on May 13, 2024
Published on May 14, 2024 Updated on May 14, 2024

“Dialogue and Exchange are Powerful Instruments of Peace”: President of EUTOPIA, Professor Tiziana LIPPIELLO on EUTOPIA Day.

As the president of EUTOPIA, many people would like to get to know you better. Could you share some information about yourself, such as your region of origin in Italy (if it is not Venice), your academic background, and why you chose to study Mandarin?

I was born in a small medieval town in the province of Pordenone, not far from Venice. I enrolled in the Faculty of Languages at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice to study Chinese, and what fascinated me the most was Chinese philosophy. Ca' Foscari is the Italian university where the study of classical China is most developed. When I was a student, Chinese was still seen as an exotic language; nobody thought that China would become a world power. Studying Chinese was considered an almost elitist choice as it did not provide many employment opportunities, but the opportunities for cultural growth were extraordinary. Ca' Foscari has always had an international vocation and has always been at the forefront of this field. During our third year, we, as students, went to China, just like our students do now. The first time was shocking. There were no mobile phones, no computers, and we were completely isolated. Moreover, the situation was not ideal with scorpions in the room, communal showers, and whatnot. But I managed. Since then, I have returned to China almost every year.

Considering that EUTOPIA is an alliance of the first wave, has existed for more than four years, and has already taken multiple joint actions, how do you see the future development of the alliances and how this new figure, this new institutionality itself, at European level, will affect higher education and research?

I believe that EUTOPIA and other European Universities alliances are already impacting higher education and research. These alliances are focused on creating a European degree, joint research and public engagement activities. This approach represents a paradigm shift and requires us to consider ourselves as part of a larger transnational academic community working towards common objectives. I think this direction is inevitable and has the potential to provide significant opportunities for both students and researchers. However, to make this a reality, we need a new regulatory framework at the national and EU level that recognises university alliances as legal entities.

Are there any particular achievements or opportunities within EUTOPIA that you find noteworthy?

I believe that Connected Learning Communities are one of Eutopia’s most valuable achievements. They provided a practical and flexible solution for fostering collaboration among students, especially during the pandemic. As integrated Connected Communities now focusing on both learning and research, our Communities are proving to be innovative tools by uniting education, research, and place-making stakeholders to address rapidly changing educational needs and overcome national regulations on joint programmes.

The EUTOPIA alliance offers students various mobility programmes and integrated mobility opportunities for technical-administrative staff. Modalities include E+ blended short mobility, virtual exchanges, summer schools, Ideas Club, Hackathon, TeamWork, and internships.

What challenges did EUTOPIA face in its journey, and how did the alliance overcome them? In your opinion, what are the main future challenges that all alliances will face?

One of the biggest challenges that the first six founding universities of the Alliance faced was the pandemic and its consequences. We had to adapt to remote communication and operation from the very beginning. Additionally, integrating new partners wasn't easy and required a lot of commitment and cooperation from everyone involved. Another challenge that we encountered was collaborating with global partners who were based outside of Europe. It was important to ensure that their collaborations with EUTOPIA are integrated into our projects. We also prioritised formal recognition of our alliance activities to increase our competitiveness within Europe.

Looking ahead, our goal is to establish a EUTOPIA Global Institute and EUTOPIA College, along with joint courses. We also intend to involve more students in our activities by promoting initiatives focusing on innovation and inclusion within individual higher education institutions and at a broader alliance level. One of our major challenges is to consolidate joint scientific activities while taking into account the rapidly changing needs of a fast-paced world. It is essential to achieve a satisfactory degree of integration between these needs and research competencies.

Could you elaborate on what inspired the creation of EUTOPIA Day and how it contributes to the alliance's mission? Could you highlight some key events or activities planned for the first EUTOPIA Day?

The purpose of the EUTOPIA Day is to increase the alliance's visibility among partner universities and civil society stakeholders. The event aims to raise awareness and understanding of the alliance's principles and activities, highlighting its ongoing efforts to create a more inclusive academic and educational environment, offering opportunities for faculty, researchers, students, and administrative staff.

Could you share some examples of collaborative projects that have significantly impacted the member universities? How do students and faculty members actively participate in the initiatives and projects led by EUTOPIA?

We are proud of the EUTOPIA Train project. It is an ambitious research initiative aimed at creating a challenge-driven knowledge-creation community. The program harnesses the potential of EUTOPIA partners to promote innovation and societal impact. This initiative extends the challenge-led model to the development of research and innovation activities. The program tackles two main challenges: integrating pan-EUTOPIA R&I communities and opening up EUTOPIA research communities to society, businesses, students, and policy-makers. Another project we want to highlight is Ecotopia. It is one of the first certification co-created for Bachelor's programmes by five EUTOPIA member universities and one global partner. The ECOTOPIA partners decided to join forces and offer a 3-year programme simultaneously and in close collaboration on their campuses. The program provides participating students with the unique opportunity to work in international teams at the Bachelor level.

What is your vision for the future of EUTOPIA, and how do you see the alliance evolving in the coming years? Based on your experience with EUTOPIA, what advice would you give to other universities or institutions looking to establish similar collaborative alliances?

The Alliance is hopefully expected to continue and develop its activities if the partner connections established in its implementation phase are concrete and relevant. The alliance is also supposed to become a welcoming and inclusive space for staff, researchers, and students to come together to promote and practice exchange, dialogue, and collaboration on many societal and academic levels by harnessing the multidisciplinary and inclusive approach that is peculiar to this Alliance.

Finally, on EUTOPIA Day, what message would you like to share with the students, faculty, and supporters of the EUTOPIA Alliance?

I would like to share a message with the entire academic community of EUTOPIA. Dialogue and exchange are powerful instruments of peace because knowledge implies openness and respect. Therefore, I believe that our Alliance can accomplish a lot by promoting inclusion, cultural exchange, and cooperation.

(Interview done for EUTOPIA by Ca'Foscari University of Venice)