“Una Europa: Designing the Education of the Future?” – Reflections on a Workshop Part 2

This blog post is a continuation of the first blog post discussing a workshop called “Una Europa: Designing the Education of the Future?” organised by the University of Helsinki on 8 March. You can read the first part here.

Sustainability as the Starting Point for All University Studies

When we discussed the second topic, addressing sustainability in international educational cooperation, it quickly turned out that these two comprise quite a tricky combination. Firstly, sustainability – including both environmental, social and economic sustainability – should be the starting point for all international educational cooperation. In other words, it should not be a side note that is discussed every now and then. Instead, all activities in international cooperation should be considered through a sustainability lens, which means that their effects are evaluated in respect to all the different aspects of sustainable development. As all university activities, addressing sustainability must be research-based. Additionally, sustainability should not only be the core theme in subject fields directly addressing it but also an integral part of all other disciplines. Inter- and multidisciplinarity increase our understanding of the different aspects of sustainable development and the complex interactions between them.

Secondly, international educational cooperation must always aim for mutual understanding, creating safer spaces and taking action. When addressing sustainability in international cooperation, involving marginalised actors and those who suffer the most from unsustainable actions, such as people and organisations from the Global South, is essential. Since the effects of unsustainability are the fastest and strongest in their lives, their thoughts and experiences must be heard in the first place. As in all areas of international educational cooperation, sharing good practices and generating them together is the key in promoting sustainability. Instead of blaming others and criticising their unsustainable actions, we must help each other to make improvements. Healthy competition and ambitious standards accelerate the change, but no one must be left behind.

Lastly, mobility is an integral part of international educational cooperation, but at the same time, moving physically long distances is a major emission source. Hence, promoting green mobility is at the core of international cooperation. This means, for example, improving greener transportation options as well as digital mobility opportunities. Meanwhile, we must ensure that there are suitable mobility opportunities for everyone regardless of students’ and teachers’ wealth, abilities, place of residence, situation in life and other factors.

A screen showing online sticky notes that were used in the workshop.

Students Designing the Education of the Future

When it comes to the third topic, creating standards for student involvement in international educational cooperation, we focused on promoting student agency in sustainability related learning. Firstly, students should be better informed about different sustainability related opportunities because at present, many students do not even know that this kind of opportunities exist.

Secondly, students must be truly encouraged to engage in sustainability related activities. Currently, participating in them is extra work for students, which means that only students who are passionate about sustainability and have time and other resources to get involved find their way to these activities. Unfortunately, this workshop was not an exception to the rule as students were underrepresented. Thus, we need to think about how we can integrate the promotion of sustainability into university studies in a way that makes engaging with sustainability issues natural for all students. For instance, a sustainability lens should also be adopted in compulsory courses and each subject field. Sustainability competencies must be an integral part of every student’s studies in the same way as, for example, language skills or digital skills currently are.

Naturally, most of the sustainability related international courses are currently taught online. While it is undoubtedly the most meaningful way to implement such collaboration, we must not forget the accessibility of these courses. They must also be accessible in places where the Internet infrastructure is poor as well as for students with different disabilities. Furthermore, there should also be in-person options for students who are not able to participate online for some reason or another. Most importantly, students must always be involved in the planning and implementing processes of both current and new projects, courses, degree programmes as well as teaching and learning methods. Active participation begins with motivation, so students must feel that their involvement in developing higher education really makes a difference. It is students, however, who will change the world in the future with the competencies they gain at today’s and tomorrow’s universities.

To Infinity and Beyond

So, it can be concluded that this workshop provoked quite a few thoughts in me! Woah, it seems that these two blog posts almost grew into a kind of manifesto. 😄 I must admit that our discussions in the workshop were perhaps quite high-flown and not every university student will make world-shaking contributions in their professional career. But hey, if we were not ambitious, how could we ever make sustainable changes that really matter?

If this blog post provoked some thoughts or feelings in you, please share them in the comments! We would love to hear from you!

