At the beginning of September, Kees Kouwenaar, former Secretary-General of Aurora and specialist in the Aurora Competence Framework at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, visited the University of Iceland.
The purpose of the visit was to invite teachers and directors of academic development within the University of Iceland to become better acquainted with Aurora and discuss how the Aurora Competence Framework can support teachers in strengthening their students’ interdisciplinary skills in addition to subject-specific skills and knowledge. The seminar generated a lively discussion on how to better enable students to tackle societal challenges and diverse jobs in a dynamic and technological world, in accordance with the goals of HÍ26. Participants shared their suggestions for the continued development of the Aurora Competence Framework, which will be useful in the coming months.
Jón Atli Benediktsson, Rector of the University of Iceland and Aurora President, also met with Kees. During the meeting, the successful collaboration between the University of Iceland and the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in recent years was discussed, which has resulted in extensive student and staff exchanges between the universities increased internationalisation of studies and a total of 7 million euros in funding from the European Commission to deepen and strengthen the cooperation between Aurora Universities as part of the European Universities Initiative.
The Rector also congratulated Kees on his recent award from the European Association for International Education (EAIE) for his outstanding contribution to international collaboration in higher education. The EAIE is Europe’s largest forum in this field and provides a robust platform for university staff and experts to exchange new knowledge and ideas that contribute to successful internationalisation.
Kees says that the purpose of founding Aurora was exactly this, to create a solid network for European research universities with common values and goals to help each other achieve even better results. “I immediately liked the idea of founding Aurora because I have always felt that international collaboration should also help universities, students and teachers to make their core activities even better – not just be a nice additional thing on the side.”
Kees says the support from the European Union has helped to integrate the Aurora partnership even better into the institutional strategies and policies of the member universities. “Part of the benefits that the EU support brings us are the risks and costs associated with not achieving the results we aim for in the coming years within Aurora. The recognition from the EU has made Aurora universities more visible and garnered them great prestige both in their home countries and in Europe, and it is therefore, crucial to ensure continued EU funding for Aurora by demonstrating concrete results and impact, allowing us to maintain this prestige which can open many doors in the future”.
Regarding the development of education, Kees is convinced that Aurora will be useful to the member universities in various ways. Aurora’s motto is ‘to learn from and with each other’. Doing things together is the key vehicle for students, teachers and other university staff to learn from each other, whether through joint modules, by offering students international experiences, for example, through learning or training mobility abroad, or through staff exchanges. “
When asked what his hopes the long-term impact of the Aurora partnership and the Aurora Competency Framework will be, Kees says the answer is simple but very ambitious. “I hope that it will result in our students being equipped with not only subject-specific knowledge, but also possessing the more general skills and mindsets needed to be responsible members of society and who take the initiative in making our societies better places to live in”.