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Una Europa Visits Freie Universität Berlin

The general assembly of the Una Europa university alliance took place from November 2–3, 2021 at Freie Universität Berlin.

Nov 08, 2021

The general assembly of the Una Europa university alliance took place from November 2–3, 2021 at Freie Universität Berlin as the first in-person meeting of the alliance in almost two years. Over 50 scholars, administrators, students, and heads of the eight member universities from Berlin, Bologna, Edinburgh, Leuven, Madrid (Complutense), Krakow, Helsinki, and Paris (Panthéon-Sorbonne) participated in the conference held in the Henry Ford Building.  

The event was kicked off with a panel discussion titled “European Universities – Driving the Sustainable University of the Future.” The talk, which focused on the role European universities play in developing a sustainable landscape of higher education, featured a number of renowned experts. It took place in the Henry Ford Building as part of Berlin Science Week and was also livestreamed.

This year’s general assembly centered around formulating a joint vision for the future of the alliance, otherwise known as “Strategy 2030.” The focus lay on providing new joint programs in teaching alongside facilitating cooperation in research and innovation. Questions related to sustainability, diversity, and multilingualism took center stage, as well as the legal form the network will take in the future. Participants also discussed how they could initiate partnerships with institutions outside of Europe, for example, by reinforcing cooperation with partners in Africa, and how this could take on a greater role. All eight university directors supported the joint goal of becoming one of the “powerhouses for research” in Europe over the coming years. Verena Blechinger-Talcott, vice president for international affairs at Freie Universität Berlin and chair of the Una board of directors said: “We have achieved a lot in a relatively short time, and we want to continue to be just as ambitious in the future. We must always bear our goal of generating additional benefits for the participating universities in mind while developing the alliance. We have succeeded in doing just that thus far.”

The alliance has received funding from the European Commission for the last two years. The first interim evaluation by the EU has demonstrated that the projects it has initiated – including joint bachelor degree programs, continuing education courses, and micro-qualifications – have created considerable added value within the sphere of higher education in Europe. Günter Ziegler, president of Freie Universität Berlin, was also positive in his assessment of the alliance’s successes: “Una Europa is truly a success story. Our alliance is incredibly strong in terms of its impact and research – also in comparison to other European networks. All partners are highly motivated in further intensifying our collaborative work. I believe that this network will help promote our position in Europe and that it will open up new possibilities for all members of our university.”

The representatives of the Una Student Board also met at the conference and discussed their hopes and ideas for how the network will further develop. On Thursday, participants were given the opportunity to watch the first Una Europa PhD Slam online. Eight doctoral students went head to head as they presented their dissertation research in an original way within a limited time frame. Each of the projects dealt with the issue of sustainability. René Reich, a doctoral student at KU Leuven, won first place and received a prize of 1,000 euros. Second and third place went to Daniela Arisa Molinares (Complutense Madrid) and Carolina Buendia Sarmiento (University of Helsinki).