Skip to main content

Educational innovation is a shared responsibility

Published on 6.3.2020
Tampere University
Heli Harrikari
Director, Continuous Learning Heli Harrikari, who heads the ECIU project at Tampere University.
- Speak up, let’s be bold and dare to dream. With these words, Victor van der Chijs, chairman of the UT's Executive Board and of the ECIU, opened the first high-level event on the Future of European Universities. At the Palais des Académies in Brussels, 150 attendees discussed the future of the European Universities.

ECIU high-level conference

Hold up a green card or a red one. The audience signals its (dis)agreement with the statements that moderator Charlotte van Velthoven puts to them. Things start off easy.

- Who thinks that Belgium will win the European Championship title? Later on, things are more serious.

- Would you rather make an impact or obtain a degree?

 The audience takes part in the discussion - and not just with the coloured cards; questions are sent in via Twitter as well.

Themis Christophidou, Director-General for Education, Youth, Sport & Culture, gives the key-note at the event. She invites European universities to be ambitious, Europe is ready to support bold educational innovations. The panel tasked with debating three statements consists of Per Michael Johansen, Vice-President ECIU and Rector at Aalborg University, Magne Bartlett, ECIU University Board Member and student at the University of Stavanger, Elena Tegovska, Team Leader Higher Education and Erasmus+, DG Education, Youth, Sport and Culture and Anna Panagopoulou, Acting Director Common Implementation Centre, DG Research & Innovation.

The Van Velthoven kicks things off.

- Is Europe ready to truly innovate its higher education? Is Europe ready to support new types of educational innovations?

- The step from obtaining a degree to not obtaining one at all is quite large, says Elena Tegovska.

- We will have to look at this one step at a time. Nevertheless, it is very interesting to hear everyone's ideas.

Students and research

Next, the discussion moves to the topic of research. At the moment, European Universities are mostly supported for their education activities, but what about their research mission?

- European universities need a research mission to be full-fledged universities. Moreover, they are perfectly placed to raise the competitiveness of the European Research Area. What should this research support look like?, says Van Velthoven

- I would like there to be a way for students to get involved in research projects, says Magne Barlett

Themis Christophidou, Director-General for Education, Youth, Sport & Culture gave a keynote to kick off the conference.

- ECIU is extremely enthusiastic. It is telling that you are already calling yourselves a university, rather than an alliance or something similar. You were selected because you dare to take risks and explore uncharted paths. Is Europe ready? Yes! Europe is on board. Now is the time to deliver and ask for support from funds and national governments. In this manner, we can sow our seeds in fertile soil and reap the rewards in the long run. Dream big, be ambitious and develop a long-term vision. We are impressed by challenge-based learning and the link to the Sustainable Development Goals. We see major potential in the micro-credentials. It satisfies a need our society has. In the coming months, we will explore ways to facilitate quality assurance for a European Degree and establish an EU framework for micro-credentials. We will work with you. Step by step. Your success is our success. You are a role model. The blueprint is set. It is time to put it into practice and be the great innovator you have always been.

Director, Continuous Learning Heli Harrikari, who heads the ECIU project at Tampere University, echoes similar sentiments.   

- ECIU University is a forerunner in developing European Universities. We have ambitious goals and we are ready to make them true. The high-level event in Brussels showed that ECIU University raises lots of interest. Going towards challenge-based higher education, research and innovation together with different stakeholders is a true opportunity to make new kind of impact on society and improve competitiveness of Europe.