Group: For students

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.

Rethinking Food Systems in the Anthropocene

The Aurora Hackathon ‘Rethinking Food Systems in the Anthropocene’ – was organised by the University of Naples Federico II and took place in Palazzo Gravina, seat of the UNINA Department of Architecture, from Monday 23 to Friday 27 October 2023. The main goal of the activity was to co-create conceptual solutions to rethink the food economy of a specific area of Naples, drawing inspiration from university seminars, and workshops hosted by representatives of sustainable entrepreneurial local activities and from on-field excursions conducted in the local markets.

The following subjects were covered in the lectures and seminars: Anthropocene/Capitalocene (by Adam Arvidsson); Rethinking the City through Food (by Ramon Rispoli); Service Design in the Food Ecosystem (by Afi Soedarsono); Housing experiments for food collectivization (by Ciro Priore); Jugaad, Informal Economy and Technological Disobedience (by Benedetta Toledo, Cristina Trey). For more info on the program please download the Flyer.

According to the hackathon design challenge, the participants had to develop a design proposal to guarantee ecological resilience, economic sustainability for producers and consumers, and organizational feasibility. The long-term goal would be the generation of new communities involving consumers and producers in a specific area of Naples, around Palazzo Fuga, which was the main building involved in the design proposals.

Moreover, design proposals had to include:
– sustainable and community-based solutions for urban gardening (community gardens, vertical farms, and the like);
– solutions for waste reduction based on circularity (composting, recycling, upcycling, etc.);
– physical and digital spaces able to connect producers and consumers in a direct way (farmers’ markets, consumers’ groups, apps and digital platforms);
– sense-making strategies (promotion of local food and recipes; collective events, initiatives, and campaigns related to food, also as a vehicle for social and cultural integration, community building, and cooperation).

The hackathon involved 54 participants, a strong increase compared to the previous two editions: 12 students from the Copenhagen Business School, 6 students from the University of Iceland and 36 students enrolled in the UNINA Master of Science in “Design for the Built Environment” (DBE). The added value of this experience for the students has been the transdisciplinary learning environment, as students were coming not only from all over Europe but also from different backgrounds (Design; Social Sciences; Business Administration; Service Management; Industrial engineering; Environment and Natural Resources, Renewable Energy Sustainability, Economics, and Policy).

On the final day, the students had the opportunity to showcase their project proposals in front of a jury. The best projects, selected for their creativity, social innovation, sustainability, economic feasibility, and business model, have been nominated for the “Seismic Awards”, a competition held by CBS (Copenhagen Business School) to promote creative and innovative social entrepreneurs.

The participants’ comments reflect the value of the initiative.
We asked the students what they appreciated from this experience and all the lectures, and some of their answers were:
“I appreciated that all the lectures were extremely related to what would be our project, giving us a practical approach to problem-solving”
“I appreciated that they presented our photos and cases of food from all over the world and markets in Naples, I was also interested in seeing how cities are organized”
“They provided us with a complex and systemic way of thinking, moreover I was interested in the in-depth knowledge gained of Anthropocene and the problems faced in Naples”
“I enjoyed visiting Neapolitan markets and interacting with people because we had some genuine experience, also we could discover the food system in Naples and the culture from the local perspective and get inspiration”
“Seminars gave me amazing insights to the area of Naples, but also by gathering and visiting the markets I understood more about the big and small markets in the city, I enjoyed getting knowledge by experiencing”
“My favourite activity was when we went in “The Florist Bar” because it was interesting to hear a direct experience of the growth of an activity like that, it was inspiring”


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.


“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.

The Aurora Student Advocate Open Badges Initiative at University Federico II of Naples

In a pioneering initiative, the University Federico II of Naples (Unina) has recognised eight Aurora Student Advocates for their active participation in various learning activities by awarding them Open Badges. These students have effectively utilised the Open Badge system to showcase their skills and experiences within the Aurora network, demonstrating the value of collaborative learning with an international and diverse group of peers and educators.

Open Badges: Enhancing Knowledge Exchange and Relationship Building

Through active involvement in workshops, group discussions, collaborative sessions, and interactive laboratories, these Aurora Student Advocates have facilitated a vibrant exchange of knowledge. One student shared, “The activities offered fresh perspectives and fostered mutual learning. They also helped me build valuable relationships with other students and lecturers, enriching my learning experience.”

Experienced researchers and professors within the Aurora network enhanced this experience by sharing their insights, leading to a rich and comprehensive learning environment. Another student highlighted the benefits of networking within Aurora, stating, “Establishing relationships with other students and faculty was instrumental in acquiring new ways of learning and knowledge.”

