from March 24, 2022 to March 25, 2022
Published on March 30, 2022 Updated on March 30, 2022

EUTOPIA at the CHARM-EU Governance Forum

University of Montpellier, 24-25 March 2022

The theme of the Forum was “Building the governance of the European University”. The aim is to open up opportunities to exchange experiences and knowledge concerning the work that is being done by European university alliances in shaping the European higher education area of the future. 

Day 1

EUTOPIA joined forces with CHARM-EU on the session on Inclusion design - Maintreaming inclusion and diversity. Eutopia was represented in Montpellier by Catherine Gillo Nilsson (University of Gothenburg) and Cheyma Al Mehraj (Vrije Universiteit Brussels). Lewis Beer (University of Warwick) participated and presented online. All three are members of the Eutopia WP 5 focusing on accessibility and inclusion.

The keynote speaker at the session was Agnes Sarolta Fazekas (Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest), the lead for CHARM’s inclusion work package. The relationship on Inclusion between our alliances actually started in 2020, at the joint conference on Digital Inclusion during the first EUTOPIA Week hosted by CY, where Agnes was one of the invited speakers, together with our Eutopia WP5 lead Petra Videmšek (University of Ljubljana).

The hybrid format made the session accessible to different types of participants and locations. The inclusion session had over 50 attendees (on-site and online), including student representatives from amongst others CHARM-EU and NeurotechEU and an international student from Norway. The Eutopia team presented and discussed efforts on devising a common framework for identifying disadvantaged student communities and “best” practices for inclusion within the curriculum and beyond the curriculum, as well as the co-creation methodology applied in the process of developing a strategy for inclusion. The Eutopia team´s presentation was concluded with a summary of what we want to achieve as well as reflections on challenges and possible ways forward.

After the presentations, the audiences were given the opportunity to ask questions and share their reflections on the issues presented.  The questions -which all came from audiences on-site- were very relevant and varied: ranging from issues concerning tuition fees, recruitment of students participating in the inclusion focus group, accessibility and structural inequalities to existence and management of resistance.

The discussion was stimulating and highlighted the many issues concerning barriers to diversity, equity, and inclusion that future European universities must face. The interaction with the audience in the room and the discussion that followed were the definite highlight. With an engaged audience in the room and having dialogues on Inclusion as a core value, as well as EUTOPIA principles of participation, empowerment and co-creation, made the session very vibrant.

It was very clear that for the audience (both online and offline), what we are doing matters in terms of recognizing and eliminating structural barriers and inequalities regarding access to and participation in higher education and beyond. We need to have a vision for collaborative efforts for inclusion to face crisis and resistance, be creative and stand strong together. 

Zoltan Haberman (CHARM-EU) gave feedback on the inclusion session the next day, mentioning that the presentations and discussions were interesting, meaningful, and inspiring!  He also highlighted  “that he learned a lot”, which is true for us as well.  We were in agreement that joining forces and collaborating in creating an accessible and inclusive European higher education area is crucial for achieving our goal. It was clearly and explicitly emphasized that Inclusion is a key value in both alliances. Building on the momentum of the session, the next collaborative initiative is to carry out an interview on our efforts and prepare a joint podcast on inclusion and diversity.

It is worth mentioning that different stakeholders and several alliances were also represented at the Forum as a whole, e.g. Civis, UniversEH, Aurora, Epicur, Ulysees, and EDUC to discuss different operational aspects of the European university initiative. This made the Forum even more thought-provoking and relevant at this time when we are moving towards the end of the pilot phase.

Day 2

The second day was devoted to political perspectives in building the governance of European universities. The presentations and discussions during the second day were very informative and provided perspectives on the continuation of the European University initiatives. The questions and discussions revolved around for example issues on the future of mobility, inter-university campuses, collaboration across alliances, pros and cons of a legal entity as well as building tools and initiatives for change.

Takeaways from the forum;

  • Let’s join forces more often and learn from but also influence other European alliances;
  • We noticed that a forum where the governance board highlights its ideas and perspectives on the future of Eutopia to the whole Eutopia community could be both inspiring and nurturing. This kind of periodic check-ins towards the Eutopian community could be a great way to communicate on future plans, exchange insights and keep each other updated on each other’s work, ideas, and future plans within the alliance.