Written by Maisa Mikkola

Photo by Stinne Vognæs

“Una Europa: Designing the Education of the Future?” – Reflections on a Workshop Part 1

Hello, dear readers! As the new term has started, it is a good time to look back at last term and consider what we could take away from it when it comes to learning and education of the future.

On 8 March, volunteers of the Una Europa Local Student Task Force at the University of Helsinki had the opportunity to participate in a workshop called “Una Europa: Designing the Education of the Future?” as a part of the Learning Adventure organised by the university. The workshop was hosted by university staff Laura Karilainen and Stinne Vognæs, doctoral researcher Tomi Kiviluoma and one of our volunteers, Eugenia Castellazzi. The purpose of the workshop was to gather students and staff from different disciplines together to discuss international educational cooperation and the ways it can become more student-centered, meaningful and value-adding for both students and teachers.

While there are plenty of different types of cooperation between Una Europa universities, so far, the biggest achievements are two joint bachelor’s programmes. One of them is in European Studies and was launched last year, and the other one is in Sustainability and will be launched next year. In the light of these developments, the workshop especially focused on the role of international educational cooperation in three subareas:

    • gaining new insights into the subjects that are studied and taught at universities
    • addressing sustainability in different types of collaboration, such as mobility and everyday practices
    • creating standards for student involvement in international collaboration, such as in developing new educational formats.

The discussions were intensive and insightful since time was limited and we got to swap tables and discuss all the topics. Now, let’s go deeper into the outcomes of the discussions and the thoughts they provoked in me.

The participants of the workshop are listening to a presentation.

Meaningful Learning as the Foundation for World-Changing Solutions

The first topic, gaining new insights into subjects through international educational cooperation, led us to think about the ultimate meaning of learning, studying and teaching at universities. In our discussions, we emphasised that studying and teaching at universities should be based on the idea of transformative learning. It means that the learning process goes beyond simple knowledge and skill acquisition and supports critical meaning-making. This deep and constructive learning process enables questioning and challenging the prevailing procedures and ways of thinking, which is necessary for making effective and durable changes. In this rapidly changing world, learning has to be lifelong as we must constantly adapt to new conditions. Hence, learning to learn is the key in educating the solvers of the future. Self-reflection skills and the ability to analyse one’s own learning process are essential for students’ professional and individual development.

If university students are educated to solve problems, it seems obvious that problem-solving skills are a necessity. Crucially, problem-solving skills do not only mean the mere ability to solve given problems but also the ability to identify both existing problems and possible future challenges and to cut huge and complex issues into smaller and more manageable pieces. Problem-solving skills also include recognising what kind of personal and societal values affect problem-solving processes and how, as well as widening the reflection on the possible outcomes of different problems and solutions from short-term to long-term thinking.

In order to form a holistic view of the challenges that the world is facing, students need competencies that enhance inter- and multidisciplinary collaboration. Tackling complex problems requires the ability to see them from various perspectives, which also means understanding different geographical and cultural contexts. This is not possible without international cooperation. When studying and working in an international environment, we are able to consider the different local, national and regional effects of problems and their possible solutions. Most importantly, international cooperation enables us to shift our focus to worldwide causalities and to think globally. Since today’s problems are global by nature, solutions to them must also be generated from a global perspective. In all this, social skills are the key as no one can change things alone.

In addition to a certain mindset, students should gain concrete skills that are easily applicable to working life as well as other aspects of personal life. Thus, universities need to cooperate with other organisations and provide students with real-life tasks and projects that help them to see the utility of their competencies in practice. This is also linked to the essential role of science communication in university studies. The ability to communicate scientific results to the public is crucial for promoting research-based political decisions, civic activities and ways of life. Therefore, students’ competencies in putting the key points and findings of their subject field into easily understandable words should be enhanced.

Finally, students must be involved in educational planning and implementing processes. Universities cannot provide students with the best possible competencies if students’ needs and desires are not taken into account. Participative and inclusive academic culture forms the foundation for meaningful learning and studies. International educational cooperation should also increase students’ professional self-confidence and avoid cynicism. When students believe that they can make a difference and that together humankind is able to change the world, setbacks will not discourage them. This requires an appreciative attitude towards students and their work and competencies. As professionals in the making, students deserve to be heard in academia. At the same time, we must be brave enough to not only think about how different problems and solutions affect the world “out there” but also how they affect us as in academia and as individuals. We must not distance ourselves too much from the reality “out there” so that we will not get stuck in our ivory towers.

