Press Releases

EUTOPIA AND COVID-19

PRESS RELEASE MARCH 30 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic confronts all our universities with new challenges. It influences our work and our daily life, driving us to find new ways of working and learning remotely from separate locations while remaining together as one network. It certainly pushes us to invent new working flows. We are currently practising virtual communication across borders, which will form a part of EUTOPIA’s international and innovative identity.

We believe that our project of a future European University will grow more valuable from this adversity because we will have worked with each other differently.  The pandemic has major and, for many, even tragic consequences, and we wish to try to bring something positive out of this worldwide challenge. Together we are stronger and we hope to build the future out of our combined wisdom and connectedness

We are confident in our ability to ensure by other means the teaching, the pursuit of research, and the administrative stability for our 165,000 students and 30,000 academics and administrators. 

Our six universities took due measures to protect our communities. You can find details on the websites of the members of the EUTOPIA Alliance: 

We will be posting regular updates about the impact of the COVID-19 on our project’s timelines.

 
MOBILITY in the EUTOPIA ALLIANCE: Presidential Declaration

PRESS RELEASE JULY 2020

Recent curtailment of academic, social and commercial activities has affected the intentions and actions of the EUTOPIA alliance’s initial projects. In particular, plans relating to the mobility of students and staff, research and administration teams, and eventual teaching activities, have had to be reconceived. Taking account of this, while seeking to preserve initiatives and opportunities arising from circumstances, the Presidents, Rectors and Vice-Chancellors of the EUTOPIA alliance of universities re-affirm the ideals of free movement for all students and staff, which will be supported by practical collaborative measures designed to champion the social, academic and economic benefits of both physical and digital mobility.

The EUTOPIA alliance, therefore:

Reaffirms the core principle of free movement, and the value of mobility as a practice, in the European Union Champions international mobility as a transformative learning activity for globally active universities Affirms that EUTOPIA was founded on the very principle of mobility and remains committed to its energetic continuation Recognizes that current challenges also suggest new conceptualizations for mobility Embraces the task of investigating multiple modalities of mobility, including the virtual and digital, for the purposes of knowledge acquisition and dissemination, career and skills development, and social engagement Grasps the opportunity of becoming a leading and influential international alliance in blended forms of learning and knowledge dissemination, and smart mobility Undertakes to pursue collaborative actions relating to blended mobility potential.

Caroline Pauwels, Rector, Vrije Universiteit Brussel

François Germinet, President, CY Cergy Paris Université

Eva Wiberg, Vice-Chancellor, Göteborgs Universitet

Igor Papič, Rector, Univerza v Ljubljani, Chair

Jaume Casals, Rector, Universitat Pompeu Fabra

Stuart Croft, Vice-Chancellor and President, University of Warwick

EUTOPIA Post-Doctoral Fellowships

Press Release 15 October 2020

EUTOPIA-SIF SCIENCE & INNOVATION POST-DOCTORAL FELLOWSHIPS PROGRAMME

First call for applications 2020-21: opening on 19 October 2020. Call deadline 11 January 2021, 13:00 CET. Applications online onlyhttp://www.eutopia.smapply.io.  A Short Guide for applicants is available on https://bit.ly/EUTOsif.

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For its first call for applications, corresponding to the academic year 2020/21, the EUTOPIA alliance offers to PhD holders or equivalent, of any nationality, 20 post-doctoral positions as part of the EUTOPIA Science and Innovation Fellowships Programme (EUTOPIA-SIF). This programme intends to enhance the research potential and the career perspectives of young researchers. The selected candidates of the 2020/21 call are expected to prove their capacity to bring original solutions to the social challenges faced in the five key research areas outlined by the programme. As academic experts, they shall help to understand and figure solutions to the difficulties faced by a planet with limited resources and complex societal issues. Interdisciplinary interactions are appreciated, and applicants from the Arts and Humanities are encouraged. The selected research areas are:

MATERIALS ENGINEERING including advanced analytical science, photonics, new material science, quantum technology

DATA & INTELLIGENCE including artificial intelligence, complexity, information-systems engineering

HEALTH including immunology and antibacterial resistance, cancer, ageing, reproductive health, neurosciences

SUSTAINABILITY including energy, circular economy, mobility, urban planning, material heritage, water management

WELFARE & INCLUSION including business management and finance, governance, ethics, inequality, law and demography

Applications will be assessed on the scientific quality, experience and prior results of the candidate, on the feasibility and the potential impact of the proposal, and the candidate’s career development perspective as an EUTOPIA-SIF fellow, through a rigorous two-stage selection process including external reviews of all eligible proposals by renowned experts and interviews with short-listed candidates.

