Skip to main content

Web Content Display Web Content Display

Skip banner

Web Content Display Web Content Display

Newsletter No. 1

Connected ballsDo university networks matter? 

Dorota Maciejowska

University networks in a nutshell

The year 1985, date of formal establishment of the Coimbra Group network, marked the beginning of a rise in European university networks. Shortly afterwards it was followed by the emergence of similar, bottom-up initiatives organized in the framework of formalized network structures, to mention only a few of those, such as EUA, EUNIS, Utrecht Network, EUROPEAUM, The Guild or LERU. A large number of university networks which have been established differ depending on the type of activity and scope, dimension (national, regional, European or international), density, geographical coverage, longevity or other typological criteria. In general, those networks have various priorities but they share one common aim: providing the best educational and research opportunities for their students and their staff. That aspiration is realized through partnership collaboration, new contacts, share of knowledge and expertise or joint initiatives, but it may also be revealed through mutual support.

At present university networking has reached a higher level. For four years now we have been witnessing the creation of a new type of networks being a result of top-down initiative of the European Commission, named European Universities Initiative (EUI). Their aim is to enhance the quality, attractiveness and competitiveness of European higher education institutions and to contribute significantly to united and strong Europe. This Initiative impacts strongly university internationalization strategies as well as stimulates discussions on the transformation of the role of networks in university cooperation and outreach.

Jagiellonian University in networks

Jagiellonian University is an excellent example of an institution participating in networks since its very beginnings. It has joined both, the oldest European Coimbra Group network as well as the youngest European Universities Initiative within the framework of Una Europa alliance. The university has assisted the evolution of networks, especially over the last ten years. JU representatives have been also gradually joining or co-creating various networks evolving step by step in order to form deeper partnerships, such as The Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities; Utrecht Network; Europaeum; Magna Charta; EUA; EUNIS, AUCSO, Scholars at Risk; Baltic University Programme; IREG Observatory; CELSA; South East Europe and the Western Balkans Rectors’ Forum; Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie, and finally Una Europa – a true seed of a transnational comprehensive university, not “just” a network. In result, those activities allow the university to implement more effectively principles of the university's strategy.  Central coordination of JU participation in networks with a designated authority as well as administrative coordinator makes it easier to manage and harmonize all wide range of activities and thematic areas offered by the networks.  It also helps finding and exploiting synergies between the networks.

In the light of the above, the Jagiellonian University authorities were asked: Why do university networks matter nowadays?

 

The role of university networks nowadays

Prof. Dorota Malec, Vice-Rector for internationalization

For over thirty years, Jagiellonian University has been actively engaged in university networks and associations. As a representative of Jagiellonian University actively involved in the affairs of the Coimbra Group and The Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities, I have observed the development of international cooperation in this field for many years.

The dynamics of networks are diverse; currently, there is a kind of division between "traditional" networks initiated by universities as bottom-up undertaking financed through member contributions, and alliances of universities established since 2018 under the European Commission's scheme: European Universities Initiative. The emergence of this new collaboration formula prompted reflection among "traditional" networks on their current role, effectiveness, and impact in light of European Universities Initiative. "Traditional" networks rightly try to emphasize their distinctiveness and complementarity to this new form of collaboration. Jagiellonian University makes every effort to collaborate with European partner universities in implementing current and future European policies and initiatives influencing higher education and scientific research. Participation in networks, such as Coimbra Group or The Guild, provides an opportunity to influence European decision-making processes significant not only for JU but also for other Polish universities. It is worth noting that The Guild's role is advisory and influencing the shaping of European higher education policy, with JU being the only Polish university as a member and co-founder of this network.

However, considering that university participation in numerous networks and associations involves not only the time of staff but also financial resources, I believe that network activities should be subject to periodic evaluation within institutions. At Jagiellonian University, we strive to regularly monitor the participation and activity of representatives in network working groups. Their opinions and engagement serve as the basis for the continuation of JU's collaboration within a given network. In the face of the currently extensive opportunities for collaboration with foreign partners through various national and international programs, only the most efficient and active networks that truly influence the shaping of higher education will endure. For example, Coimbra Group will celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2025 as one of the first European organizations of its kind. This serves as a doubly compelling reason to strengthen and define its role in actively and effectively shaping European higher education.