If this blog post provoked some thoughts or feelings in you, please share them in the comments! We would love to hear from you!

Written by Maisa Mikkola

Photo by Stinne Vognæs

It’s here!! The local task force is looking for new members!

It’s that time of the year again! We’re more than excited to announce that we’re looking for new members to join our Una Europa Local Student Task Force! This is a group of student volunteers working together with each other and staff members to raise awareness about Una Europa among University of Helsinki students in addition to working together with students from the other 10 Una Europa universities to co-create events, ideas, campaigns, and other initiatives.

If you are wondering why you should apply for the local task force, you can take a look at our blog from last fall when we were recruiting local task force members, answering some of the most common questions you might have and what’s really the deal with this local task force! 😊

The most important thing to know about the local task force is that we’re open for all students, from bachelors and masters students and also PhD candidates. All programs and faculties are welcome and we are open for both international and Finnish students. Basically, we are interdisciplinary and international and aiming to be as inclusive as possible!

Currently the Local Task Force is organized in three teams:

  • The communication team
  • The events team
  • The network and community team

You can read more about the activities and tasks of each team in this Google Doc.

While we have a structure in place, there are plenty of place for new ideas, suggestions, and creative proposals! This is a work in progress and constantly developing.

We are looking for people who are:

  • Interested in trying out new things
  • Looking to challenge themselves
  • Able/willing to communicate in English (no need to be a native speaker 🙂 )
  • Excited to work with a team and create things together
  • Proactive and engaged
  • Committing to participate in regular meetings and taking the responsibility to implement ideas

What has the local task force been doing so far?

Great question! This blog is a good example of one of the things! The communication group is responsible for the blog, where one student is the editor of the blog and other students contribute to the blog.

The event and networking teams have been organizing events and gathering people, connecting with new collaborators and been thinking up new ideas that you will soon hear about for this spring or help to plan if you join the Local Task Force!

Check out these blogs to see a bit more what the Local Task Force has been up to the past fall:

Pikkujoulu in Guidance Corner

Fresher’s Adventure Una Europa activity

Joining the launch of the Micro-Credential in Sustainability

What’s next??

This spring will only increase the opportunities for the Local Task Force members to dream up, plan and execute activities. We will be at the guidance corner, Sustainability Science Days and much more! The Local Task Force will soon be planning the program for spring, so new members will be able to still participate as well.

Una Europa is a community of people who want to imagine the future of higher education and what we think European collaboration could look like. It’s for people who like working together to achieve big things and create new initiatives. It’s a chance to work together with other students, staff and academics within the University of Helsinki and also with students and staff from across our 10 partner universities.

We hope this sounds as exciting to you as it does to us!

If yes, please don’t hesitate, but click right here, to start your application for the Una Europa local task force at the University of Helsinki!

If you have any questions, you can contact Stinne Vognaes, Una Europa student engagement coordinator (stinne.vognas@helsinki.fi).

Events Calendar

Here is the continuously updated list of Una Europa Helsinki events:

january:

👩‍🎓 11/1 Check-In Event (Fabianinkatu 26)

february:

🔬 25/1 Una Europa lecture at the Night of Science: “A Two-Faced Challenge: Is Sustainabiliy Always Sustainable?” (17:30-19:00, Fabianinkatu 33, Studium 1)

You can find more info about our events in the Telegram group.

For joint Una Europa activities, see the Una Europa Calendar of Events. Older events organized in Helsinki can be found in the Events Archive.

Una Europa Local Task Force goes Fresher’s Adventure!

Hi everyone!

Last Thursday, you had the chance to meet us at the Fresher’s Adventure, a traditional kick-off-the-year event organized by the Student Union. Although the weather wasn’t the best, we were lucky to get a spot under the roof (in a beautiful room in the main building), and spent the afternoon giving away points, patches and candies to competing teams for our Una Europa-related activities.


