Aurora in Amsterdam
Aurora is a network of 9 European universities forming a community of around 320,000 students and staff, that enables universities from across Europe to collaborate with the aim of tackling societal challenges and current issues in higher education. Callum (your undergraduate education officer) was recently appointed Vice President of the Aurora Student Council and we both attended the bi-annual conference held in Amsterdam, including some of the working groups and student council meetings.
The student council representatives attended working groups that focused on communication, diversity, virtual mobility, sustainability, Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) bibliometrics and inclusive internationalisation. Callum attended the inclusive internationalisation working group and the General Council meetings, whilst I participated in the sustainability group, unsurprisingly, with the highest student representation. This shows just how much students are becoming increasingly aware of the way in which we are treating the environment, but also how we can begin to educate ourselves on this through our curriculum.
For now, the sustainability group is focusing on areas of sustainable transport & events, SDG seminar series, and sustainability benchmarking & leadership. The leadership subgroup also has the highest student membership, including UEA, University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany and Vrije University Amsterdam. This subgroup will be evaluating the current governance structures of institutions in relation to sustainable leadership and recommending improvements to be implemented across partner universities.
In Inclusive internationalisation, Callum fed into discussions around the barriers to access for students wanting to study abroad, as well as why some students might not want to study abroad and how we can try to increase international perspectives to our studies by including international speakers, topics and events in the curriculum. There was also a discussion around how this might improve the intercultural competence of students, in turn empowering them to make decisions on study abroad or taking internships abroad to build key employability and life skills.
Unfortunately, the doctoral education working group that also focuses on sustainability and researcher mobility did not have student representation, so we will aim to increase the participation of postgraduate researchers within the network before the next conference. The student council will be changing its statutes to involve more postgraduate students and as well as this, we will share best practices on student representation and participation to learn from universities that have a history of success.
For example, students at the University of Iceland participate significantly more in their elections and Iceland is also a great example of a student-led approach to student housing provision. Best practice examples from Iceland can be especially useful during our currently ongoing democracy review and discussions around the provision and pricing of student accommodation. The student council also decided to raise awareness of Aurora, to engage students on how the issues discussed affect our education and why students should get involved in the discussion.
Aurora is an exciting network to be a part of and in the next few months, we will be talking to students and raising awareness of this great initiative, but most importantly we will continue to learn from and collaborate with other universities to develop projects that will ultimately enable students to address societal challenges.
If you are interested in Aurora and you would like to know more about the projects that the network is working on then you can email us via:
Callum – UG Education Officer (also VP of Aurora Student Council) - Callum.Perry@uea.ac.uk
Martin – PG Education Officer - firstname.lastname@example.org