The EUTOPIA-SIF offers competitive contracts in every hosting university, for a duration of 24 months, with attractive salaries covering their costs of living and income taxes, and an additional budget for research and travel expenses. Mobility is an essential feature of the EUTOPIA-SIF. Researchers are expected to move at least twice during their 24 months contract: once at a EUTOPIA university and once at an external academic or non-academic partner institution among a network of more than 45 companies, local authorities and non-profit organizations. Extensive training and career mentoring by senior academic supervisors are included.

The submission platform of this first call for proposals will be opened on October 19th, 2020. The deadline for submission of proposals is January 11th, 2021.

Researchers will find detailed information about the EUTOPIA-SIF on the website of the alliancehttps://bit.ly/EUTOsif.

The EUTOPIA Science and Innovation Fellowship Program (EUTOPIA-SIF) has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Maria Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement number 945380, for a total number of 76 Post-doctoral fellowships, over 4 years, and a budget of 10,2M€, of which 5,6M€ is financed by the European Union and 4,6M€ by the EUTOPIA universities.

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EUTOPIA is an alliance of six leading, like-minded, European universities creating a connected and inclusive community, to address local and global challenges, ultimately contributing to a new model for higher education in Europe: VRIJE UNIVERSITEIT BRUSSEL (Belgium), CY CERGY PARIS UNIVERSITÉ (France), GÖTEBORGS UNIVERSITET (Sweden), UNIVERZA V LJUBLJANI (Slovenia), UNIVERSITAT POMPEU FABRA (Spain) and UNIVERSITY OF WARWICK (United Kingdom).

In June 2019, EUTOPIA was chosen as one of the 17 first winning projects throughout Europe in the new European Universities Initiative competitive call to build a European Education and Research Area.

EUTOPIA ORIENTED THE ALLIANCE TOWARDS THE FUTURE AND APPOINTED NEW CHAIR.

PRESS RELEASE NOVEMBER 30, 2020

EUTOPIA made several announcements on the closing ceremony of the second EUTOPIA Week hosted by the University of Warwick, which took place online from 23 to 27 November 2020 and included significant conversations with leaders and external experts, counting senior representatives from the European Commission and the regional authorities.

EUTOPIA’s Strategic Board defined the alliance’s future frame as a confederation of universities. They also assessed a strategic sustainability plan, defined the vision and mission of the consortium anew, and reaffirmed EUTOPIA’s fidelity to European Higher Education values such as democracy, the crucial importance of the students, academic freedom, place-making, and internationalization.

The six partners also reiterated their commitment to the alliance in the context of political changes and when facing unprecedented global challenges. EUTOPIA announced the designation of Professor Eva Wiberg, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Gothenburg, as its new Chair from the 1st of December. The Chair acts as EUTOPIA’s head for policy conversations with the European Commission and administrative purposes. This rotating position was held since the launching of EUTOPIA in December 2019 by Professor Igor Papič, rector of the University of Ljubljana.

Eva Wiberg is a professor of Italian and has a broad international background. Except for a short stay in Princeton, N.Y., in the USA, she has lived over 22 years in Italy, where she studied at the Deutsche Schule in Rome and at Università la Sapienza. She holds a PhD from Lund University in Romance Languages. She speaks Swedish, Italian, English, German and French. She has held important positions in national and international academic networks.
The Strategic Board also named Professor François Germinet, president of CY Cergy Paris University, as the Deputy Chair of EUTOPIA concurrently. Both Eva Wiberg and François Germinet will be operative together until the 1st December 2021.