What tasks did we prepare? There were two options:

The first one was a game called General Knowledge. There are 11 universities in the Una Europa network, located in 11 European countries. Quite a number, right? The competing teams had the challenging task of identifying pictures of the campuses of all 11 of them, and on top of that matching them with the right university logo. Although it was a tough task, all our participants did a great job, and hopefully also learned a bit more about the diversity of European uni life.

The second task was a game of charades: one person had to act out a specific university, while the rest of the team had two attempts to guess which one it is. Also, not a particularly easy task, but the teams came up with some great sketches that even we couldn’t help but laugh.

Do you know what the Leuven and Krakow campuses look like, and what is the logo of Sorbonne or the Freie Universität in Berlin? Would you have the courage to act out the universities of Zurich, Dublin or Bologna? If you want to give it a try, join us next time we are in the Guidance Corner, or at any other event – we will let you know in advance on the blog and in our new Telegram group. Or join us at our next meetup event on Monday 17th October in Thirsty Scholar from 17.00 (more info in the Telegram group 😊).

Very adventurous greetings from Sara, Eugenia, Helena, Saana, Yasmin and Jace!

Apply for the Una Europa local student task force by 9.9.2022!

“I joined the local task force to meet people and make some new friends – coming to a new city as an international student can be tough on social life. In Una Europa volunteers, I found a great bunch of funny, kind, enthusiastic people from all around Europe who are passionate about the organization’s mission, believe in European integration, and want to help make it happen. Needless to say that they are also a great company to go for a beer after the work is done, and chat about our experiences with living in Helsinki both as seasoned locals or fresh newcomers. So if you’re looking for a nice community and volunteer work with EU purpose, join our next meeting – we’re already excited to meet you :)!” Helena Drdlova

We’re excited to launch our fall application for the Una Europa Local Student Task Force. We had a great experience this spring with the inaugural task force, so great that many of them are continuing with us this fall, but we also have increased our ambitions and are therefore looking for creative, curious and proactive students to join the team!

What is Una Europa?

Una Europa is an alliance of 11 European universities, collaborating to create innovative and unique educational offerings and other curricular and extracurricular activities for you and you 600.000 fellow students at these universities!

This includes a 2-credit MOOC on the impact of AI in Society (start studying here), challenge-based learning initiatives such as Una.Together (we’ll launch the next challenge in spring 2023), and the student congress (currently open for applications for fully funded participation in Krakow this fall). These are just a few examples of our initiatives and opportunities that you might be able to participate and help develop if you join the local task force.

What does it mean to be part of the Local task force?

Being a member in the local task force here at the University of Helsinki means that you will join a team of motivated and enthusiastic students! We are open for all backgrounds and study fields and levels of study. Currently we’re a mix of both international and Finnish students and range from bachelor to master to PhD students. We meet every other week and plan activities, events, brainstorm and implement activities.

A big part of the work is helping to create awareness about initiatives (such as those mentioned above), but you will also be part of defining future initiatives of Una Europa (both here in Helsinki but it can also be on the European level!) and work on how students can be more involved in what Una Europa should be now and in the future.

Una Europa is a young initiative (we’re only three years in) and we have just received funding for the next four years. So how can this kind of exciting, close collaboration between 11 universities benefit you and your fellow students here in Helsinki more? How would you like to engage or collaborate with you fellow students across Europa? What kind of initiatives and conversation do you think we need to have about the future of higher education here in Europe? What opportunities do you see within such a network? These are some of the questions we’re trying to answer.

Sure, that sounds great, but what are some concrete things you do?

Well, to be honest that is up to you! In spring we were hosting both formal events discussing about the different universities in the alliance, sharing about the opportunities and promoting multilingualism. We did take-overs on the Student Union Instagram and the University of Helsinki Instagram. We were part of organising a huge event for all the universities in Helsinki. We also had a few social events and collaborated with other internationally minded associations here in Helsinki. In the fall we’re planning to do even more social events, to give students here in Helsinki more of a taste of the student cultures in our partner universities, get the chance to engage in more European networking with fellow student local task forces in other universities and do more events and awareness raising. But any good ideas are warmly welcome!

