Group: For students

Aurora Alliance Mini-Grant Programme 2021

The International Division of Palacky University Olomouc (UP) is launching Aurora Alliance Mini-Grant Programme to further support the development of the European Universities strategic partnership goals of the Aurora Alliance. This scheme aims to strengthen the cooperation of Palacky University Olomouc with other eight Aurora Alliance university partners beyond the current project activity scope.

It primarily offers an opportunity to UP Faculties, Education and Research Centres to engage in academic and professional cooperation across the disciplines within the Aurora Alliance. The scheme supports the bottom-up approach and invites academicians and professional staff to build the working teams with Aurora partners by prioritizing their own international academic collaboration ambitions.

Duration and length

The mini-grants programme aims to have three calls – February 2021, January 2022, January 2023. The first call in February 2021, is aimed as initial support of project start and will allow the successful projects to commence in April 2021. The following two calls will be open to supporting both continuation of the commenced projects and the new mini-projects each year.

Procedure and Selection Criteria

The project application form is to be submitted by 29th March (First Call Opening on 16th of February 2021). Aurora Central Team with a Selection Committee consisting of Vice-Dean for Internationalization will announce the successfully awarded projects by April 14th 2021.

Interested? Apply before March 29th, 2021. For more information, please view the document .

UEA student spoke in House of Commons about diversity in the curriculum  

A student from the University of East Anglia (UEA) spoke in the House of Commons after her petition to integrate diversity into the school curriculum reached 88,000 signatures.

Cynthia Ashlyne Muthoni who is 22 and studying MSc Climate Change and International Development at UEA presented via video link to a joint session of the Petitions Committee and Women and Equalities Committee on Thursday (5 November).

She is classed as vulnerable to COVID-19 and therefore was unable to physically attend protests over the death of George Floyd in the USA and calls for racial equality in the UK in June, so as an alternative method of protest she started the online petition. Within 48 hours of Cynthia setting up the online petition it gained 10,000 signatures, the necessary amount needed for the Government to respond, and it has steadily grown to just over 88,000 signatures.

Cynthia has experienced and witnessed racism throughout her life. She believes that the key to preventing it in education, healthcare, employment and other parts of society is to actively teach anti-racism to children in schools, so the next generation doesn’t become perpetrators or victims.

She said: “I remember being in school and always being called by the name of another black pupil despite us looking completely different. Teachers were angry to the point they would begin yelling at me for not responding and were later embarrassed by their actions. Sadly, this isn’t the only time I have been subject to racism.

“I would like teachers to be given appropriate anti-racism training, so they feel knowledgeable, confident, and empowered teaching such topics as well as when providing advice and assistance with any incidents of racism.

“Seeing the response to the petition is heart-warming, knowing so many people are co-signing and advocating for your idea because they recognise its importance. It gives you more confidence in your beliefs, it encourages you, and your determination becomes unwavering.

“It’s an honour to appear in parliament in any sense, but to be given the privilege to voice your ideas to people who have the power to affect real change is truly incredible. I feel prepared to combat this argument and demonstrate the necessity of education on racism and diversity being made mandatory.

“My aim is to have this idea transformed into legislation so that a significant portion of the curriculum is dedicated to deconstructing ideas of racism, providing children with tools necessary to combat racism, to become anti-racist and an ally.

“Instead of diversity (racially, ethnically, and culturally) being something children are told to tolerate, it should be something they are taught to celebrate. Diversity isn’t just acknowledgement of differences it’s the empowerment of the elements that make us different.”

Catherine McKinnell MP, Chair of the Petitions Committee, said: “I am pleased that the Petitions Committee is able to hold this joint evidence session with the Women and Equalities Committee and members of the Education Committee on such an important issue. This joint work allows us to delve deeper into concerns to petitioners that cut across policy areas.

