Interview with VSB-TUO’s Ivan Igor

‘U!REKA is focused on equipping students with the skills they need for an international environment’

9 Dec 2022 17:00 | Communication

In this interview Igor Ivan, Vice-Rector for Strategy and Cooperation of VSB – Technical University of Ostrava, explains why VSB-TUO is a proud member of the Urban Research and Education Knowledge Alliance (U!REKA) and why the network has its sights set on participating in the EU’s European Universities Initiative.

In addition to VSB-TUO, the alliance also includes higher education institutions from Germany (Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences), the Netherlands (Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences), the United Kingdom (Edinburgh Napier University), Belgium (HOGENT University of Applied Sciences and Arts), Finland (Metropolia University of Applied Sciences in Helsinki) and Portugal (Politecnico de Lisboa). "Its main goal is to create conditions for cooperation of European universities whose students and employees will thus contribute to solving major societal problems from the technical and technological point of view," says Igor Ivan, Vice-Rector for Strategy and Cooperation of VSB-TUO.

As already announced, VSB-TUO is part of the alliance of seven U!REKA universities, which was established in 2016. Our university joined in 2019, was that a difficult process?

VSB-TUO was approached to join the alliance on the basis of previous cooperation with some member universities, which I am very pleased about. We have already submitted the second call together.

Why are such consortia created within Europe? How does the U!REKA partnership differ from existing partnerships at VSB-TUO, for example, in science and research or in the field of mobility?

The difference is that in science and research or in the field of mobility it is a partial cooperation. However, when a university is a member of U!REKA, it cooperates with other partners together, everything is furthermore sponsored by the rectors or other members of the management.

Could you give some examples of how the universities cooperate?

To begin with, I would like to mention that the core concept of this consortium is the creation of a so-called urban laboratory, test-bed if you will, for solving the problems of contemporary cities. This is not the creation of a physical laboratory but a more general understanding of the term. Students of our Faculty of Civil Engineering, for example, have already visited two universities as part of the initiative. In Frankfurt, they participated in the summer school Urban Commons School: Commoning the Post-Covid City. The summer school was interdisciplinary, international and hybrid and students from different countries and universities, as well as disciplines, participated in the work within the school. At the end of the summer semester of this academic year, they visited Helsinki.

Are other faculties active?

Yes, especially the Faculty of Economics, which previously cooperated with the Belgian HOGENT University, as well as the Faculty of Security Engineering whose employees participated in several workshops and together with HOGENT are preparing a so-called COIL course, which stands for Collaborative Online International Learning.

What events is U!REKA preparing for university employees?

Employees of not only VSB-TUO, but also other U!REKA universities, participated in the COIL training or online lessons with partners. They can participate in the Science Café on selected topics of science and research. I myself had the opportunity to lecture on geoinformatics and projects on which we cooperated within the department as part of the European Week of Regions and Cities event.

What are U!REKA’s goals for the future?

The European Universities concept will move university education beyond the borders of individual institutions and allow students to study and work on live projects using multidisciplinary and international approaches which are related to the urban environment - where almost 75 percent of the EU’s population currently resides. By implementing these activities, students of the member universities of U!REKA will also participate in international applied teaching which will equip them with skills that can be applied in an international environment.

In 2023 we will apply for the new European Universities Initiative call. The whole process will be coordinated by the Finnish partner Metropolia University of Applied Sciences in Helsinki.

Thank you for the interview.

Adéla Valentová, a student of the Faculty of Civil Engineering at VSB-TUO, shares her U!REKA experiences

At the beginning of May, thanks to the U!REKA alliance, my classmates and I went to Helsinki for the Blended Intensive Programme. First, we attended online workshops, then we worked at the Metropolia University of Applied Sciences based on the acquired knowledge. The whole week was in the spirit of Urban Commons and City Development. Students and educators from Finland, Germany, and the Netherlands were represented there.

We contributed with our knowledge in the field of urban planning and civil engineering. The result of this enriching week were presentations of the final designs within each working group not only to the other participants but also to the local residents who live in the given locations.

During this week, we also had some time to explore the city and the culture of this Nordic country. Together we visited the fortress of Suomenlinna which is located on an island near Helsinki and later we visited for example various churches and local restaurants individually. Everyone was tired after a challenging week but at the same time full of new knowledge and impressions.