 

Learning from each other

Prof. Armen Edigarian, Vice-Rector for educational affairs

Participation in networks provides the opportunity for mutual learning, particularly from experts and more experienced individuals. It offers a chance to understand how other universities address issues and cope with contemporary challenges. The European Universities Initiative, more than other previously established university networks, serves as a platform for exchanging experiences and know-how among institutions, focused on solving specific problems. This occurs at all levels of the university structure, from university authorities to administrative staff. Personally, I am a representative and chair of the Una Europa Teaching & Learning Strategy Group, bringing together vice-rectors for educational affairs from partner universities, and I witness tangible benefits from this multidirectional exchange of experiences.

The primary goal of the European Universities Initiative is to make our universities more collaborative and integrated. The greater the number of partners, the more challenging integration and collaboration become. Hence, actions taken within networks, such as EUA or other organizations that bring together many even dozens or hundreds of institutions, are less effective at the operational level. They operate in the realm of theory and concepts. Within Una Europa, we collaborate with eleven universities, which already poses a significant challenge, but provides space for the actual implementation of shared ideas and initiatives. Our challenges are roughly the same. During the COVID times, when Jagiellonian University sought to develop regulations for exams and the implementation of the teaching process, we explored how other universities across Europe were addressing these issues. Thanks to Una Europa working groups, we could share good ideas and learn from each other on how to navigate such circumstances. Other notable examples requiring collaboration and mutual learning from best practices include issues, such as Micro credentials, artificial intelligence, and educational mobility. Meetings of the Teaching & Learning Group serve as an excellent forum for exchanging information on what to do in this area.

Universities play a crucial role in addressing contemporary societal problems. Solving these problems individually would be less effective and often involve reinventing the wheel already opened by our colleagues from other institutions. I believe that university networks, especially the European Universities Initiative or thematic networks like EUNIS, can play a significant role in shaping the future of Europe.

 

Let’s network!

Prof. Stanisław Kistryn, Rectors’ Proxy for cooperation within Una Europa

Contemporary comprehensive, research-oriented university is by virtue an international institution. Science is global and almost every research field requires from its followers to apply a broad perspective. Therefore international partnerships emerge as a result of bottom-up initiatives, acquiring more formal shapes and opening possibilities for wider set of participants than originally involved. But at a modern university strategic goals are also defined in a top-down strategic considerations, where international partners are selected as potential valuable knowledge and experience pools to be exploited in a process of developing the institution to best realize all pillars of its mission.

University networks create environment for many-faceted cooperation between institutions of different histories, organization schemes, every-day procedures and social cultures. Participating institutions thus offer to their communities possibilities to draw from various pools experiences to enhance their individual, team or institutional procedures. Moreover, working in an international environment poses additional challenges (formal, legal, cultural) which can be considered as stimulation for extended creativity in defining and solving problems.  Networks are like a set of mirrors in which an institution can inspect itself from many perspectives. But they offer much more than only opportunities for reflection in confrontation with others. Networks are magic mirrors from which one can grab well worked-out items and adopt them to best suit particular problem. Moreover, they are responsive – any partner can ask for help in attacking particular problems and a collective help will meet the request much easier than just a single mind. Networks allow their collective community to gain in tolerance for differences, inclusivity and openness for changes, abilities much needed in the society as a whole.

Effective exploitation of network advantages needs engagement. Within all the challenges of the present times university sometimes finds it difficult to engage in still more cooperation threads. Therefore the networks evolve, defining different goals for themselves, what allows a partner to several of them to still profit form such wide scopes of activities. A (relatively) new concept of keeping deep and intensive involvement of cooperating institutions are European University Alliances. They imply efforts to deepen institutional cooperation to an unprecedented level, eventually reaching a status of a real transnational university. Such deep connection of partners requires activities extending the scope of traditional networks, reaching national legislation levels and influencing wider social circles. The Alliances benefit also from “traditional” networks as extensions and interfaces, exploiting particular goals defined within them, but simultaneously also inducing their changes – an obvious win-win situation. Jagiellonian University has been wise enough to join the European Universities initiative at the vey beginning. Complementing this opportunity with our activities in other networks is going to lead us towards a strategic turnover – a true university of the future.

