U!REKA Connects brings together partners across Europe

14 Jun 2024 12:13 | Communication

U!REKA Connects, the annual event of the U!REKA European University, was held in Ostrava, Czech Republic, on 3–6 June. The event gathered together close to 200 European experts and members of higher education.

U!REKA European University, an alliance joined by 6 partner universities and 26 associate partners, held its annual event for the first time since U!REKA was selected as one of the European University alliances by the European Commission last year.

U!REKA Connects was successfully organised by one of the alliance partners, VSB - Technical University of Ostrava. The programme consisted of workshops, presentations and visits and allowed participants to discuss and learn from the best practices among the partners and engage in conversations about thematical issues such as climate neutral urban communities and transition to circular societies.

One of the alliance’s main aims is to shape future-proof urban professionals, who will accelerate the transition towards climate-neutral and smart cities. Collaboration with local ecosystems, including the strategic associate partners, supports this goal, and these stakeholders were well-engaged in the event programme.

We presented to the guests the parts of our university that have a close connection to the alliance, and we also introduced to them the associate partners of U!REKA in our region, the Statutory City of Ostrava and the Moravian-Silesian Innovation Centre, and the representatives from the House of Foreign Cooperation. I am very happy with the way we managed the whole event", tells Igor Ivan, Vice-Rector for Strategy and Cooperation at VSB-TUO, this year’s organising university.

Group picture of participants in the event.

Designing joint education

The Connects programme included an Educational Forum, aiming at gathering together teachers and other pedagogical experts from all partner institutions. The forum programme was very practical and focused on finding solutions to bringing students together, for example with Blended Intensive Programme (BIP), that combines physical and virtual learning together, and with Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL), that is offered fully online. The aim of these joint studies is to let students solve real-life tasks with local communities and companies.

The overall feeling was very positive and enthusiastic in both the Educational Forum and the whole event, and it felt natural to engage in conversations. The forum’s idea competition showed that it is possible to quickly identify, for example, shared BIP themes that many partner universities and representatives of different fields of study see interesting and potential. The next step would be to consider how these are put in practice”, tells Johanna Tirronen, Senior Lecturer in Cultural Management at Metropolia University of Applied Sciences.

The Educational Forum was a good example of shared hosting and participatory approach. With its inputs and inspiration, the planning of shared learning activities will continue both online and face-to-face meetings, and new opportunities will be offered to students from the next academic year onwards.

Engaging and bringing everyone together

Inclusivity is one of the U!REKA European University’s key values and the alliance focuses on it not only when planning and organising its activities but also when monitoring and evaluating them. U!REKA partners have collaborated for several years already and the discussions in Ostrava formed a smooth continuation to previous and ongoing talks, with the strategic focus points of the European University and prospectives from the new members.

One workshop in the programme was about the impact the alliance wants to make and how to measure this together with different target groups.

“In the workshop we did together with both staff members and students about the impact that U!REKA should strive for, students came up with precious insights that we will definitely take with us. I hope that in the coming years we can get many more students to join us to think about this”, says Patricia van Hemert, Institutional coordinator U!REKA university alliance and senior researcher at Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences.

Taking the perspectives of different audiences into account throughout the collaboration enables a sense of belonging and supports the shared mission. The alliance’s long-term goal is to increase and ease student, teacher and staff exchanges, widen the educational collaboration and strive for new research synergies among the partners and together with their local, urban ecosystems.

Face-to-face meetings are a crucial part of international collaboration. The basis is created and then strengthened when being physically in the same place. This purpose of laying a solid base for collaboration was greatly fulfilled during this year’s Connects in Ostrava. Next year, the Connects event will take place at Metropolia in Helsinki metropolitan area from 21-22 May 2025.

Photo credits: VSB-TUO

participants in the Educational Forum workshop.