“In the last few months, petitions calling for greater diversity in the National Curriculum have seen more than 390,000 signatures. Although the Government’s response to one of these petitions states that the curriculum provides teachers with ‘opportunities…to teach about Britain’s role in colonisation and the transatlantic slave trade’, many petitioners feel this does not go far enough in ensuring that students experience a fully diverse education all year round.”

Caroline Nokes MP, Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee added: “To tackle racism and create a more equal and just society, we must understand and learn from the past. That starts in schools, with a more inclusive history curriculum. The sheer number of signatures these petitions have received show the strength of feeling on these issues. The Woman and Equalities Committee wants to work with the Petitions Committee and colleagues on the Education Committee to explore this in more detail.”

To view the petition, visit:

What are students experiencing right now?

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, many universities have decided to move teaching from their classrooms to the cloud. It is a long known battle for students to gain access to teaching and study material at any time and place, but little did we know that it would be the external pressure of a global pandemic sparking the online revolution within academic institutions.

Almost as if knowing what challenges 2020 would bring, the University of Iceland (UI) tested a new learning management system during the first wave of the pandemic last spring and was ready to implement the improved software in the new academic year be held almost exclusively online. Alongside some of the greater features – integrated assignments, calendars, and multiple forms of feedback for both staff and students – students who submit their assignments on time are celebrated with confetti all over their screens.

Even though studies are now more flexible than ever, and virtual confetti aside, students’ lives have never been as restricted. The social and societal impacts of Covid-19 weigh heavily on us all, not to mention the financial setback many of us have had to tackle (and are still tackling). Many students depended on mini-jobs and were among the first to face lay-offs.

Fear of the unknown

In a survey conducted by the Student Council of UI, 2208 students reported their well-being during the pandemic in association with their studies. A vast majority of students reported feeling higher stress levels due to the pandemic, fearing it will negatively affect their academic progress. More than half of the participants reported feeling anxious, fearing to become infected. The risk of becoming infected is a great uncertainty feeding isolated students’ anxious minds. But it is a source of uncertainty none of us can control.

What we can control, however, is uncertainty within our academic institutions. Instead of re-evaluating restrictions and policies according to fluctuations of the pandemic, why not create a set plan for the whole academic year? The announcement that teaching would be held online this semester was a great relief to many students, but with in-person final exams on the horizon, the complaints box fills up again.

Students are assets

As if exams are not stressful enough, the risk of infection is a more serious threat than potential academic failure. Keeping away from online or take-home exams because they are unknown territory, is no argument for today’s average university student, a digital native. This generation of university students is fluent in technology, indifferent to traditional academia’s presenteeism.

Being part of a network of research-intensive universities across Europe focusing on societal impact, amongst other topics, we are all highly aware of the long-lasting challenges this pandemic brings. The establishment of a “new normal” is evident, but the question remains, by whom?

With a multidisciplinary approach to health research and a large sample of the most forward-thinking young individuals in society, Aurora universities are the perfect testing grounds for innovative practices during these times of uncertainty. Like ours, universities can use this opportunity to serve as a leading light to society in finding a new normal.

Written by Emily Reise Aurora Student Council Secretary

Celebrating Aurora Student Champions

The Aurora Student Schemes come to the end of the inaugural year with a celebration event on Wednesday 16 June and the invitation is open to any Aurora university staff or students looking to find out more.

Whether you were engaged in any way this year, you’d like to know more about how students could support the work of Aurora, or you’re looking to sign up for next year, you’ll learn from some of those involved this year and what the experience has meant to them.

We look forward to sharing a celebration of the first year of the Aurora Student Schemes, from 18:00 CEST (17:00 UK time, 16:00 UTC) and hope you can join us. Click on the link below the schedule to join the event in the evening.

Approximate CEST timings

18:00 Overview of the inaugural year of the schemes  Callum Perry, Aurora Student President and President of the University of East Anglia Students’ Union (5’)

Reflections on the inaugural year of the schemes
Presentations by current Aurora students (30’)

Congratulations on the inaugural year of the schemes
Prof Jon Atli, Aurora Universities President and President of the University of Iceland (5’)

c. 19:00 Closing remarks (Callum)

  • The benefit of seeing schemes come into fruition during the tenancy
  • Encouraging the next generation – recommend a friend draw, register
  • Final thanks and congratulations for this year and wishes for the future


Join on your computer or mobile app

Click here to join the meeting


We look forward to seeing you online.