 

Future of University networks

Żaneta Kubic, PhD, JU ambassador of Una Europa

University networks are a very important element of cooperation between universities in Europe. Nowadays, when international competition, but also commercial competition, exert an increasing influence on the demands placed on universities by the labor market, there is an urgent need to create uniform platforms across Europe, enabling universities to share resources and knowledge. University networks have the potential to become a bridge between different educational institutions, supporting innovative solutions and responding to the needs of different stakeholder groups. The value of sharing experiences, diversity of approaches and viewpoints plays a key role here, and I would stress that in today's world, practical, well-planned implementation of common goals, seems to be crucial.

In the future, university networks can, if they do their job well, play an even more important role. Above all, they should continue to strive for uniform European solutions, integrating universities from different countries into a unified research environment. Common infrastructure and study programs should allow students easiest access to mobility, as well as to access a variety of resources.

In addition, university networks should focus on solving global, but also our, European, problems, accumulating the intellectual potential of our scientists. Collaboration between universities can accelerate the development of innovative technologies that will help confront the challenges of today, such as climate change, fast development of new technologies and growing social inequality. These networks can also play a key role in shaping future leaders and experts who will be ready to work for the good of society on a global and European scale.

The fourth edition of the Coimbra Group 3-Minute-Thesis Jagiellonian University Competition

For the fourth consecutive year, Jagiellonian University is organizing the Coimbra Group 3-Minute-Thesis Jagiellonian University Competition (CG3MTJU). The CG3MTJU Competition consists of a performance in which a candidate, doctoral student, delivers to the Jury and the audience a three-minute presentation on their research work. This work constitutes the part of their research plan carried out during doctoral studies or at Doctoral Schools of Jagiellonian University. The Competition has two stages. The first one is held at Jagiellonian University, whereas the second one takes place at Coimbra Group network level.

 

The first stage is carried out in two following phases:

1. Qualifying, during which the Jury of JU authorities, directors of Doctoral Schools, representatives of Doctoral Society and the Jagiellonian Language Centre, selects 10 Participants who will be assigned for the Final of this Competition;

2. Final of the JU Competition, during which the winners of the first, second and third places will be revealed. The winners will face the opportunity to participate in one-month research scholarship at one of CG partner universities.

Moreover, the first place holder will also be nominated for the second stage (final in the Coimbra Group network), where they will compete with colleagues from CG partner universities. The winner of this ultimate stage will be awarded the financial prize.

This year JU edition will take place on 1st February and 7th March 2024. We encourage all JU society to follow this competition online streaming at YouTube channel. All details about the competition are available here.

The JU Doctoral Students are warmly welcome to apply to this competition in its future editions.

The initial outcomes of activities of European Universities Initiative - publication by FRSE

In September last year, a publication titled “European Universities in Poland. Implementation of development strategy” was released as a result of a research project conducted by Foundation for the Development of the Education System in collaboration with researchers from the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń, Jagiellonian University, Lodz University of Technology and the University of Silesia in Katowice. The study discusses initial outcomes of the European Universities’ activities in areas such as development and innovation, digital transformation, and the implementation of flexible education pathways in Poland. The research team of Jagiellonian University, consisting of Prof. Stanislaw Kistryn, Prof. Justyna Bugaj, dr. Izabela Nawrot-Adamczyk, Dorota Maciejowska, Marta Sajna, and Alicja Nowakowska, prepared a chapter entitled “Management and legal perspectives on the participation of Polish universities in the European Universities Initiative”. The study carried out by the JU team aimed to identify potential legal obstacles in the Polish legal framework for cooperation within the European Universities as well as to recognize challenges arising from the management of this new initiative at the institutional level. 