Eva Wiberg declared: ”I’m delighted to take over as Chair of the Strategic Board of EUTOPIA in these challenging times, which shows more than ever how important global initiatives like EUTOPIA are. Our alliance builds on its place-making strengths, connecting cultures and contexts in order to enhance European capability, innovation and influence. In my position as Chair, I will aim to further strengthen these characteristics as well as encourage strong participation for all the citizens of its associated communities. Because EUTOPIA is not only about working with each other within the alliance. Our external engagements, from our local communities to global partners, are also crucial for its success. Internationalisation and global partnerships are, for many reasons, important for all of us. It benefits our economies, societies and our democracies and helps us to build a more sustainable future. I also believe the role of research in the educational system is crucial. The alliance is benefitting immensely by us, bringing in additional projects to our joint portfolio, such as EUTOPIA TRAIN and Sif, which helps to build our research and educational capabilities. I intend to continue encouraging this development. Last but not least, in my role as Chair I wish to continue working to make the EUTOPIA alliance even more student-centred than it is today, and I truly believe student-empowerment should be at the heart of everything we do”.

* * *

EUTOPIA is an alliance of six leading, like-minded, European universities creating a connected and inclusive community, to address local and global challenges, ultimately contributing to a new model for higher education in Europe: VRIJE UNIVERSITEIT BRUSSEL (Belgium), CY CERGY PARIS UNIVERSITÉ (France), GÖTEBORGS UNIVERSITET (Sweden), UNIVERZA V LJUBLJANI (Slovenia), UNIVERSITAT POMPEU FABRA (Spain) and UNIVERSITY OF WARWICK (United Kingdom). In June 2019, EUTOPIA was chosen as one of the 17 first winning projects throughout Europe in the new European Universities Initiative competitive call to build a European Education and Research Area. 

Contacts
University of Gothenburg: Ann Nilsen    |   ann.nilsen@gu.se
University of Warwick: Luke Walton | L.Walton.1@warwick.ac.uk
EUTOPIA: Armando Uribe-Echeverría    |   armando.uribe-echeverría@cyu.fr

Download the Press Release.

EUTOPIA UNIVERSITY ALLIANCE URGES THE IRANIAN GOVERNMENT TO RELEASE DR AHMADREZA DJALALI FROM HIS IMPRISONMENT, DEATH SENTENCE AND IMMINENT EXECUTION

PRESS RELEASE DECEMBER 7, 2020

The EUTOPIA alliance and its six-member universities: CY Cergy Paris Université, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, University of Gothenburg, Univerza v Ljubljani, the University of Warwick and Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), call on the Iranian government to act urgently to release Swedish citizen, VUB guest lecturer Dr Ahmadreza Djalali from his imprisonment and death sentence.

The EUTOPIA Alliance welcomes the Iranian government’s recent release from prison of the University of Melbourne academic Dr Kylie Moore-Gilbert and asks that the same clemency be applied to Dr Ahmadreza Djalali.

Dr Djalali is attached to VUB and the Università Degli Studi del Piemonte Orientale in Italy as a guest lecturer, and an alumnus of the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden.  We ask the Iranian government to review his case urgently and to act with mercy and respect for academic freedom by releasing him from his charges and the risk of imminent execution.

Our Alliance asks the Belgian, French, Spanish, Slovenian, Swedish, UK and European authorities to support actively our appeal to the Iranian government and to press for the immediate release of Dr Djalali through all diplomatic and political channels. We thank all of the political leaders and diplomats, and many colleagues and volunteers, who are already actively pressing for Dr Djalali’s release.

Download the Presidential Declaration. Read more here.

  • Eva Wiberg, Vice-Chancellor, University of Gothenburg, Chair EUTOPIA alliance
  • François Germinet, President, CY Cergy Paris Université
  • Caroline Pauwels, Rector, Vrije Universiteit Brussel
  • Igor Papič, Rector, Univerza v Ljubljani
  • Jaume Casals, Rector, Universitat Pompeu Fabra
  • Stuart Croft, Vice-Chancellor and President, University of Warwick

 
International Women’s Day

Interview with EUTOPIA's leading women

You might think this is just another slow and drowsy Monday in March. Perhaps you have to sit through the horrors of an early 8.30 online lecture, have to bike through the downpour your weather-app optimistically describes as ‘showers’, or have to spend planted behind your desk to try and catch up on the heap of readings and assignments your ever-procrastinating self has undoubtedly created during the weekend. In short: today is going to be as irrelevant and inconsequential as any other dark and drizzly uni day, right? Wrong! Today is 8 March, International Women’s Day! A day marked in calendars across the world to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, but perhaps most importantly, a global day highlighting the year-long call to action for accelerating gender parity.

