RECAP: INVEST EUROPEAN UNIVERSITY EVENT - SHAPING THE FUTURE OF EUROPEAN EDUCATION ORGANIZED BY UTH
The Greek national event took place on the 22nd and 23rd of June 2023 at the Hippocrates Auditorium, Biopolis Campus, Larissa, and brought together distinguished academics, researchers, policy makers, and stakeholders from across Europe. The theme of this conference, "INVEST in the European Education of the Future" underlines the important role that European Universities can play in our current landscape through the lens of the INVEST Αlliance.
Prof. Nicholas Samaras, the INVEST Coordinator for the University of Thessaly, opened the event with an inspiring introduction, setting the stage for the discussions that followed. Prof. Zissis Mamouris, former Rector of the University of Thessaly, offered his experience in the field of higher education from the perspective of university administration. Dr. Vasilios Pinakas, Deputy Regional Governor of Thessaly, highlighted the significance of the INVEST University for the region. Dr. Dimitris Deligiannis, Deputy Mayor for Administration, Education, and Life Long Learning from the City of Larissa, emphasized the importance of collaboration between academia and local communities. They both pointed out the importance and the benefits of being part of the INVEST European University Alliance as external stakeholders. Lastly, Prof. Vassilios Gerogiannis, Head of the Department of Digital Systems at the University of Thessaly, provided valuable perspectives on the role of technology in education. Their welcoming remarks set a positive and engaging atmosphere for the conference, inspiring fruitful discussions and collaborations.
The first day of the event featured esteemed speakers who delivered impactful presentations on various subjects. Prof. Pericles A. Mitkas, President of the Hellenic Authority for Higher Education, emphasized the importance of quality assurance in the European Higher Education Area. Assoc. Prof. Ioanna Laliotou discussed how internationalization serves as a driver for the extroversion and development of Greek HEIs. Doc. Ing. Drahoslav Lančarič emphasized the impact of the INVEST Alliance on the vision of European Universities. Jannie Van der Luit highlighted the significance of European University Alliances for regional sustainable life and resilience. Dr. Liisa Toivonen shed light on overcoming obstacles of national policies in the transition from the INVEST EU Alliance to INVEST University. Asst. Prof. Omiros Iatrellis explored the impact of disruptive innovation and technological influences on higher education. The day concluded with a thought-provoking plenary session with P. Mitkas, I. Laliotou, D. Lančarič and J. van der Luit, expertly moderated by Prof. Eftihia Nathanail, on the role of European universities in advancing global innovation and sustainability. The plenary session at the conference focused on key questions regarding the future of European universities and their development towards a more integrated and sustainable system. Participants engaged in insightful discussions, sharing their perspectives and insights. Here is a summary of the main points discussed:
- Accreditation Mechanisms: The participants examined the current accreditation mechanisms established by the European Commission and debated their sufficiency in addressing the differences in national accreditation systems. They also proposed further measures and implementations to foster convergence towards a pan-European accreditation system.
- Institutional Transformation: The session delved into the topic of transforming European Alliances into competitive and sustainable European Universities while upholding the autonomy of partner universities. Strategies and best practices were discussed to ensure a smooth transition that promotes excellence and collaboration among institutions.
- Expansion to Non-EU Partners: The advancement of European Universities sparked a debate on whether the Alliances should explore expansion to non-EU partners. The potential advantages and disadvantages of such expansion were analyzed, considering the opportunities for international collaboration, knowledge exchange, and diversity, as well as the challenges in aligning different educational systems and cultural contexts.
- Dreams and Visions for European Universities: Participants were encouraged to share their dreams and visions for the potential of European Universities and how they can contribute to a more sustainable future for Europe. Ideas such as interdisciplinary research, innovation, community engagement, and addressing global challenges were highlighted as ways to drive positive impact.
- Threats and Risks: The plenary session concluded with a discussion on the potential threats, risks, and consequences that could derail the initiative and lead to its collapse. Issues such as political and financial instability, lack of coordination, and resistance to change were addressed, emphasizing the need for proactive mitigation strategies and stakeholder involvement.
The second day continued with an exceptional lineup of speakers who enriched the conference with their insights. Prof. Essaid Ait Barka and Prof. Gabriella Pasi proposed new partnerships as drivers for European education, research, and innovation. Prof. Mariana Ivanova focused on quality assurance in European Higher Education, while Dr. Vassilios Pisinaras shared valuable lessons learned from managing the Water-Energy-Food-Climate Nexus and discussed issues related to stakeholder engagement. Mr. Elias Antoniou, from the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, discussed the European Degree Label as a potential first step towards a Joint European Degree, while Prof. Thrasivoulos Tsiatsos of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, presented best practices from the EPICUR European University Alliance. We also had the honor of having with us Mrs. Vanessa Debiais-Sainton, Head of Higher Education at the European Commission's DG EAC, highlighting in her interesting and inspiring speech the game changing role of European University alliances. Last but not least, Evangelos Balamotis, a 4th year electrical engineering student from UTH shared his enriching experience participating in the 2022 INVEST Summer School.
We extend our gratitude to all the speakers, panelists, and participants who made this conference a resounding success. Their expertise, dedication, and enthusiasm were invaluable in shaping the discourse on the future of European education. We look forward to continuing this journey together and fostering collaborations that drive innovation, sustainability, and excellence in European universities.
For those who were unable to attend, you can find recorded sessions and presentation material in the links below.
You can download the presentations here
You can view selected recordings in INVEST's YouTube channel here
Stay tuned for further updates and opportunities to engage in future initiatives that promote the advancement of European education and research.