The Universitat Rovira i Virgili has opened the call for 17 postdoctoral grants on the María Zambrano international talent recruitment programme. The application period is between today and September 15th.
This call is for research staff who have been involved in postdoctoral for at least two years at universities or research centres outside Spain. The 17 contracts offered can have a duration of two years and the successful candidates will be paid a net salary of approximately €36,100 a year as well as a single payment of €3,500 to cover any expenses incurred.
The programme is endowed with a budget of €1,691,500 euros, from a direct subsidy provided by the Spanish Ministry of Universities thanks to the European Union and the “NextGenerationEU” funds, in the framework of the Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan.
This call is for people who have been involved in postdoctoral research for at least two years at universities or research centres outside Spain. Applications can be made till September 15th.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
At the core of Aurora Alliance 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 Programme (SLP) work package (WP 3.1.3) supports bringing this core mission of the Aurora Alliance to fruition. Service-learning (SL) is an academic teaching/learning method that connects meaningful community service with University learning, personal growth, and civic responsibility. It provides an opportunity for both teachers and students to engage with society in a meaningful way that entails knowledge sharing, experiential learning, and problem-solving. The SLP is working to support academics and support staff in the use of SL and fostering its value and application in Aurora universities. It is also involved in linking students with SL courses and equipping them with relevant competences to tackle societal challenges as social entrepreneurs and innovators.
As the first part of our effort to foster SL in Aurora universities, we identify SL courses across different faculties/departments and pilot domains in universities. While most universities already have existing SL or SL-like courses, they are either obscure or not identified as such. We seek to bring visibility to these courses. We are also identifying SL champions – teachers and students who have found value in SL and effective social engagement strategies that have enriched their teaching/learning experience. We aim to amplify their voices and lessons learnt to provide both inspiration and motivation for others.
The SLP is also working towards a Service Learning Toolbox that will provide relevant tools/resources to interested teachers and students to learn about SL. These tools could further strengthen existing SL courses and provide teachers with inspiration on how to transform an existing course into an SL one. It will also have resources for both teachers and students to learn about the essential concepts of SL, participation, reflexivity, and community engagement.
Another important initiative of SLP is the International Learning Lab on the 17th June 2021 [15:30 to 18:00 CEST]. The event is open for students, teachers and experts from the Aurora universities and other national/international guest Universities for a wider discourse on SL and the official launch of the SL toolbox. The event will include talks from international SL experts: Prof. Robert Bringle (Professor Emeritus, Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis, USA), Prof. Wolfgang Stark (Professor Emeritus, Universität Duisburg Essen, Germany), and Prof. Marjolein Zweekhorst (Professor, Athena Institute, VU Amsterdam). The event will also include presentations of students from Interdisciplinary Service Learning (iCSL2) – an “Aurorised” course open to Master students from any discipline/program across Aurora universities. You are invited to participate in this event (more information here).
The opportunities provided by SL in universities is undeniable. However, there is still not enough recognition of the importance and benefits of SL in universities, which is the main challenge we are currently facing. It is imperative to promote service-learning as a tool for societal engagement to change the mindset of both teachers and students and an essential paradigm of teaching/learning in universities. Let’s join hands in promoting and fostering SL in our universities.
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After a very successful first call for applications, in which 27 applications were filed, the Aurora Central Office at Palacky University has finished its evaluation. It is our pleasure to announce the applications that will be awarded a Mini-Grant.
Out of the 27 applications, 18 project applications were chosen to receive funding. In total, more than 1,6 Million Czech Crowns have been awarded in this first round. The funding of these projects paid directly from UP’s Rectorate’s sources will serve to further strengthen the Aurora Alliance, and will directly benefit these projects set up by academics.
This pilot phase of UP Aurora Mini-Grants received a wide range of applications, spanning several different fields, from five faculties and research centres. Below please find the list of funded projects:
Ordered alphabetically, based on the first name of the PI.
The applicants were asked to specify whether their project dealt with Education, Research, and/or Professionalization, with most proposals concentrating on either Education or research. The applicants were also asked to disclose the partner and associate partners named and included in the proposal. The University of Innsbruck and our associate partners from Kosice proved to be the most frequent collaborators.