Student Advocates Embrace Cultural Diversity

The Aurora programme allows students to interact with diverse cultures, fostering an appreciation of their shared philosophies despite their differences. Reflecting on this, one student said, “Working with an Austrian, a German, and a Spaniard, we engaged in meaningful conversations that transcended cultural boundaries.”

Moreover, the language practice and personal growth opportunities offered by the programme were equally appreciated. A student noted, “We are not used to speaking English regularly in Italy. I am glad I got to practice it with other Aurora students, understand another university’s climate, and create spaces for my personal growth.”

The Aurora experience at the University Federico II of Naples included participation in the “Innovation Village,” a scientific-technological event emphasising research significance. This event fostered collaboration among local and international students, facilitating a dynamic exchange of ideas and knowledge. Students reported that Aurora significantly enhanced their soft skills, such as organisation, planning, and collaboration, contributing to their overall learning experience.

Open Badges: Certifying Skills and Accomplishments

Open Badges are digital credentials representing students’ skills, providing international recognition and adding value to their extracurricular, research, and cooperative activities. They certify a specific competence acquired by the recipient, allowing students to communicate their learning experiences, methods, and outcomes concisely.

Aurora Student Advocates who earn Open Badges demonstrate:
• Collaboration with a student from another institution.
• Active engagement in an Aurora working group.
• Authorship of a reflective paper discussing their student experience in Aurora.
With Open Badges, students can effectively highlight their skills and accomplishments in today’s digital age, distinguishing themselves in the competitive academic and professional landscape.

UNINA has awarded 8 Aurora Student Advocate Open Badges, with two more in the pipeline.

UNINA celebrates the achievements of these pioneering students! Ad Maiora!!!

Aurora Creative Writing Workshop in Olomouc

In the end of May, the Aurora Creative Writing Workshop will take place in Olomouc. This creative writing workshop builds on the world-renowned expertise of the University of East Anglia’s Creative Writing Department that launched the careers of many celebrated authors such as Kazuo Ishiguro. Hosted by the Department of English and American Studies of Palacký University Olomouc, the workshop will give you the opportunity to develop your creative writing skills in the charming baroque city of Olomouc.

This five-day creative writing residency, organized between 22 and 26 May, 2023, is open to interested applicants from all Aurora Universities. The program will focus on developing your creative writing skills in English through a series of workshops and collaborative exercises together with other students from across Europe. In the evening, a social program will be organized, and on Friday the 26th you will have the opportunity to participate in the Aurora Student Conference in Olomouc, where you can meet even more students from Aurora Universities.

A more detailed program will be announced soon.

Interested? Check out for more information on how to apply!

Aurora thanks former Vice-Chancellor of UEA, Professor David Richardson

The Aurora community would like to express our gratitude and appreciation to one of the founding fathers of the Aurora Network, Professor David Richardson. Professor Richardson has been a pillar of the Aurora community and has played a vital role in the development of the Aurora Universities Network since its creation in 2016. Although he stepped down two weeks ago as Vice-Chancellor of the University of East Anglia, and therefore no longer represents his institution as a Board member of Aurora, his legacy and impact on Aurora remains strong beyond his tenure.

Professor Richardson has an impressive Aurora record of service. The University of East Anglia (UEA), under Professor Richardson’s leadership, was one of the founding institutional members of the network. He was also the Chair of the Aurora Board for four years from 2016-2020, and was recently re-elected again in 2022, serving as Board Treasurer. His belief in the added value of Aurora never wavered, including during the challenging period leading up to Brexit and the resulting changes this meant for higher education in the UK in the area of international cooperation and mobility. Despite these challenges, UEA remains committed  to the Aurora Alliance as an Associate Partner in the new funding bid for the Erasmus+ European Universities Initiative.

“It has been a pleasure to work with David Richardson ever since we first started discussing establishing a new university network in 2016,” Aurora President Jón Atli Benediktsson states. “The Aurora Network thrived under his leadership and dedication. David was a strong supporter of Aurora expanding and applying to become one of the European University Alliances as he recognized the tremendous opportunities this would provide for our students, staff, and wider community.

David is a great friend and working with him has been a privilege. We very much appreciate his contribution to Aurora.”

Mirjam van Praag, President of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, said:

“As one of the founding fathers of Aurora, David is a long-time and dear friend to us. He excelled in keeping us all on track, from the start of the Network through the phase of forming the Alliance. With him on board, the road ahead was suddenly clear for everyone, redirecting us to more productive alleys whenever we went astray, looking at issues from a new angle, and all of that he seemed to do effortlessly.”

As the Aurora community, comprised of ten research-intensive universities, continues to strengthen our international cooperative partnership, we will carry forward Professor Richardson’s legacy through our continued commitment to academic and research collaboration, innovation in teaching and learning, positive student development and transformation.