European Universities are international partnerships of several higher education institutions supported within the framework of the Erasmus+ program. They operate on the basis of jointly established principles and procedures in all spheres, such as teaching, administration and research. This collaboration should lead to the creation of a single legal entity: the European University, which, in turn, could offer a single European degree or joint degrees in the intermediate phase of network development. Currently, 50 European Universities are active in Europe with the involvement of 23 institutions from across Poland. 

Find more information about publication, click here.

Advancing Research Assesment (CoARA)

Currently, there are significant discussions at both the European and national levels regarding several crucial aspects, including the reassessment of scientific institutions, research projects, and individual achievements of researchers. Additionally, there is a focus on diversifying career paths for scientific staff, shifting away from short-term project contracts as the primary form of employment, promoting equal opportunities, eliminating any signs of inequality, and enhancing cross-sectoral mobility. Jagiellonian University actively engages in these discussions through participation in the coalition of European and non-European institutions and organizations called CoARA (Coalition for Advancing Research Assessment), as a signatory of the agreement for cooperation towards reforming the assessment system in science. We encourage you to get involved in the working groups of CoARA and the task forces of the National Chapter – Poland. 

Find more information about CoARA coalition, click here.

HR Excellence in Research - new European Charter for Reserachers

On December 8, 2023, the EU member states adopted the Council Recommendation on European frameworks aimed at attracting and retaining talent in the areas of scientific research, innovation, and entrepreneurship in Europe. The EU Council Recommendation, along with the new European Charter for Researchers (replacing the 2005 Charter for Researchers and the Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers), is of fundamental importance for strengthening the European Research Area. Their objective is to improve the overall conditions and working environment for researchers ensuring a balance between professional and private life promoting adequate social protection, especially for early-career researchers. 

Find more information about Charter for Researchers and Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers, click here.

Una Europa Future UniLab: A Living Laboratory

Surely you have often wondered about the future of education and universities. What is their place in a world where artificial intelligence, social media and youtubers are the idols of the young? Surely you agree that the mission, role and modus operandi of higher education institutions should be subject to reflection and then evolution (because revolutions are impossible in universities).

This is precisely the purpose for which the Future UniLab - a place for reflection and creative and innovative ideas to open up universities to the key challenges of the future - has been created within the Una Europa consortium. Future UniLab is an important source of innovative ideas and inspiration for Una Europa and more generally for European universities. The unit was set up in 2019 as a living laboratory of ideas that constantly scrutinises and sometimes challenges the Una Europa ecosystem and provides new ideas (both in the service of the crucial middle-term needs and with an eye on the long-term goal of developing a University of the Future).

What makes Future UniLab truly unique? Its inter-university environment and inclusiveness, as it involves not only researchers and lecturers, but also administrative staff, students and non-academic members of the organisation.

“If universities are to be better at integrating within wider ecosystems, they need to allow more people in, to deliberate issues that affect everybody and let them feel welcome”, The Future UniLab Visionaries, Integration Cluster: how to integrate universities with their ecosystem – locally, nationally and internationally?

If you want to influence changes in the functioning of European universities and their adaptation to the challenges of the future, we invite you to take an interest in Future UniLab's activities and help find innovative solutions to challenges in different areas (sustainability, values of the European university, digital dimension, etc.) which our universities are facing.

Author Natalia Szymańska, edited by Julianna Karaszkiewicz-Kobierzyńska and Małgorzata Wokal.

Find more information about Future UniLab, click here.

Excellence Through Collaboration - The Guild Report 2022-2023

Excellence Through Collaboration. Annual Report"Excellence Through Collaboration. Annual Report" is the title of a new document published by The Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities network (The Guild), presenting key areas of engagement for the years 2022-2023. In the past year, The Guild made significant progress in promoting research innovation and sustainable development in higher education both in Europe and beyond. The annual report highlights The Guild's commitment to a thorough assessment of the Horizon Europe program and its subsequent reflection.