Hm okay, you say international student associations, is this only for international students?

No definitely not! Una Europa is for all students, not matter your nationality, whether you’ve been abroad or not or whether you’re new to Helsinki and Finland or not! We primarily speak English to allow everyone to participate, but we’re very nice and friendly and you don’t need perfect English to participate! This is also a place to grow and learn and most of us are not native speakers 😊 What we are looking for are people with an open mind, interested to work in an intercultural environment and to participate and challenge themselves to do new things!

We hope to receive your application for the local task force, it will be open until 9.9.2022. If you have any more questions don’t hesitate to reach out to the student engagement coordinator for Una Europa Stinne Vognaes (stinne.vognas@helsinki.fi). When you are ready, you can apply here.

Apply for the Una Europa Local Task Force!

Are you:

  • Interested in the future of European higher education and student involvement?
  • Motivated when you can shape how a project is developed?
  • Looking to work with like-minded students in an international environment to make an impact?
  • Ready to use your voice to change hearts and minds at the University of Helsinki and in European higher education?

Then this is for you!

Una Europa is a European University Alliance, where the University of Helsinki together with eight other European Universities are striving to create a common European campus and build the European university of the future. Among other things this includes developing joint degrees, virtual and blended mobility, building a common student community and developing new formats of education and mobility.

Una Europa has five thematic areas: sustainability, European studies, Cultural heritage, One Health, and AI. If any of these themes or topics are of interest to you, there is a place for you in the Una Europa Local Task Force!

We are recruiting students for two teams to bring awareness about Una Europa among our students and make sure that all our students can benefit and participate in this alliance.

Communication team:

  • Develop, strategise and create content for the Una Europa Helsinki blog (where you are currently reading this)
  • Brainstorm and write stories for internal channels about Una Europa
  • Social media – work with the Student Union, the University of Helsinki social media team and others to create and share news about Una Europa opportunities
  • Support the monthly student newsletter
  • Work with the Una Europa Student Board – they are launching a publication for students across Una Europa and this team will be supporting that
  • Help create a long-term and sustainable communication strategy for Una Europa at the University of Helsinki

Community engagement team:

  • Connect with like-minded student associations and strengthen the networks for communication and common advocacy, events and other initiatives
  • Networking and coalition building between relevant stakeholders – help develop a strategic vision for how to embed Una Europa within the university
  • Plan and host events for students about topics within the scope of Una Europa, both online and in person, including monthly events at the Guidance Corner
  • Create campaigns and other initiatives together with the communication team
  • Work with the Student Board on Una Europa level to localize and co-create events including the student congress for all Una Europa students

The content and roles of the two teams and the team members will be co-developed with the selected applicants during February. The aim is for the two teams to work in close collaboration and define the tasks on an ongoing manner. This is an open and co-creative space. We want you to share your thoughts and ideas, and to think and dream big!

What’s in it for you?

  • You get to be part of a motivated team of fellow students passionate about education, learning and internationalization!
  • The opportunity to work in an international environment, both at the university and also within the wider Una Europa student community
  • Be part of creating something from scratch that has the attention of the university leadership and will make a difference both at our university and on European level
  • Access to financial and staff resources to make your ideas into reality

If this sounds like something for you, apply right here!

The deadline is Friday 28.1.2022 at 23.59.

Additional information:

  • The working language of these task forces will be English.
  • When applying for these positions we are expecting that you will be available throughout the spring semester (February-May/June), but this can be negotiated. There will be space to indicate your situation in the application form.
  • In terms of time commitment we would prefer that you are able to spend at least a few hours on this every week (2-5 hours) and also attend meetings every two weeks. This is a initial aim, but we are flexible and considerate of each student’s situation.

Selection will be done the first week of February and all applicants will be informed when selection has been finalised. We approach this with an open mind and therefore don’t have a strict number of positions. The number of selected participants depends on the number and motivation of applications.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact the project coordinator for Una Europa and student engagement Stinne Vognaes at Stinne.vognas@helsinki.fi.