Olivia, Tara, Alex and Callum
Aurora Student Schemes

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 COVID Student Conference

The Aurora COVID Student Conference, which took place on  19th January from 14:00-17:00 (GMT), is an initiative by the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the Aurora Vice-Rectors Education.

This was a free virtual conference for students from across all Aurora Universities to hear from and with experts working at Aurora partner institutions who have been active in responding to and researching the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The program included:

14:00 GMT Opening Remarks Prof Neil Ward (UEA, Norwich)
14:10 COVID and The Netherlands Dr Xander Koolman (VU, Amsterdam)
14:50 COVID and student well-being – The Caring Universities project Dr Sascha Struijs (VU, Amsterdam)
15:30 Break
15:45 COVID and the UK Prof Paul Hunter (UEA, Norwich)
16:25 Conference Discussion / Questions from attendees Chaired Prof Neil Ward
17:00 Conference Close


The conference closed with a discussion of the key themes that emerge during the plenary sessions. This conference was organized with the student in mind. Students who are considering a project or dissertation related to COVID, those studying or preparing to study topics related to COVID-19, such as dissertations or other project work, are more than welcome to watch the conference again.

Elísabet Brynjarsdóttir is Outstanding Young Icelander 2020

Elísabet Brynjarsdóttir, former President of the University of Iceland Student Council and the Aurora Student Council, was recently selected as Outstanding Young Icelander of 2020 for her contributions in the area of philanthropy and volunteering.

The award is presented by JCI Iceland, who recognises people as part of an international programme that JCI organises all over the world to honour success and motivate other young people to succeed.

This was the nineteenth time the award has been presented in Iceland. As previously, the evaluation committee nominated ten people, all of whom were recognised as an Outstanding Young Icelanders for their contributions to Icelandic society. The group includes several current and former University of Iceland students.

The award itself is then presented to one person who stood out in particular, and the honour this year went to Elísabet Brynjarsdóttir. Elísabet received the award from Guðlaug Birna Björnsdóttir, National President of JCI Iceland, on 18 November.

Elísabet graduated from the University of Iceland with a degree in nursing in 2017. During her time as a student, she was involved in establishing the mental health education association Hugrún, working together with other University of Iceland students in nursing, psychology and medicine. The association educates young people about mental health and the resources available. Elísabet served as director of the association for the winter 2017-2018.

In the winter 2018-2019, Elísabet was President of the Student Council at the University of Iceland. During her term she organised the climate strike here in Iceland. She was also elected President of the Aurora Student Council 2018-2020, Aurora being a collaborative network of 9 prestigious European universities, including the University of Iceland. As President, Elísabet represented a total of 230,000 students within the network; this is probably the largest group that any Icelandic student leader has ever led in an international context.

Incredible achievement in raising awareness of drug abuse

Elísabet now works as a project manager at Frú Ragnheiður, a harm reduction service from the Red Cross in Iceland, having previously worked as a nurse for Frú Ragnheiður for two years. Before that, she worked on the project as a volunteer.

“As project manager, she has achieved incredible things in organising our work and raising awareness of the causes, nature and consequences of drug abuse for the individual as well as society as a whole, such as conditions for the homeless and the less able. She is a tireless advocate for marginalised groups, for example the homeless and intravenous drug users. She educates the public about people with drug abuse problems and is passionate about the subject. She has taken on the role of trying to show the nation that people are people, no matter what circumstances they find themselves in, everyone deserves compassion and respect,” said the statement from the JCI evaluation committee.

Aurora, alongside the University of Iceland, congratulates Elísabet on her recognition as an Outstanding Young Icelander.

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:

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.