2022 Oct/17

EU-CONEXUS held a forum “How to Build the University of the Future”

On the 11th of October, EU-CONEXUS held a forum about “How to build the University of the Future?”

Students, stakeholders and staff members from all university of the Alliance gathered in Brussels to celebrate the achievements of these past 3 years as well as to open discussions about the challenges to anticipate and overcome in order to build the University of the future. Find the full programme of the day here

Opened by a welcoming speech given by Jean-Marc Ogier, President of EU-CONEXUS, the event started by a brief history of EU-CONEXUS: where we come from, where we are now and what we have and still are envisioning for our future and for the future of European Higher Education.

Then, Vanessa Debiais-Sainton, Head of Unit, DG EAC, European Commission, opened her speech reassuring: “You made the right choice, you won’t regret it, you are the University of the future”. As she went through the role and importance of European Universities alliances as EU-CONEXUS, she recalled the main objectives of our University: “deepen cooperation between universities, promote common academic values & equip students with the green and digital skills they need to build up tomorrow’s society”.

Alain Beretz, Chair of EU-CONEXUS External Advisory Board & President of COST took the floor to answer the question: “Is EU-CONEXUS the University of the future?”. Presenting his SWOT (Strengths / Weaknesses, Opportunities / Threats) analysis of EU-CONEXUS, he gave us feedback and guidelines on what we have achieved so far, what we have missed and how we should prepare for our next phase to overcome our weaknesses and gain from all opportunities coming toward us. He particularly insisted on the necessity for European Alliances as EU-CONEXUS “to aim at pursuing a common project, at bringing up a common spirit with common values to build up one common identity”.

Talking about the history and the path taken by EU-CONEXUS for the past 3 years, we also got to assist to the preview of the documentary “EU-CONEXUS in the making” produced by Diego Jarak, Vice-President Interdisciplinarity & Culture, and Clément Mauduit, Multimedia Assistant Coordinator. This documentary tells the story of our University: from the call of President Macron in 2017 until today, it presents all the discussions, all the thoughts and all the making which have led us to where we are now. It also shows how altogether, through EU-CONEXUS, we are “imagining and writing the world of tomorrow”. Watch the trailer here

The first roundtable of the day gathered Ana de Luis, Chair of EU-CONEXUS Academic Council, Dean of Faculty of the Veterinary and Experimental Sciences at the Catholic University of Valencia, Adrian Curaj, Member of EU-CONEXUS External Advisory Board, General Director of the Executive Agency for Higher Education, Research and Innovation, and Former Minister of Education, Jan Haarhuis, Educationalist and teacher at Utrecht University, Chair of CHARM-EU teaching and learning strategy team and Vasiliki Despiniadi, Former student of EU-CONEXUS Minors programme, Agricultural University of Athens. Altogether, they discussed about “Education for a sustainable development of democratic societies”. During their talk, they notably mentioned how “All of European universities share European values. We are bringing together Europe’s youth within our Universities. They learn and experience from each other, working in multicultural teams which is key for the democratic progress of Europe”, Jan Haarhuis.

Taking advantage of being all reunited during this forum, we awarded our minor students and school contest winners (2021 & 2022 editions) for their work during a ceremony. An opportunity for them to come back on their experiences they all had within EU-CONEXUS:

“The experience and the memories will stay forever. Even if we started the classes thinking “Waow, this is going to be hard”, in the end it was all worth it!”, Nurefsan Cesur student from UTCB.

Then the floor was given to Simonas Šatūnas, Head of Cabinet of Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius (European Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries) to talk about “The role of universities in solving challenges of the development of coastal regions”. The topic developed into discussion, what added value EU-CONEXUS could provide implementing the European Green Deal

Simonas Šatūnas speech was followed by the 2nd roundtable of the event which gathered Danica Ramljak, Member of EU-CONEXUS External Advisory Board, Senior Expert for Science and Innovation, The World Bank, Andrius Sutnikas, Coordinator of Lithuanian Maritime Cluster, Stefani Mikulec Perkovic, Head of Department for EU funds (acting), City of Zadar, Emmanouil Flemetakis, Head of EU-CONEXUS Joint Research Institute, Professor and Researcher, Department of Biotechnology, Agricultural University of Athens, Fidel Echevarría, General Coordinator of the European University of the Seas (SEA-EU), University of Cadiz.

Discussing about EU-CONEXUS and its impact on European competitiveness through science, innovation and knowledge transfer, Danica Ramljak highlighted the impact European Alliances as EU-CONEXUS have on our society as a whole: “Within alliances, universities have huge impact on regional communities and the more we speak about theses impacts, more will come off of it. Having a pool of knowledge and resources in research not only go beyond the regions and cities where partners are located but also to the ones around.”

Emmanouil Flemetakis who spoke about the strengths and tools of EU-CONEXUS to contribute to the development of ERA, mentionned the complementarities of our universities as the biggest strength for EU-CONEXUS research and innovative activities: “Our universities have very strong complementarity which lead us to be very competitive alliance with very strong knowledge and know how in sustainable topics (zero carbon, sustainable energy…)”. He also brought up the initiatives taken by EU-CONEXUS to invite people to dig deeper in their research as well as to pass the skills and knowledge arising from their activities to our students: “Our vision is to use these complementarities and to promote incentives. To do so we have developed new tools to invite people to dig deeper in theses research institute such as project development fund which provide support to research projects researchers could be willing to pursue. We also have to pass the skills that arise from our common research to our students that’s why we are implementing a very strong policy in bringing research to our students within their study programmes.”

As a member of the city of Zadar, Stefani Mikulec Perkovic pushed to the fore the impact European Universities Alliances can have on cities: “As a medium size city we are very happy to have such a big university in our city. We have an opportunity to shake the world so every type of connexion we have we try to see how this can contribute and be translated to our citizen.”

As the representative of SEA-EU, Fidel Echevarría shared his own experience within this very similar European Alliance. Just like EU-CONEXUS, SEA-EU spent the last 3 years building itself up: implementing tools, launching joint study programmes, and constructing strong partnership with stakeholders: “Stakeholders play an important role in our alliance. The engagement of not only companies but also institutions are very important for European Universities. We are trying our best to show companies and public organizations what we are doing in terms of research, education…. at European scale.”

Finally, as Andrius Sutnikas talked about the current challenges of the European port and maritime industry, he featured on the ability for European Universities to be the first step into giving the next generation of euro-citizen the skillset they need to enhance competitiveness.

The roundtable concluded on the fact that “The industry and the academics have to think the same and to agree on common challenges for better and further collaboration.”, Danica Ramljak.

The Forum concluded by the presentation of EU-CONEXUS+: the next phase for EU-CONEXUS by Jean-Marc Ogier and Isabella Baer-Eiselt. As they presented what was to expect within this new era of EU-CONEXUS: “In the new phase, we will look at what we have and how we can make it work and grow together. It will not necessarily be about creating new things”, they also reminded us of our common ambitions saying that “If in 10 years, when a problem on SmUCS -Smart Urban Coastal Sustainability- matters arise we manage it thanks to a university, our University, then that would be a great achievement.”

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