EDUC Reaching Out

EDUC Reaching Out picture
#USN #Workshop
The EDUC Steering Committee Meeting is an important part of the governance structure of the European Digital UniverCity alliance. It brings together management, students, administration, faculty, and experts from various disciplines and all universities in EDUC – face to face.


During the Norwegian “long days and short nights" of June 17-19 USN Campus Drammen was turned into an EDUC Hub for meetings, parallel sessions, workshops and networking in addition to social and cultural programmes, including classic Norwegian outdoors recreational activities.

"Creating a vibrant, interconnected community focused on excellence in education and societal impact was at the heart of our Steering Committee Meeting in Drammen. We leveraged the unique strengths of each partner university to foster dynamic discussions and develop innovative solutions for the challenges we face. This commitment to collaboration reflects the ethos of EDUC and strengthens our shared mission," says Britta van Kempen, the Head of EDUC.

The meeting hosted visiting delegacies from University of Potsdam, University of Cagliari, Masaryk University, University of Pécs, Jaume I University, University of Paris Nanterre, University of Rennes and their Norwegian colleagues as well as most welcome Project Manager Iryna Hryhoruk representing Vasyl Stefanyk Precarpathian National University (PNU). 

Through EDUC-WIDE, the EDUC University Alliance has introduced Ukrainian Vasyl Stefanyk Precarpathian National University (PNU) as a new member of the family, establishing firm Research and Innovation (R&I) connections with the European Research Area (ERA).

Further Reading: 


Anchor Point

Rector Pia Bing-Jonsson fleshed out USN’s main profile as professional and work-oriented as she welcomed all to Campus Drammen, located at Papirbredden: a modern and dynamic area in the city of Drammen, which houses a combination of businesses, academia as well as other public services.

"USN are striving to provide students with an education of high social relevance, and thus our research and education are both characterised by close interaction with regional society and working life”, USN Rector Pia Bing-Jonsson said before introducing the Key Note Speaker:

Municipal Director in Drammen, Trude Andersen, offered a look into the synergies of regional cooperation, ecosystems and outreach as she sat the tone further by engaging the crowd with her approach to the importance of close and strategic collaboration with the university.

Many among the audience recognized themselves in the challenges Drammen municipality has to handle in the coming years, and were inspired by stories of how municipal services improve through access to up-to-date research, and also how research becomes more relevant through close contact with the field of practice.


The Hike

Being in Norway, of course, there was hiking! Campus Drammen is one of, if not the most urban among the University of South-Eastern Norway’s total of eight campuses. Though City Center-based, it’s still flanked by stunning natural surroundings.

The campus is nestled right next to the Drammen River, a major waterway that provides a serene and scenic backdrop for the university. Beyond the river, the campus is also in proximity to Finnemarka, a large woodland area popular of unspoiled natural beauty. Åspaviljongen – a picturesque entrances to this vast hiking area – served as goal for the EDUC Hike offered from the campus and to this elevated restaurant overlooking the city and it’s green surroundings. 

Also the tranquil environment of the River served as a scene for invigorating Walk and Talk sessions.


Lifted Gaze

The Board of Rector's was gathered to lift their gaze – beyond the current funding period, to discuss the future of EDUC after 2026.

Treating a blend of topics, the Board of Rector’s was able to settle on ways forward regarding the pursuit of transforming institutional structures to implement EDUC, as consensus was reached regarding the future choice of legal status. 2 options were discussed:   

  1. Non-profit association under Belgian law
  2. The possibility to have a consolidated consortium

Also the EDUC partners will establish a Knowledge Investment Fund and develop an ambitious fundraising strategy. This will be based on findings from a survey done among the EDUC institutions and a SWOT-analysis. 2 major points:

  1. EDUC will not build new fundraising channels. 
  2. The most profitable and doable fundraising is joint application for grants, tuition-based programs, setting up an EDUC-chaired program. 


The Wider Community

Societal outreach was also on the meeting agenda, aiming to strengthen our universities engagement with and contribution to the wider community, involving activities and initiatives addressing social and cultural issues – and aimed at enhancing the universities’ social engagement​. Societal outreach is further linked to our universities’ social responsibility and how it can be set forth through our actions, co-creation with stakeholders and society at large.