And, to celebrate the EUTOPIAn way, we’re here with 3 of EUTOPIA’s many leading ladies: Nikki Muckle, our alliance’s Secretary-General, Eva Wiberg, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Gothenburg and Chair of our alliance, and Marie Marchand, PhD student at CY Paris Cergy Université and President of our EUTOPIA Student Council. Chatting about female academic leadership, feminist inspiration, and life in general.

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY

Do you usually actively celebrate International Women’s Day? 

Marie: Absolutely! I’m a convinced feminist and I share important information every day on my social media accounts. However, International Women’s Day is more special. On that day, I try to make sure that I raise awareness regarding global figures, key issues that concern each woman on earth, whether it be regarding equal pay, the end of excision or the right to abortion. There is so much to be discussed!

Eva: The University of Gothenburg usually has events, panel discussions, and research portraits that day. Students usually also celebrate with many activities. With the pandemic, all activities have gone digital.

We can practically already hear the self-proclaimed devil’s advocates shouting: “If you really want equality, then why don’t men have an international day? Why do women need 8 March?” What would you say to these critics of International Women’s Day?

Marie:
 Unfortunately, even if we live in 2021, there are still many things to be done regarding gender equality. I sometimes have the feeling that we are regressing on some issues. We need to teach women and girls that anything is achievable. We live in a world that is still full of prejudices and pre-conceived ideas about what women should do as a job, how they should behave, how they should look. I might agree on one point with the critics of International Women’s Day: it should not exist. But not because there is no existing problem, but because we should all be equal. Since that’s not the case, every day is International Women’s Day.

Eva: And we actually really need the men in this discussion. It’s not ‘us’ and ‘them’, this is a joint effort. I think that today we still need a special day for women, but that the focus on just the binary genders is not enough. We need even more common discussions during the year. But 8 March is Women’s Day!

ACADEMIC LEADERSHIP

All three of you are women in academic leadership positions, actively working towards the European university of the future, a university that is challenge-led, student-centred, place-based and inclusive. What led you to this career path? Did you always know the academic world was the route for you?


Eva: I was brought up in a family of academics, which is of course a very privileged situation, but I have relatives back in history who were farmers, and also school teachers. The fact is that I never specifically chose to become a university leader per se, it was the engagement of the students and staff that I thought was so fascinating to work with.

Marie: As far as I can remember, I’ve always said to my parents that I wanted to be a teacher. I think what is key in my way of perceiving the world is that I love to learn and to give people the possibility to learn by themselves. After obtaining my Master’s degree, I started working as a communication & marketing officer but I really missed thinking by myself. I’m currently in my third year of my PhD and I really love research. On top of that, being involved in EUTOPIA has been a revelation, it’s the perfect place to feel useful! I’m not sure if I still want to teach but I definitely want to pursue a career in the academic field.

Nikki: I started a career as an academic, but in a field where solitary research with large datasets was the norm. I soon realized that I wanted to work in a role that involved bringing people together to create change in higher education and that I would better be able to do that in a more facilitative role.  Almost the opposite path to Marie!  I enjoy problem solving and complexity, but also working in teams and with a wide range of people.  So throughout my career, I have focused on the development and implementation of new, complex initiatives that enable individuals and institutions to respond to changing priorities.  And I enjoy working in a university setting particularly because of the diversity of views, positions and approach.

A leader isn’t someone who forces others to make them stronger; a leader is someone willing to give their strength to others that they may have the strength to stand on their own.”—Beth Revis. Is this a philosophy you embrace as a leader? What is your leadership style?

Eva: This is what I related to in the former question. I embrace that philosophy wholeheartedly.

