In addition to VSB-TUO, the alliance also includes universities 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.
The emphasis is on education of students and employees, increasing their employment in the labour market, science and research are also important points. Schools have already in the past signed up to the European University's call launched by the European Commission, and although the project was not finally selected for funding, all members of the alliance agreed to continue their close cooperation, especially in the field of student and academic mobility, as well as in scientific research activities.
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 it difficult to get on the train?
It was especially because at that time the European University project was submitted in which the first call of the U!REKA alliance, also due to the geographical location of the universities, failed. 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 is the cooperation within the Alliance different from the cooperation that the University has set up, 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 the Alliance, it cooperates with other partners together, everything is furthermore sponsored by the rectors or other members of the management.
In what areas, then, do 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 the so-called COIL course, i.e. Collaborative Online International Learning.
What events is U!REKA preparing for university employees?
Employees of not only our university 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.
Where does VSB-TUO membership in the U!REKA alliance move?
This 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 population of the European Union live. 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 want to apply for the European University's call again. The whole process will be coordinated by the Finnish partner Metropolia University of Applied Sciences in Helsinki.
Thank you for the interview.
At the beginning of May, thanks to the U!REKA alliance, my classmates and I went to Helsinki for the Blended Intensive Program. 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, there was also a little time left for getting to know the city and the overall 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 or local restaurants individually. Everyone was tired after a difficult week but at the same time full of new knowledge and impressions.