The Guild presented concrete solutions aimed at strengthening the capabilities of research projects within the Global Challenges Pillar and new R&I Missions. Additionally, the network actively engaged in innovation policy issues, where the opinions of universities are often underrepresented. The Guild lobbied the European Commission to ensure that instruments within the Third Pillar, especially the European Innovation Council and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, provide greater support for the innovative actions of universities, leading to the establishment of close collaboration. The Guild succeeded in gaining broad support from the Council of the European Union for actions aimed at balancing funding for innovative projects in Pillar 3, enabling greater support for research projects seeking funding under the Horizon Europe program in recent years. It is also worth emphasizing The Guild's commitment to promoting global partnerships based on the principle of equality, including unique collaboration with the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) and the establishment of Research Excellence Clusters.

Find more information about Report, click here.

Web Content Display Web Content Display

A day in the life of a student advising the EU, or the story of ESA

It's no secret that young people are a goldmine of high-flying ideas and innovative concepts for changing the world. Some of these have the potential to solve global problems, while others have the potential to create a global catastrophe. But whatever we say about us, on many issues our acceptance of risk and our courageous approach to challenges, as well as our understanding of contemporary realities, are key to dealing effectively with emerging issues.

So far, it has been the university halls that have been the place for young people to exchange views. Classrooms have been the platform for questioning established concepts and reinventing them. Today, however, when the globalisation of the challenges of the modern world has shifted decision-making on many issues to an international level, discussion at the local university is no longer sufficient. After all, even the most brilliant and innovative idea will not be able to change anything if it never reaches the decision-maker.

Fortunately, with the globalisation of problems also comes the globalisation of opportunities, including for us students. Over the past decade or so, universities have begun to interact with each other on a scale never seen before. The enormity of this interaction is due to student organisations and associations linking educational institutions in Europe. The international symposia, conferences and exchanges that take place as a result of them allow for an unhindered flow of views and ideas, creating a network of connections between the most ambitious minds from all over the world.

This cooperation culminates in events such as the European Student Assembly, where, just a few days ago, I had the opportunity to experience first-hand how direct and real an influence is offered to young people in shaping the future of Europe. In April this year, 250 selected students of 59 different nationalities, studying at 170 different universities and belonging to 41 different associations met at the heart of European democracy to propose a series of recommendations to the EU institutions.

A few years ago, if I had asked anyone if students in the future could have a real possibility of open polemics with key decision-makers and a platform to propose changes, it would probably have been considered a vision that was at least ‘too idealistic’, not to say ‘completely unrealistic’.

Yet this is the current reality.

Europe is changing. Today, as a member of Una Europa and Jagiellonian University's representative on the Student Board, I work every day to develop cooperation between universities and between Una Europa and other student associations, allowing initiatives such as ESA to take place.

As a result, on 10 April I found myself in front of the entrance to the European Parliament, surrounded by ambitious students from all over Europe ready to change the image of the EU.

Some of them I had already met, as coming to Strasbourg had been preceded by months of hard work online, when, divided into 11 thematic panels during workshops and group work, we created the skeleton of our recommendations. Over the next two days on site, we finally had the chance to work on the details face-to-face, sitting in MEPs' rooms and debating our ideas with the other panels. The atmosphere was no less heated than in the actual deliberations of the MEPs - working out a compromise when time pressure is rushing is, after all, no easy task. However, we left all tensions behind the doors of the Parliament as we explored Strasbourg in the evenings, getting to know the city and building friendships.

The final day was the culmination of our work and, at the same time, the most important moment of the whole event, because it was the day of voting on the recommendations that we would ultimately propose to the EU institutions. Each of us had spent the previous evening meticulously studying over 80 recommendations, and the day had finally arrived when, sitting in the meeting room, we were to decide on our support with a ‘yes or no’ button. Emotions peaked when some recommendations were only a few votes away from passing and some were completely rejected. All this was done in order to finally select the ones that we are all proud of and look forward to implementing.

Waiting at the airport for my flight back to Poland, I opened my university e-mail inbox for the first time in a week. It didn't occur to me that the usual colloquies were waiting for me, after shaping the future policy of Europe just yesterday. But this is the reality of the modern student - one day presenting EU recommendations and the next passing an exam. What will this reality look like in a decade or so? This is something we cannot predict. Let's hope that the space for young people to be active will only grow, and that our bold ideas will contribute to the development of Europe without causing any global catastrophe along the way.