First Aurora micro-credential “Sustainability & Climate Change” awarded

On 2 February 2023, Universität Innsbruck awarded the first micro-credential certificate to Giusi Merola from Università Federico II di Napoli. The micro-credential, part of the Aurora joint programme on “Sustainability & Climate Change,” was awarded for Giusi’s completion of 10 ECTS credits.

Giusi is the first student, not just at Federico II but throughout the Aurora European University Alliance, to receive a micro-credential, making her the trailblazer for a new era in higher education within Aurora. A micro-credential is a record of the learning outcomes acquired after a short course of study. The courses are designed to provide students with specific knowledge, skills, and competencies that meet societal, personal, cultural, or labour market needs. Micro-credentials are portable and can be shared with potential employers or higher education institutions.

Giusi’s experience with the micro-credential was overwhelmingly positive. She shares, “During the lessons, we learned about climate change from various perspectives: anthropological, social, cultural, and scientific. We were given the tools to identify the realities that truly care about sustainability. As a final test, we wrote a report identifying companies close to receiving the B-Corp certification and developed a social start-up project which was presented at the European Forum of Alpbach in Austria to hundreds of students and investors. The experiences enriched me as a person, added valuable skills to my CV, and created numerous online and offline connections.”

The “Sustainability & Climate Change” micro-credential is a unique and innovative approach to learning that aligns with the European Council Recommendations. The micro-credential allows participating universities to share the latest research results with students in real time through research-led teaching and challenge-based learning. The certificate not only strengthens opportunities for inclusive international learning but also engages all partners in the Aurora Alliance to provide quality education. Moreover, the micro-credential certificate represents the effort for interoperability of the Aurora universities’ IT systems and connection to common European interfaces and platforms, such as Europass and European Digital Credentials for Learning. This is a further step to help overcome recognition problems that still exist in some places, often due to national study laws.

Universität Innsbruck’s issuance of the first micro-credential certificate demonstrates the potential for a new and innovative approach to learning across Aurora universities. The “Sustainability & Climate Change” micro-credential provides students with a unique opportunity to gain specialized knowledge and competencies while simultaneously addressing the challenges posed by climate change.

Pilot Domain “Sustainability & Climate Change” bears first fruits

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” this well-known quote highly resonates with the current transdisciplinary educational programme Sustainability & Climate Change, as it makes headway within the Aurora Alliance at Universität Innsbruck. The goal is to create an innovative, transdisciplinary educational joint program dealing with sustainability and climate change in a holistic way.

Christina Raab is an active member of the Pilot Domain Sustainability and Climate Change and is also Deputy Head of the Aurora European Universities Alliance Office at Innsbruck. When not working on all things Aurora and sustainability, she works at the Office for the Bologna Process & Teaching Development. Although the ongoing process has many stumbling blocks, Teaching Development is very dear to Christina.

As part of my job, I have the privilege of developing new, innovative courses with colleagues and academics. For me, it is always important and very helpful that Aurora pays attention to learning outcomes and student-centredness and that I can accompany and monitor this focus with suitable tools”.

The biggest goal for Christina and the Pilot Domain Sustainability and Climate Change members is to create an innovative, transdisciplinary educational joint program dealing with sustainability and climate change in a holistic way — one that considers both ecological and economic concerns. Additionally, this programme will be designed to address complex societal problems in various ecosystems. With this in mind, students will need to learn skills and develop mindsets that enable them to take responsibility for their work and life and become engaged civilians who tackle societal and environmental problems.

Sustainability and Climate Change Joint Programme

The desired mission is going to be fulfilled soon. The Sustainability & Climate Change transdisciplinary educational programme will be open to all Aurora Master students of all disciplinary backgrounds, accounting for 30 ECTS credits. It is jointly created by the Aurora European Universities Alliance.

Christina and her team members have opened Aurora courses at Universität Innsbruck so that students from all partner universities can participate online, on-site or through short-term mobility. Two of these courses form the 10 ECTS credit micro-credential “Sustainability & Climate Change”, developed by the same name’s pilot domain. This is the first micro-credential offered by both Universität Innsbruck and Aurora Universities. Students who successfully complete the micro-credential “Sustainability & Climate Change” receive a digital certificate from Aurora (issued by Universität Innsbruck). These students will have had a learning experience, enabling them to act as social entrepreneurs and innovators, willing and able to take responsibility. With this micro-credential, Aurora students gain an understanding of how their scientific and educational background can be applied in a transdisciplinary and challenge-based way to solve societal challenges. Students also learn to work effectively with other members from diverse, multicultural backgrounds within international teams.

With such a fantastic milestone and achievement in sight, Christina Raab said: “I would like to extend my thanks to all members of the groups for their efforts and dedication over the last year—especially those in Pilot Domain ‘Sustainability & Climate Change and Borderless Learning Group. We are grateful!”

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.