The 2020 Annual Meeting of the 4EU+ Alliance, hosted by Charles University was held on Monday 16 November, with members, associated partners and government officials gathering online to reflect on the Alliance’s achievements of the last year, discuss current challenges for research-based teaching, hybrid courses, and propose strategies for ensuring a successful future for the 4EU+ European University.
Prominent themes included synergy—arguably the word of the day—between education and research, mobility in the face of Covid-19, the importance of developing an international perspective in young people, and the importance of academic freedom.
Monday morning saw micro think tanks take place—small focus-group discussions on topics such as virtual mobility and the meaning of being European. In the current context of the global pandemic, participants—notably students— emphasized the need for further digitalization of higher education, as well as innovation to ensure the continuation of mobility programs that serve to close gaps between cultures, generations and academic disciplines.
Thank you all for your fruitful participation at the Micro Think Tank 1: Just Wishful Thinking? The claim of synergy between research and teaching in 4EU+ #4EUplus #Annualmeeting @4EUplusAlliance @UniHeidelberg pic.twitter.com/oiDrnp8ppS— Janathan M. Altuzar (@miikuuu) November 16, 2020
Also the Micro Think-Thank 3 meeting was an interesting experience. We are learning so much from each other 💪🏻 https://t.co/RPhnHhxkJO— Roberto Cerbino 👨🎓🔬🇪🇺🇮🇹 (@cerbino) November 16, 2020
These think tanks were followed by the General Assembly, which notably included the transfer of the 4EU+ Alliance Chair from Jean Chambaz, president of Sorbonne University to Tomáš Zima, rector of Charles University. The governance structure of the Alliance was also reinforced, with the integration of the Academic Council. Updates were provided on ongoing projects, such as TRAIN4EU+ and the 31 selected educational projects from the 4EU+ call for proposals.
By late afternoon, it was time for the Open Session of the annual meeting, which was live-streamed on YouTube for the general public. Tomáš Petříček, the Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs gave opening remarks, which were followed by the German, Italian and French ambassadors to the Czech Republic, along with Dr. Václav Velčovský, Deputy Minister Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports of the Czech Republic. University leaders and students then exchanged ideas on a range of topics. More than 300 people attended the session via Zoom or YouTube live streaming. The YouTube recording of the Open session has already had more than 1,200 views.
Zum Glück gibt es auch erfreuliche Nachrichten: 🇪🇺 Europäische Spitzenuniversitäten, darunter 🇨🇿 @UniKarlova + 🇩🇪 @UniHeidelberg , intensivieren die Zusammenarbeit in der @4EUplusAlliance . Es war eine Ehre für mich, an der Jahreskonferenz teilzunehmen. Danke @profZima. pic.twitter.com/K6piWdugwp— Christoph Israng (@velvyslanec_SRN) November 16, 2020
So great to see how a concept has become a reality with @4EUplusAlliance : >80 joint learning activities, >300 students 👩🏼🎓👨🏽🎓 >300 staff 👩🏻🏫🧑🏻💻benefited from new ways of learning and teaching. Thx for the inspiring exchanges today! https://t.co/cSy75XgcqM— V Debiais-Sainton (@VDebiaisSainton) November 16, 2020
The annual meeting provided an important opportunity for members to reflect on the Alliance’s achievements since its inception in March 2018. 4EU+ was designed to establish a closely integrated alliance of European universities, with a foundational goal to meet the major challenges of our time by developing common approaches to contemporary issues. Since day one, key focus areas have included student, staff and researcher mobility, the development of actions in service to society, and diversity across all aspects of higher education.
During the meeting, a brief year-in-review included more than 300 students had participated in both online and in-person activities run by 4EU+, and more than 100 online meetings had taken place. Additionally, more than 300 members of academic staff had been involved in the implementation of joint education and research projects, and almost 80 proposals were submitted for joint research & education projects. The four Flagships presented their ongoing projects including the Urban Health Case Challenge, a cooperative network, a joint master’s degree and more.
“4EU+ has moved from an abstract concept to a reality… it was born of a need for cooperation, to reaffirm our commitment to the free movement of ideas and people, and to make it a reality. And despite some exceptionally hard conditions, we are succeeding.”
Sorbonne University President, Jean Chambaz
The Alliance’s annual meeting was also firmly future-focused, anticipating new challenges and looking ahead to 2021. Members proposed a future for the European university that will be marked by commitments to sustainable decision-making, the staunch defense of academic freedom and the generational responsibility of passing down knowledge and resources to the young people of Europe.
Despite the challenges of a virtual assembly and constraints to in-person projects, this year’s 4EU+ annual meeting demonstrated the commitment of the Alliance to adapt as it evolves.