EUR pioneering the new European University of Post-Industrial Cities
At the beginning of October, the UNIC Executive Office hosted the official kick-off of UNIC, the European University of Post-Industrial Cities. Together with 7 other universities and their cities (Ruhr University Bochum, University College Cork, Koc University Istanbul, University of Deusto, University of Oulu, University of Zagreb, and University of Liege) the EUR-based team lead by Prof. Dr. Peter Scholten, is hard at work making the new European University a reality.
We asked Peter Scholten, the Alliance coordinator, to explain the idea behind the European University, what UNIC brings to Erasmus University Rotterdam.
What is a European University?
“A European University is an innovative example of how universities can work together on similar challenges and opportunities. The aim of this initiative is to bring together a new generation of creative Europeans to cooperate across languages, borders and disciplines to address societal challenges and skills shortages faced in Europe. Having EUR lead the UNIC initiative means that we can take a leadership role in setting the stage for the European Higher Education Area of the future. UNIC structurally connects EUR with seven other universities across Europe with a similar identity, a similar commitment to inclusion, impact and mobility and a similar background as universities in post-industrial cities."
The ‘European University Initiative’ is one of the flagships in the forthcoming European Knowledge & Innovation Programmes. UNIC is one of the 41 EU-funded European University alliances that will test different models of European Universities that will define the European Higher Education Area of the future. If deemed successful by the EU, the UNIC initiative will be scaled up under the next Erasmus programme 2021-2027 and dedicated research and education funding will be made available.
What is UNIC’s focus?
“UNIC was founded with the ambition of making higher education in Europe future-proof by creating a transnational network of Universities and cities that will boost inclusion, mobility, and societal impact by providing joint degrees, hosting a virtual campus, and promoting open science culture in our Superdiversity Academy. UNIC opens up unique opportunities for a European learning, teaching and working experience that looks past national borders to connect students, university staff, and the cities in which they live.”
What makes UNIC different?
“UNIC takes an innovative approach to building the university by including students actively in the process and leaving the ivory tower behind in the past. UNIC is about rethinking research, teaching and learning holistically again and considering students not as passive consumers but as emerging scholars and active co-creators in all areas of the university and its surroundings. By putting students at the heart of the university, UNIC will build a university where all students feel like they belong and where they can study effectively.”
The EUR is already quite well-known within the Netherlands for being an inclusive university, but there is always room to push further. By structurally collaborating with international partners, we can share best practices on how European universities can be more inclusive in the long-term, especially in terms of mobility. As student populations grow more diverse, approaching studying with a “one-size-fits-all" model is out of date.
“UNIC will break down traditional barriers that often hold students back, and instead offer building blocks for students to choose and customize their own study path. Our alliance focuses on international mobility opportunities that do not require EUR students to board a plane. Instead, we will foster international collaboration by providing students with the UNIC Virtual Campus, a central hub where students can participate in education programmes facilitated by multiple universities.”
Why does UNIC focus on post-industrial cities?
“UNIC is also innovative in its connection with the different partner cities (Rotterdam, Istanbul, Bochum, Liege, Cork, Zagreb, Oulu, and Bilbao). When creating UNIC, we recognized that we were positioned in post-industrial cities, and that this provided a unique environment to create a European University that addresses the big urban challenges of our times.”
UNIC dares to challenge typical university structures and incorporate participation-based experimentation to bring students and societal stakeholders (municipalities, businesses and NGOs) together to solve urban issues. The Municipality of Rotterdam will partner with UNIC to host a CityLab (both a physical pop-up location and virtual meeting platform). The Rotterdam CityLab will connect EUR students, staff, and researchers with their counterparts at the partner universities to address complex challenges of post-industrial transitions.
“Our societal impact will be far greater when we can learn from and work together with other universities in cities facing similar challenges and opportunities of post-industrial transitions; it will make EUR students better change-leaders and it will bring in new knowledge and expertise that will help our city to become more resilient. The strides we make with UNIC will provide an innovative example of how universities can work together in these transnational networks.”