Palacký University successfully hosted the meeting of the European university alliance Aurora. For the first time ever, over 200 representatives of 18 universities met in Olomouc. During the three-day Aurora Olomouc Biannual 2023 meeting, the representatives focused mainly on their common direction in the future. During the meeting, a Memorandum of Understanding and a Multilateral Aurora Mobility Agreement were also signed to facilitate the sharing of research infrastructure and provide a framework for exchange visits.
The key theme of the meeting was evaluation of Aurora’s work to date and of the impact of European universities on the future of higher education in Europe. The success of the recently completed pilot phase has secured financial support from the European Commission for the next four years. “The Olomouc Aurora Biannual Conference has successfully concluded the fundamental three-year period of joint work. Members of the management of the individual universities as well as their staff and students were able to meet, get to know each other, and debate together in Olomouc. In three discussion panels, we exchanged information with representatives of the European Commission and other alliances such as 4EU+ (Charles University in Prague), EDUC Alliance (Masaryk University in Brno), and Allianza 4 Universidades (an association of four Spanish universities) on strategic development, student affairs, and how to align education, research, and the third mission of universities – community service,” said Selma Porobić, the institutional coordinator of Aurora at UP.
The Aurora President, Jón Atli Benediktsson, Rector of the University of Iceland, also welcomed and introduced two new partners: Université Paris-Est Créteil (UPEC), which has gained full membership since the new phase, and the University of Minnesota, which is a global partner extending the network’s reach beyond Europe. “It was a special pleasure to welcome also the management, staff, and students of the four affiliated partner universities in Slovakia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, and North Macedonia to the meeting,” added Porobić.
The new Multilateral Aurora Mobility Agreement (MAMA) will help to ensure that students and staff can easily take advantage of the universities’ offers across Europe – i.e., go on study and research stays. A Memorandum of Understanding on infrastructure and resource sharing has also been signed. Its purpose is to facilitate research collaboration within the consortium and to provide access for researchers and academics from the alliance to their partners’ shared resources.
The meeting also addressed sustainability, which was discussed in a separate panel, and inclusivity in higher education. This is the focus of the Aurora Student Council, whose members were welcomed in Olomouc by Hanuš Patera, a student of the UP Faculty of Arts, who was recently elected its president. “Sixteen of the eighteen members of the student council came to Olomouc. I am very proud of the students’ active involvement in the Biannual, it was very productive for us. Thanks to the joint meeting, we drafted a statement that more closely identifies the goals and direction of our student council and began working on a strategic plan of action. We also had our own student panel called “Toward Student-centered European University Alliances”. It allowed us to present the theme we are focusing on throughout this academic year, which is inclusive education. We drew the audience’s attention to certain deficiencies that individual universities have in this area. At Palacký University Olomouc, for example, this is the absence of any data on gender, socio-economic status, and origin in the student population,” said Patera.
The programme also included public workshops for teachers. They learned, among other things, how to teach in an international virtual classroom using the COIL method and how to use the LOUIS tool to develop students’ soft skills.
Participants of the Aurora Olomouc Biannual 2023 also visited various sites of Palacký University and the city of Olomouc. The newly renovated Red Church facility of the Olomouc Research Library hosted the welcome meeting, while the farewell meeting took place in the Archbishop’s Palace. Guided tours of the city and a visit to the Regional Museum in Olomouc that included networking were also prepared.