Nikki: I completely agree. But I think a good leader is also someone that can bring together a team with different skills and expertise where different perspectives can be heard and valued.  So a leader is someone that not only supports others, but encourages others to identify and develop their own strengths rather than mirroring the leader’s attributes.

Marie: I completely agree, too. I’ve been able to teach British History and Research Methodology and I think you cannot get anything done by forcing people to do what you expect. Especially because everyone has their own way of thinking and that is what makes us stronger: our uniqueness. A good leader is someone who helps others become independent and able to think on their own, a good leader is someone who is supportive and who believes in others while guiding them towards a defined objective.

In your experience, would you say the academic world is still a typically male world? Or has it evolved and become more inclusive? During your career, did you encounter obstacles that were there for you and your female colleagues, but not for your male colleagues?

Nikki: My academic discipline was very male-dominated, but I never experienced any obstacles because of that. I have seen female colleagues struggle with balancing a career with childcare, but recently I have also seen many more creative ways of achieving that balance.  I think universities are becoming increasingly flexible in their approach to balancing work and home lives, and this has been even more marked during the last 12 months – hopefully, this is a trend from the COVID period that will continue.

Marie: I think progress is being made, but I can see that regarding research, there are still too few female researchers. I’ve experienced some disrespectful remarks when I was working in the private sector but haven’t experienced anything of that kind recently.

Eva: It depends on the academic field you are working in. There are typically female areas too, e.g. education, teacher training, parts of health care. I think that this is a very big question that needs a great deal of focus.

What do you think is causing the lack of diversity in top leadership? What can women do to take these matters into their hands and actively contribute to changing these situations?

Nikki: I think this is also an issue of considering what ‘leadership’ itself is. Our traditional view of what makes a good leader has historically been based on many typically male characteristics.  Frequently female colleagues feel they have to adopt those characteristics to further their career, and then feel conflicted when they achieve leadership positions.  But there is beginning to be increased discussion now on the value of more female leadership characteristics.  I would like to see more dialogue and training on different styles of leadership so that we broaden thinking on what we value as strong leadership traits and what they can deliver.  As Eva says – if we can bring everyone, male and female, in to this discussion I think we can achieve much more balance in how leadership is delivered.

Marie: To me, there are many elements causing the lack of diversity in top leadership, starting with the question of becoming a mother. The fact that one day, a woman might want to have children is clearly still perceived by many as an obstacle. There is also the fact that in the collective mind, there’s still this idea that girls are weaker than men, and thus unable to have big responsibilities. We need to teach our little girls and boys that they can do anything they want. I insist on teaching our little boys too that there is no “girly” job, there is no “girly” sport. Raising awareness among boys and men is essential to achieve equality. We need to teach our girls how to be self-confident and how to chase their dreams. Our gender should not determine what we can achieve in life and this is something one needs to understand at the youngest age.

How important has mentorship been to you in your career journey?

Marie: Mentorship is always important, whether it is “official” or not. I think we’ve all met this special person who was there for you, pushing you and encouraging you to be the best version of yourself. For me, it’s my research tutor who is a professor in British History. She’s a wonderful woman that I’ve known for 10 years now and I don’t think I would be here without her support. I hope that one day I’ll be able to be somebody’s mentor too!

Nikki: Yes, definitely.  I have had several strong female managers and mentors, and have learnt a huge amount from them – both good and bad!  It is incredibly important both to support those around you and to learn from them, and this should be the case whatever career stage you are at.  At a training session some years ago, I was asked to identify both the good and bad traits in a (female) manager, and to consider how I would either emulate their style or do things differently.  This particular manager was a very supportive mentor, and I learned a huge amount from her, but she struggled to make definitive decisions. It made me realize how important it is to make timely decisions and that this was something that I should work on, but it also really brought home to me that no one has all the answers and you can learn from both the strengths and weaknesses of others.

If you had to pick one lesson in leadership you’ve learned throughout your career, which lesson would that be?

Eva: Only one? Well, I’d say listen to what people say, don’t act until you have information about pros and cons in a question. At the same time, sometimes it is better to come to a conclusion and a decision before it is too late. The higher up you come, the more you have to understand that you are just a part of a longer stretch of leaders, one day you will finish, and remember that the leadership is borrowed for a period. Leave the organization in as good a shape as you can when you leave.