The Sustainable Development Goals also hold an important position in all of Aurora’s endeavours. The applicants were asked to pick at least one of the SDGs and demonstrate how their proposal contributes to that goal. SDG 4: Quality Education and SGD 17: Partnership for the Goals were chosen most often, with SDG 3: Good Health and Well-Being proving popular as well.
The UP Aurora Office looks back on a promising, successful pilot phase for its Mini-Grant scheme. They are looking forward to further developing the scheme for future calls, and above all, they look forward to seeing these Mini-Grants contribute to the excellent international projects academics will carry out!
The master-level “ICT4D in the Field” is the first course in the Aurora pilot “Digital Society and Global Citizenship”. Previously, this course has been carried out in a real-world environment. Students were exposed to complex contexts and real-world challenges. They design and implement practical, user-centred and sustainable socio-technological solutions for disadvantaged communities according to a Community Service Learning (CSL) approach. This year the course has been “Aurorized”,, i.e. redesigned as part of the Aurora Alliance educational pilot, into “collaborative online international learning” while maintaining its global and Community Service flavour. The course’s central theme this year will be: “Artificial Intelligence in and for the Global South”
Currently, AI is at the centre of attention as an innovative ICT technology with a wide range of beneficial application opportunities. However, others express doubts and concerns about various developments as undesirable or dangerous. Heavy investments to boost AI and Data Science are taking place in the Global North, particularly in the big power blocks of the US, Europe and China. The course ICT4D in the Field undertakes to investigate these matters in and for the Global South, thereby giving due attention to the specific contexts of people’s needs and the different geographic, economic, cultural and socio-political contexts.
Students will work in groups focused on different geographies (countries/regions) in the South seeking to answer a number of key questions:
The course will take place in June 2021. It will involve lectures and workshop talks, informed argument writing, reviewing and discussion, collaborative project group work, and presentation. This full-time course is concentrated on four weeks. Master students are invited to apply by sending a motivation letter. However, the course can host a limited number of participants only. A visual preview of the course:
The course targets students doing masters in information sciences, artificial intelligence, computer science, digital humanities, computational social science, but other digital multidisciplinary domains are welcome to apply.
The Aurora Open Education Recourses working group is one of the first working groups established by the Network in 2018. Students have been a part of the working group from the beginning and brought in the special user-orientated perspective which fit in just right with the technical, organizational and strategic expertise of teachers, researchers and staff, particularly the library directors of the Aurora network.
The OER working group supports and encourages collaboration between teachers by reusing and remixing open materials. It aims to tackle the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals on Equal Education by guaranteeing access to knowledge in high-quality and credible content anywhere.
Open Education Resources are essential for many reasons. One reason is the rising cost of textbooks which is different for various study courses.
Secondly, when we aspire to create the opportunity to study for a student body with a broader socioeconomic background and tackle equal education, OER plays a crucial role in accessing the material, regardless of students and researchers’ economic background. OER can provide materials for teaching, learning and research. The growth and expansion of the internet have made access to OER more common worldwide, but filtering the relevant and appropriate material is left up to the user’s assessment. Where the pertinent textbooks will have their strengths and weaknesses, OER material allows a faculty member to pull only strong material into their class. OER also represents an opportunity to have one’s materials enhanced. By allowing the material to be modified by other faculties around the world. An OER creator has the chance to see the material used in ways never imagined. That type of exposure and collaboration is not possible with material that lives on a local computer or only in print.
The philosophy behind OER is that knowledge is a public rather than personal good and should be for the greater good- shared free of charge. Therefore, the challenging first step is to motivate all the partner Universities members to follow that philosophy to enlarge the Material, which is accessible through OER.
Like never before, the pandemic has shown us the strengths of OER. Distant learning formats had to be created in a short period of time and profited by OER material. Due to the circumstances, OER took a big step forward in acknowledging its importance for Universities. Finally, OER is the basis of numerous projects within the Aurora Network. Connecting the OER working group to current Aurora initiatives in the field of innovation of teaching and learning,’ ‘diversity and inclusion’ and ‘student engagement’ is vital and guarantees future viability.
Written by Aylin Kilic, member of the Aurora Student Council