremely committed to matching academic excellence with societal impact, and these rankings prove that we are well on our way. The Aurora SDG Bibliometrics tool developed is an exceptional tool that maps the research output by all our universities: please view the tool here. More about Aurora here.

Join Aurora Alliance CDS Network of Universities

The Capacity Development Support Programme (CDS) of the Aurora European Universities Alliance is looking for universities to collaborate with.

The CDS programme is designed to help reduce the disparities between the research-leading and research-emerging countries in Europe by assisting universities in Central-Eastern Europe and Neighboring Countries to develop their institutional capacity for academic excellence and societal relevance. The expected outcomes are to spread the Aurora Alliance principles, values, skills, working processes and practical learnings to some 30 target universities in Europe and beyond.

To this end, Aurora Capacity Development Support Network of Universities (CDS Network of Universities) is being set up, with the purpose to articulate and strengthen the collaboration in supporting universities that are interested in the same objectives as Aurora Alliance member universities: in equipping diverse student populations with the skills and mind-set to address societal challenges as social entrepreneurs and innovators; in engaging with students and stakeholders at regional, national, European and global level; and in making our universities sustainable organisations.

The Aurora CDS Network of Universities is an inclusive platform for universities that want to work with Aurora’s common objectives. Applicant universities should freely express interest in the Aurora Alliance CDS mission as described in the Introduction section of this document by submitting a Letter of Intent and a University Fact Sheet to Tereza Kalousková via email at

The criteria for joining us is the following:

  • Applicant universities understand the key objectives of the Aurora Alliance programme and are interested in furthering in at least some of these objectives at their institutions.
  • Applicant universities express willingness to invest time and bring their resources and expertise to the collaboration.
  • Applicants are made aware of external funding needed for collaboration activities developing in the Network.

Applicants will be assessed on a rolling basis 2021-2022 by the CDS Task Team, led by Palacky University Olomouc with Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam as co-lead. In the assessment, the opinion of the Associate Partners will be sought.

What We Offer – Network Programme

During the 2021-2023 period of collaboration, we focus our exchanges on awareness-raising training events and projects developed together, focusing:

  • Virtual Mobility/Internationalization at home
  • Co-creation and Service Learning
  • Inclusive, Equal and Diverse Education
  • Academic Competence Skill in Social Entrepreneurship.

The continued programme and activates of the Network will be a subject of evolving collaboration and co-sharing of interests in the internationalisation of higher education.

Cooperation Arrangement

There will be no legally binding duties between the members as a result of entering into the Network collaboration. Any bilateral agreements between the Network universities are subject to the inter-institutional arrangements and internal institutional regulations and policy in international cooperation.

For more information, please access the information sheet .

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.

 

BIANNUAL PROGRAM

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