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Global Affairs

Una Europa Discoveries: Insights and Achievements from the General Assembly in Leiden

From 6 – 9 June 2023, the Una Europa family gathered at Universiteit Leiden for the alliance’s bi-annual General Assembly, this time themed “Una Europa Discoveries”. Many UZH colleagues participated in the various working meetings and networking events.

Universiteit Leiden – one of Una Europa’s new members just like UZH – had the privilege to host Una Europa’s first General Assembly since the start of the new project “Una.Futura”, co-funded by the Erasmus+ program for universities of the EU area and by Movetia for UZH. Hence, one focus of the meeting in Leiden lay on the achievements of the first few months of the ambitious endeavors of the project. For instance, the new Teaching and Learning Strategy Group has been established, and the different working groups have created plans and concepts for quality assurance, outreach and science events, and a staff ambassador scheme. Further, vision and action plans have been designed for the different transversal themes that focus on research and innovation, teaching and learning, mobility, internationalization, sustainability and climate protection, and diversity and inclusion.

One of the key goals of Una.Futura is the creation of interdisciplinary hubs for research, education and knowledge transfer. To achieve this, Una Europa chooses a bottom-up approach and asks its academic committees to develop strategies and vision and action plans for their respective focus area. During the event in Leiden, academics presented their first drafts which showed very ambitious and exciting plans for all six focus areas.

Panel discussion on research and innovation during the General Assembly plenary session

The General Assembly plenary session, the heart of the “Una Europa Discoveries” in Leiden, consisted of a high-level panel discussion on research and innovation. Hester Bijl, rector of Universiteit Leiden, emphasized on the importance of training programs for young researchers and the freedom and room to maneuver that Una Europa and all alliance partners have to offer them to further foster excellent research. Addressing the question of how Una Europa as an alliance can maximize societal impact, Sari Lindblom – rector of Helsingin Yliopisto (University of Helsinki) – stressed the need for a holistic approach that integrates education and research across Europe. And the newly appointed president of University College (UC) Dublin, Orla Feely, further highlighted the societal responsibility of an alliance like Una Europa: “Global challenges demand global solutions. Together as Una Europa, we have the scale and influence to engage globally in a way that achieves real impact. Our success depends on finding the sweet spot between top-down & bottom-up approaches.”

As the “Una Europa Discoveries” event marked the first General Assembly since the start of Una.Futura, the UZH delegation of 16 participants was significantly larger than at similar meetings before. Seven UZH representatives traveled to Leiden for the event, while the other colleagues attended the meetings virtually, hence contributing to reducing UZH environmental footprint when it comes to international travels.

Members of the UZH Delegation attending in person in Leiden

Gabriele Siegert, UZH Deputy President and member of the Una Europa Board of Directors, drew a very positive conclusion: “Once again, Una Europa proves to be an extremely successful and ambitious alliance and I am excited about what has been achieved so far under Una.Futura. Our UZH community is highly motivated regarding the various Una Europa activities.” To name just a few of the recent opportunities for the community to engage, the call for the Una Europa Staff Week 2023 in Bologna as well as the Live My Life job shadowing program just opened – both outstanding exchange opportunities for professional services. In fall 2023, Una Europa is planning to open their Seed Funding Call for researchers.

We would like to thank our dear colleagues at Universiteit Leiden for the impeccable organization of the “Una Europa Discoveries”, allowing not only productive meetings and networking opportunities, but also time to explore the charming city of Leiden or unwind with yoga and meditation.

While during summer all Una Europa universities will continue the intensive collaboration at home, the next gathering of the Una community will be in December at UC Dublin to mark another important milestone of the alliance. See you there!

Carmen Richard