RUN-EU 2023 Students Week & General Assembly: Leading Interregional Development and Shaping the Future
20 November 2023
RUN-EU Students, researchers, academic staff and associated partners from various countries and fields, ranging from industry and business to regional government and civil society, met at the Polytechnic University of Leiria (IPLeiria), in Portugal, from 13 to 17 November.
This meeting marked the third RUN-EU Students Week and General Assembly (GA), attended by the Rectors/Presidents of the seven-member universities, as well as the two new members for the next cycle: the University of Burgos and the Howest University of Applied Sciences.
The week of events was an opportunity for the RUN-EU and RUN-EU PLUS Rectors/Presidents, Management Committees, as well as the RUN-EU Student Council, to meet again in person and reflect on the achievements of the first three years of the Alliance, to strengthen cooperation, improve inter-regional collaboration between all members and associated partners, and to plan for the future of the next RUN-EU cycle starting in January 2024.
Throughout Students Week, over 100 student representatives from the seven-member universities participated in four different Short Advanced Programme (SAP) Challenges, based on ‘Aspects of Interregional Development’ specially designed for them:
- Cultural Challenge
- Cooperation and Inclusiveness Challenge
- Digital Challenge
- Sustainable Growth and Competitiveness Challenge
The SAP Challenges themes provided a multidisciplinary learning environment within the framework of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), supporting them with tools to work collectively in order to innovate, strengthen the importance of people in the economy and influence the future of society.
The students were given the opportunity to delve deeper into the cultural, digital, cooperation and inclusiveness, and sustainable growth and competitiveness aspects of interregional development, delivering innovative sustainable real-life solutions for each challenge.
The SAP Challenges unfolded in Leiria, offering students a unique opportunity to participate in the YOUTH-ACTION-CULTURE Towards Cultural Democracy conference, held in Caldas da Rainha on 13 and 14 November. The event was co-organised with the:
- National Plan for the Arts (Portuguese Ministries of Culture and Education)
- European Network of Observatories in the Field of Arts and Cultural Education
- Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation
- UNESCO Chair in Arts and Cultural Management, Cities and Creativity of the Polytechnic University of Leiria
and with the support of:
- the Municipality of Caldas da Rainha, the School of Arts and Design (ESAD.CR) and the School of Education and Social Sciences (ESECS) of the Polytechnic University of Leiria.
RUN-EU was also a relevant partner in promoting this event.
On the morning of 17 November, The Shape(s) of RUN-EU International Conference hosted the final presentations of the Students Week. Eight groups of students took to the stage to present their brilliant ideas and final projects under each of the four SAP Challenges.
The RUN-EU General Assembly brought together the entire RUN-EU community to review and celebrate the excellent work done by the Alliance in its first three years and the achievement of the proposed objectives for the creation of a true pan-European university, providing future and advanced skills programmes and becoming a driver of regional development.
RUN – European University representatives reviewed the Alliance’s achievements to date. But eyes are already on the future as RUN-EU grows with two additional members – the University of Burgos and Howest University of Applied Sciences – and gears up for a new longer-term funding starting in January 2024.
The President of the Polytechnic University of Leiria, and RUN-EU Coordinator, Carlos Rabadão, opened the meeting by welcoming everyone and reviewing the results achieved in the first cycle:
‘In these last three years, RUN-EU offered a significant number of learning, research and collaboration opportunities to students and staff. As a result, almost four thousand mobilities across the various partners were either funded or directly promoted by our European University. We were able to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and by the end of December we will not only meet the objectives of RUN-EU, but we will also present results beyond the plan initially defined and approved by the European Commission’.
‘This third General Assembly, linked with ‘The Shape(s) of RUN-EU International Conference‘, consolidates the excellent work done by our Alliance during the last three years, and deepens the cooperation between the higher education institutions and associated partners, to fully achieve the key goals of RUN-EU and cooperate towards the development of our regions’, he added.
He then talked about the future plans for developing, expanding and maintaining RUN-EU and its regions:
‘In the coming years, with RUN-EU 2.0, the alliance aims to share best practices and positively influence the future strategies of each of its nine higher education institutions, as well as broader European agendas, including the development of the European Education Area, the Higher Education Policy of the European Commission, and the European Union’s renewed agenda for higher education’.
Cristina Perdigão, Head of the Portuguese Erasmus Agency, focused on ‘Internationalisation of Higher Education as a Factor for Development’ and went on to discuss how the ERASMUS programme views the outreach to countries outside Europe:
‘The Erasmus programme is becoming more and more international and that means that we want to reach out to countries outside of Europe, mainly because we believe that European values are something that we have to show, and we can’t miss this opportunity to show them through the students, who are the best ambassadors possible’.
Representing the Associated Partners Advisory Board, António Poças, IPLeiria’s associated partner from NERLEI, Portugal said:
‘We believe that NERLEI can contribute to this network by strengthening the link between business and academia, identifying the challenges faced by companies in the region and articulating with RUN-EU promotional forms and developing short advanced programmes to discuss these issues.
‘With the new status of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, NERLEI is in a better position to play an active role in building stronger networks with our partners and impact regions of the universities that make up RUN-EU’, he added.
Juha Hauka of Yrittäjät, one of the Finnish associated partners of HAMK, emphasised the importance of working with small businesses, highlighting HAMK as the best university in Finland:
‘There are a lot of different alliances like RUN-EU in europe at the moment, I don’t know how many partners are from Finland, but we know that HAMK is the best one in Finland doing this work’.
Ricardo Drosinos and Tatiana Veteskova, representatives of the RUN-EU Student Council (SC), presented their view on the role of the Student Council:
‘The Student Council is so much more than just a group of students. It is an opportunity for students to show who they are, to get out of their comfort zone and to be able to have certain opportunities, such as travelling’.
‘So what we are here to do now is to try and find a way to look at areas of opportunity for the SC to grow even more. One of the areas that we think would be important is the professionalisation of the student council’.
They also added:
‘We are aware of the things that are happening around us and in society in general, but we are also aware of the responsibility that comes from taking positive action to change and develop the issues that we face. This morning’s presentations by the students – and their creative ideas – are a good example of the willingness and actual competence of the students to contribute to the decision-making process.
We feel the need to contribute, we want to contribute, but most of all we are ready to contribute’.
The afternoon panel, ‘Past and future of RUN-EU’, gathered testimonials of the RUN-EU Presidents, Rectors and CEO’s.
Pedro Assunção, Vice-president of the Polytechnic University of Leiria, and Co-coordinator of RUN-EU, reflected on the leadership experience of the last three years:
‘We believe that RUN-EU has achieved an excellent result. Our experience in coordinating this alliance has been very rewarding and it has been a pleasure to work with all our partners. From the point of view of the Polytechnic University of Leiria, it has been a useful and fruitful experience and a promising one for future participation in this network.
We’d like to thank all our past partners and we’d like to thank our future partners, students, and academic and administrative staff, thank you very much’.
The closing of the General Assembly was marked by an overview of what RUN-EU 2.0 is going to look like, by Ruaidhri Neavyn.
The next RUN-EU Students Week and General Assembly will take place at the Vorarlberg University of Applied Sciences, Austria, in September 2024.