Shaping the Future of European Higher Education: Summary of the Coimbra European Student Union Conference 2023
The Coimbra European Student Union Conference 2023 brought together a diverse group of around 80 participants, including General Coordinators of Alliances, representatives from the European Commission, the European Students Union (ESU), and the Erasmus + Portugal Agency. Among the attendees were Dragos Diaconu, Student Board President from the Technical University of Construction Bucharest, and Leo-Onam Otieno, Student Board Vice President and AC Representative from La Rochelle Université – both present as EU-CONEXUS Student representatives. Held in collaboration with the Municipality of Coimbra, the University of Coimbra, the Academic Association of Coimbra, and the Erasmus + Portugal Agency, this conference served as a pivotal platform for discussing and shaping the future of collaboration in higher education across European borders.
The primary aim of the conference was to foster discussions on the future of collaboration within European higher education. The event marked the first-ever meeting of student representatives from European alliances, emphasizing the importance of student involvement in shaping the direction of higher education initiatives.
Conference Sessions and Activities
The conference spanned throughout multiple days, featuring a series of engaging sessions and activities. Icebreaking activities and discussions on alliances and European aspirations set the tone on Thursday, December 7. The following day included presentations by the ESU and the Unitas alliance, along with workshops focusing on the social dimensions of European alliances and democracy within these collaborations. On Saturday, December 9, the participants delved into topics such as mobility and joint degrees, and attended a workshop dedicated to quality assurance.
Notable Discussions and Insights
The conference addressed a range of crucial topics in the realm of collaboration within higher education. Representing 44 national student unions from 40 countries, the ESU showcased its role in collaboration with the European Commission. The Unitas alliance, which unites 12 universities with a focus on circular economy, cultural heritage, and renewable energies, provided insights into their unique approach. Social dimensions, student representation, mobility, financing, and quality assurance were among the critical aspects that surfaced all throughout the event. Furthermore, discussions centered on social dimension emphasized uniform admission systems, multilingualism, affordable basic needs, and psychological support for students. Other matters, such as student representation challenges, mobility issues, funding considerations, and the need for quality assurance improvements, were thoroughly explored as well.
The conference yielded valuable takeaways, highlighting the importance of transparent and honest student engagement, unified quality assurance teams for alliances, and the need for European degrees to promote mobility and lifelong learning.
The Coimbra European Student Union Conference 2023 proved to be a crucial gathering, providing a platform for stakeholders to actively shape the future of collaboration within higher education in Europe. The insights gained and discussions held during this conference will certainly contribute to the ongoing efforts to enhance and enrich the landscape of European higher education.