Universities building a better Europe

EUA presented a webinar series based on selected sessions of the 2020 EUA Annual Conference. To support measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus, EUA cancelled the physical event, but organised webinars starting on Friday, 17 April. Each webinar lasted one hour and included an opportunity for Q&A. 

Universities play a crucial role in creating knowledge and fostering democratic and sustainable societies. Their impact on wellbeing and the development of a thriving, competitive Europe stems from educating future leaders, professionals, researchers and citizens. It equally comes from curiosity-driven research aimed at identifying and meeting the broad challenges we all face and outreach to local and global industry and governments to foster much-needed innovation. Yet demonstrating and communicating universities’ impact at the societal level is a challenge in itself. Universities need strong leadership, a focused strategic approach, as well as coordinated efforts across Europe and beyond.

The webinars covered the original theme of the EUA Annual Conference: Universities building a better Europe. They were of interest to institutional leaders, including rectors, vice-rectors and heads of administration, as well as higher education researchers and analysts, and representatives of other bodies involved in educational policy.

Participation was free of charge and open to all EUA members as well as other stakeholders with an interest in higher education institutional policy.

17 April, 14.00-15.00 CET

Webinar “Strength in numbers can university alliances change the game?

  • Vanessa Debiais-Sainton, Head of Higher Education Unit, DG Education, Youth, Sport and Culture, European Commission
  • Dorothy Kelly, Vice Rector for Internationalization, University of Granada, Spain
  • Rasmus Larsen, Provost, Technical University of Denmark
  • Chaired by Tia Loukkola, Director, Institutional Development Unit, EUA

Strategic transnational collaboration between universities is becoming increasingly prevalent in higher education. The European Commission’s European Universities Initiative, for example, has captured widespread interest by establishing bottom-up networks where universities can work together to develop common strategies and priorities. This webinar explored the benefits and challenges associated with various cooperative models in place. The discussion has also been informed by the results of a recent EUA survey about strategic cooperation, showing the geographical and thematic scope of university cooperation and the challenges of working together.

A presentation by the Technical University of Denmark on how international alliances create value as well as a presentation on the Arqus European University Alliance are now available. Further information is available from the European Commission about the European Universities Initiative and the effect of the coronavirus on the Erasmus+ programme  and European Solidarity Corps.

A recording of the webinar is available on the EUA YouTube Channel


22 April, 14.00-15.00 CET

Webinar “Promoting universities societal engagement

This webinar included presentations of two approaches to addressing higher education’s societal responsibility. One showcases an institution’s implementation of a European framework for community engagement in higher education, as well as the project upon which this framework is based. The other presentation demonstrated one university’s efforts to support researchers at risk and promote academic freedom.

  • Snježana Prijić Samaržija, Rector, University of Rijeka, Croatia and Ninoslav Šćukanec Schmidt, Director, Institute for the Development of Education, Croatia
  • Orla Duke, Programme Manager Scholars at Risk Europe, Maynooth University, Ireland
  • Chaired by Tia Loukkola, Director, Institutional Development Unit, EUA

Presentation Towards a European framework for community engagement in higher education’, by Snježana Prijić Samaržija and Ninoslav Šćukanec Schmidt

The goal of this session was to examine whether there is an opportunity to develop innovative policy tools both at the university and the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) level for assessing externally and internally the community engagement of universities. Community engagement is about mutually beneficial cooperation between universities and their wider communities, which will be presented on the University of Rijeka example. The session included: analysis of different approaches to community engagement in higher education; a mapping of challenges connected with community engagement; discussion related to new developments in relation to community engagement; and debate about a possible European framework for community engagement. There have been no initiatives yet at the EHEA level that have focused exclusively on community engagement. We will explain how a European framework for Community Engagement might fill this gap and support universities in institutionalising their cooperation with the wider community.

Presentation European universities welcoming researchers at risk promoting academic freedom’, by Orla Duke

This presentation showcased activities at European higher education institutions to support researchers at risk and promote academic freedom. It will also provide examples of how such activities line up with institutional strategies. In particular, the presentation highlighted a 10-partner, EU-funded project called Inspireurope, which coordinates support across Europe for researchers at risk. The presenter outlined the pattern of threats facing researchers around the world today, discuss existing activities to address these, as well as efforts to support individual researchers. The presenter issued a call to action to EUA conference participants to get involved in concrete activities across Europe in support of researchers at risk and to promote academic freedom. 

Further information from Maynooth University and the Scholars at Risk Network about Inspireurope is available.

A recording of the webinar is available on the EUA YouTube Channel


24 April, 14.00-15.00 CET

Webinar “Making a difference through partnerships

This webinar presented initiatives by higher education actors who take a collaborative approach to addressing and fulfilling universities’ role in society.

  • Koen Verlaeckt, Secretary General, Flemish Interuniversity Council, Belgium
  • Douglas Halliday, Chair of EUA Energy and Environment Platform, Durham University, United Kingdom
  • Chaired by Amanda Crowfoot, Secretary General, EUA

Presentation ‘Assessing the human rights impact of national and international academic partnerships an innovative’, by Koen Verlaeckt

As key societal actors, universities are bound by national and international legislation on human rights. However they should go beyond that by offering their researchers and decision-makers background information on what human rights are, how potential risks can be detected and how potential future violation of human rights can be prevented. The Flemish Interuniversity Council (VLIR) developed a screening and scoping tool to address this delicate issue. It is the result of a balancing act between human rights principles and the reality of strategic priorities that govern a university’s policies on research, higher education, international relations and corporate administration.

Presentation ‘Designing university programmes to support the European Green Deal and the Sustainable Development, by Douglas Halliday

The world is facing unprecedented challenges. Universities have a civic duty to train and prepare individuals who can develop relevant, effective and robust approaches to solve global challenges. The European Green Deal aspires for Europe to be climate-neutral by 2050. How should universities respond to the challenge of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and the 2050 European Green Deal? This presentation presented key strategic approaches for universities to consider when developing multidisciplinary challenge-based education and training programmes at Masters and Doctoral level. Specific examples will illustrate the success of this approach. The presentation offered delegates a toolkit they can use to develop their own approach.

Recommendations for implementing a human rights assessment at Flemish universities are now available.

A recording of the webinar is available on the EUA YouTube Channel


Previous Events

  • Online replacement - 2020 EUA Annual Conference

    Universities building a better Europe

    16 - 17 Apr 2020 Conference Gdańsk University of Technology

    It is with much regret that we inform all participants that, in view of the continuing spread of coronavirus in Europe, EUA has taken the decision to cancel...

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