U!REKA Connects – European University brings together experts across the continent

11.6.2024 - 12:09

U!REKA Connects, the annual event of the U!REKA European University, was held in Ostrava, Czech Republic, on June 3–6. The event gathered together close to 200 European experts and members of higher education.

U!REKA European University, an alliance joined by 6 partner universities and 26 associate partners, held its annual event in Ostrava. This was the first annual meeting since U!REKA was selected as one of the European University alliances by the European Commission last year.

The event was successfully organised by one of the alliance partners, VSB - Technical University of Ostrava. The programme consisted of workshops, presentations and visits and allowed participants to discuss and learn from the best practices among the partners and engage in conversations about thematical issues such as climate neutral urban communities and transition to circular societies.

One of the alliance’s main aims is to shape future-proof urban professionals, who will accelerate the transition towards climate-neutral and smart cities. Collaboration with local ecosystems, including the strategic associate partners, supports this goal, and these stakeholders were well-engaged in the event programme.

We presented to the guests the parts of our university that have a close connection to the alliance, and we also introduced to them the associate partners of U!REKA in our region, the Statutory City of Ostrava and the Moravian-Silesian Innovation Centre, and the representatives from the House of Foreign Cooperation. I am very happy with the way we managed the whole event", tells Igor Ivan, Vice-Rector for Strategy and Cooperation at VSB-TUO, this year’s organising university.

Metropolia, acting as the chair of the alliance, joined the programme with 27 staff members and students and was actively hosting and presenting in many sessions throughout the week.

Teachers engaged in the Educational Forum

The Connects programme included an Educational Forum, aiming at gathering together teachers and other pedagogical experts from all partner institutions. The forum programme was very practical and focused on finding solutions to bringing students together, for example with Blended Intensive Programme (BIP), that combines physical and virtual learning together, and with Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL), that is offered fully online. The aim of these joint studies is to let students solve real-life tasks with local communities and companies.

The Educational Forum was a good example of shared hosting and participatory approach. There were more than ten teachers from Metropolia joining the forum, among them Kaija Haapasalo, Head of master's degree programmes in Procurement and Public Procurement (fin. Julkiset Hankinnat) and Johanna Tirronen, Senior Lecturer in Cultural Management.

The overall feeling was very positive and enthusiastic in both the Educational Forum and the whole event, and it felt natural to engage in conversations. The forum’s idea competition showed that it is possible to quickly identify, for example, shared BIP themes that many partner universities and representatives of different fields of study see interesting and potential. The next step would be to consider how these are put in practice”, tells Johanna.

One topic that is especially close to my heart is inclusion. We discussed the sense of belonging first on an overall level but then ended up asking how different U!REKA students can truly have equal opportunities to join our activities. It is important to consider, for example, with which criteria students are selected for BIP courses”, Johanna continues.

Inclusivity is one of the U!REKA European University’s key values and the alliance focuses on it not only when planning and organising its activities but also when monitoring and evaluating them. U!REKA partners have collaborated for several years already and the discussions in Ostrava formed a smooth continuation to previous and ongoing talks.

I attended the first U!REKA meeting in Amsterdam and the following one in Frankfurt. These events laid already a good foundation for cooperation. In Ostrava, participants were given time and possibilities for networking on a personal level and the emphasis was on brainstorming together", states Kaija.

"t was nice to hear the partners' experiences of successful projects, entrepreneurship studies and start-up activities. The atmosphere was enthusiastic, and the workshops inspired people to find concrete ways of working together, from Hackathons to joint degrees. As a Head of master's degree programmes, I hope that we can increase flexible internationalisation opportunities for Master's students within U!REKA. It would be nice to have them involved in multidisciplinary development and research projects as well", Kaija continues.

The alliance’s long-term goal is to increase and ease student, teacher and staff exchanges and widen the educational collaboration from shared courses and projects to joint degrees. Following the face-to-face discussions in Ostrava, the planning will continue throughout the year and during the upcoming years both online and in physical meetings in different partner universities.

Workshop participants solving a task together.
The Educational Forum participants enjoyed the given warm-up tasks. Photo: VSB-TUO

Metropolia will host the U!REKA Connects 2025

The U!REKA Connects annual meeting is held every year at different locations, by a different partner. Next year, Metropolia has the pleasure to organise the event at its premises in Helsinki metropolitan area.

The official programme of the U!REKA Connects 2025 will take place on May 21-22 with a lot of interactive sessions and engaging activities among not only the partners and the associate partners but also with other local stakeholders interested or involved in the U!REKA collaboration.

Together with its European partners Metropolia aims for sustainable long-term cooperation. Face-to-face meetings are a crucial part of international collaboration. The basis is created and then strengthened when being physically in the same place. This purpose of laying a solid base for collaboration was greatly fulfilled during this year’s Connects.

More information

Mona Roman
Research Director
Lead Coordinator of the U!REKA European University
Metropolia University of Applied Sciences
mona.roman [at] metropolia.fi (mona[dot]roman[at]metropolia[dot]fi)

A photo of the event participants engaging in conversation.
The Connects programme allowed European colleagues to engage in various discussions with each other. Photo: VSB-TUO
A group photo of the U!REKA Connects 2024 participants
Altogether there were close to 200 experts and members of higher education participating the programme. Photo: VSB-TUO