Some of the themes for the discussions regarding societal outreach were “fostering comprehensive networking and collaborative networks”​, “promotion of joint projects”​ and “enhancement of partner and community involvement”.

The final day of the gathering included a meeting within the task group 4.1, working on the development of EDUCs joint action plan for cooperation with society regionally and internationally, to solve joint societal issues. Their focus is on inclusion, diversity and equality to develop a joint and long-term action plan with joint actions for 2024 and beyond.


Assuring the Quality

We are happy to report that EDUC’s Advisory Board for Education is up and running and their meeting in Norway was busy, with several requests and task to work on. 

Among other topics of discussion was the academic quality assurance of EDUC offerings as an important step in being able to integrate them into local study programs and make it easier to get EDUC activities approved. The importance of alliance cooperation is emphasized, as it is based on mutual trust between the partners.

Teacher education was another topic, made relevant by the recruitment crisis and much negative publicity. The Vice-Rectors for education discussed how they could provide their teacher education students with good and positive experiences through relevant international experience.

It is challenging to facilitate student mobility in program-driven education, like teacher education. Through EDUC, we can explore new formats and mobility of different durations, which can better accommodate such education programs, and the EDUC partners would like to work even more closely together on this moving forward,” Ingvild Marheim Larsen, Vice-Rector for education at USN says.


Spotting Challenges

A good climate of collaboration and communication is key essential to making an alliance such as EDUC to work across its many institutions and countries. A natural part of the SC meetings are therefore the Alliance Training Sessions. This time around the theme was communication and information flow within the alliance.

The participants were challenged to map out the alliance structure in it’s complicity, before identifying where the main challenges lay and discussing possible solutions for these.

The process was led by Arild Tjomsland, senior advisor in USN Sustainability, who guided the participants through the formal and informal communication channels with curiosity and key questions.


Starting Signal for USN and UJI

A bright note that caused outbursts of joy, was the news that EDUCs updated Data Protection Agreement (GDPR) is finally been signed by all partners. This opens up for a full-fledged participation by all 8 partners.

This agreement integrates EDUC’s two newest partners, the University of South-Eastern Norway (USN) and Jaume I University (UJI), as well as new IT infrastructure.

This is the starting signal for USN and UJI to be able to roll out the EDUC offerings to its full extent to their students, and also invite EDUC students into their activities.

Leaping to the Next Cloud

Pedagogical Engineer at the University of Potsdam, Giovanni Fonseca, presented the EDUC portal prototype for NextCloud, which is now being tested out by within the alliance and having it’s architecture scaled up for EDUC.

NextCloud is an open-source suite of client-server applications for creating and using file hosting services. It does not offer off-premises file storage hosting, as it is designed to allow users to store their files on their own private server, secure their data and share it with others if needed. It also includes other features like calendar and contact synchronization, and media player functionalities.


Coming to an End

For three of the Steering Committee members – this SC meeting marked the ending of their heavy contributions to the alliance.

  1. Vice-President International Relations, Professor Sonia Lehman Firsch: one of the founding “mothers and fathers” of EDUC, as she has been partaking since the very first meeting throwing sparks at the EDUC fire in 2018. She is now returning to the life of a scientist at UPN.
  2. Ingvild Marheim Larsen has served as Vice Rector for Education at USN since 2020, and her fixed term is now reaching it’s end. Her position in the Steering Committee will now be replaced by her successor at USN, Stephan Hamberg.
  3. Hikmet Güler has held the position as the first leader of EDUC Student Board since June 2023. His term is now reaching it’s end and a new leader is yet to be elected.


Next Stop: Sardinia

The next EDUC Steering Committee Meeting will take place at the University of Cagliary in October 2024.

Here are some identified key points for the upcoming meeting:

  • Midterm reporting
  • Alliance training
  • Involvement of teachers
  • Teacher training students
  • Think lab Digitalisation
  • OpenUp platform