Nikki: To be true to yourself and to lead in a way that you are comfortable with, not trying to conform to some external idea of strong leadership. Bring your true self to every role and every decision, and don’t apologize for that.  Your style and approach will not be liked or appreciated by everyone, but if you act with integrity and consistency it is usually respected – although that respect can take some time to achieve!

Gender equality is an explicit priority for the EUTOPIA Student Council. During the last EUTOPIA week, the Student Council organized a student conference on this very topic. What were your most important takeaways from this session, Marie? Is EUTOPIA on the right track towards gender parity, or do we have a long way to go still?

Marie: If I had to sum up what was said during our forum, I would say that our universities have their role to play in reaching a more inclusive environment. This issue is true for our students, but also for our professors and members of staff. We still see too many cases of violence towards women. We need our universities to be safe spaces for girls to think and to live in. We are very lucky to have wonderful student organizations that do a great job in raising awareness, organizing events and workshops for everyone to attend. Our universities also proposed some solutions such as providing free period aid, and the possibility to report abuse or harassment via apps or phone numbers, but we need to push initiatives further!

Eva: I agree with what Marie puts forward, and would like to add, that the Student Council is a very important group that will be agents for change for our Alliance. We must listen to them, and to our staff.

PERSONAL LIFE

Growing up, which women inspired you the most?

Nikki: I have very recently lost my mother, and that has brought me to think a lot about what I take forward from how she raised me. She was a very quiet, quite shy woman.  But I have been struck in recent weeks with how many people have said she was so important to them, and how strongly she influenced their lives and families. So from her I take forward that strength does not have to be loud and forceful, but can be quiet and supportive.

Marie: I think my mom, my grandmother and my great-aunt are key figures who have inspired me. My mother because she raised me alone from my birth to my 3rd birthday while my father was on missions abroad as a soldier. My grandmother because she went through the war, lost her father and then her husband, showing a great ability of resilience. And my great-aunt because she’s herself a very modern woman and convinced feminist.

Eva: My great-grandmother had a rather big farm, her husband was older than her and died, left her with 6 children. She was the first to understand the importance of technology, and bought a tractor to the farm. This was the early 20th. The farmers around thought that she was mad, but one after the other came to borrow that tractor. All her children were able to get an education, some at the university or college level. My grandmother was one of them. She married my grandfather who was headmaster of a primary school. They in turn helped many girls, and boys to get their education. I think this has inspired me!

Being the women you are now, which piece of advice would you give your younger self?

Marie: Do not care about what people think of you, do not care about those remarks regarding what you should do with your life. Trust yourself, you can achieve everything you want. Support other girls, do not see them as your enemies. Be yourself, not the one the others want you to be!

Nikki: I would say exactly the same as Marie!

And last but not least: favourite classic feminist work? And favourite contemporary feminist work?

Marie: I won’t be very original but I would definitely say the Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird by Frida Kahlo. She was such a powerful figure, first wanting to become a doctor, then experiencing a terrible accident, and never being able to have children while it was her dream. Her courage to paint those self-portraits while being stuck in her bed symbolizes emancipation, hope, freedom and courage. Simone Weill is also of course, one of the many inspirations every woman should listen to. As for a contemporary feminist figure, I will say Fiona Schmidt, a French journalist who’s written an excellent book called Lâchez-nous l’utérus and who runs an excellent Instagram account ‘Bordel de Mères’, made for all women out there whether they want children or not, whether they can have some or not. She publishes testimonies of women who always receive remarks on motherhood. She’s an excellent analyzer and always broadens my views.



So what can you do to contribute to gender parity?

For starters, throughout the year, you can take our leading ladies’ advice to heart: support other women, bring your true self to every role and every decision, broaden your views, support those around you and learn from them, trust yourself – you can achieve anything you want!

As for today, the 110th International Women’s Day, you can ring up your mom, your sister, your girlfriends, your neighbours and any other women close to you. Tell them you love and admire them all year, but that today they get a phone call.

Happy International Women’s Day!