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Bring the European regions beyond the metropolises closer together

Published on 9. Juni 2020, 08:44 h
Bielefeld University, together with five other universities, is applying for the title "European University". The decision will be made in July. In an interview, Professor Angelika Epple, Vice Rector for International Affairs and Diversity, explains the background.

Prorektorin Prof.'in Dr. Angelika Epple

What is the European University?

The European University is an initiative that goes back to Macron's speech on Europe in 2017. The objective of the French President was to create at least 20 so-called European Universities by 2024, which would be places of pedagogical innovation and excellent research. He imagined networks of universities from several European countries, which together offer a course of studies in which every student can study abroad flexibly and easily. At the end of February, Bielefeld University applied with a consortium in the second EU-call.

Who are our partners?
We have come together in a dynamic network called NEOLAiA (gr. 'young team'). We are a young, research-strong alliance, which jointly stands up for European values, commits itself to interdisciplinary and innovative research and teaching with a socially relevant claim and jointly faces the challenges of the globalized world. Participants are Šiauliai State College (LT), "Ştefan cel Mare" University of Suceava (RO), University of Crete (EL), University of Jaén (ES) and University of Ostrava (CZ).

Why did we apply?
NEOLAiA complements our existing cooperation in and outside Europe in an excellent way. Especially because we are dealing with young universities, innovative formats and topics can be quickly implemented in teaching, but also in research. Digitization, inclusion and diversity, but also "health care" and questions of sustainability are, for example, topics that we want to address in our joint teaching. In this way, we strengthen our university, the city of Bielefeld and the economic region of East Westphalia-Lippe. The cooperation with the City of Bielefeld in this European project was assured to us by the Lord Mayor.

What is the strength of our application?
Our sustainable mission and the people who fill our vision with life! Europe is not just made up of capitals. Our mission is to bring the European regions beyond the metropolises closer together. The objectives of the NEOLAiA network are: to strengthen the regions and their citizens to prevent populism, to promote inclusion and diversity, to discover hidden talents, to support digital natives, to connect the regions of Europe, to strengthen democracy and to empower our students to face global challenges.

What is the Bielefeld contribution?
We intend to establish a "Diversity Policy" as a theoretical framework for common values and to launch a NEOLAiA anti-discrimination campaign. With the UniMaps App we want to ensure barrier-free navigation at all alliance’s locations and thus promote the international mobility of people with physical disabilities. The implementation of Sandy NEO, a virtual assistant, is designed to provide 24/7 support for the challenges of everyday university life on all campuses. In addition, the establishment of a joint degree "Diversity & Inclusion studies" is planned.

What does the network currently do?
Especially in Corona times, European cohesion is put to the test. I am therefore pleased that we are on the right track and are planning a joint series of webinars to inform and discuss about the situations, challenges and experiences with the pandemic in the individual European countries. Staying in touch and supporting each other is particularly important at the moment. And regardless of whether we will be successful as a European university or not: the NEOLAiA network will continue to bear fruit!

What does Europe mean to you, your work?
We cannot solve today's global challenges locally or nationally. Being a cosmopolitan, a European, an East Westphalian by choice and being committed to the welfare of German society are not opposites for me, but belong together. In times of COVID-19, when many states in Europe are looking for individual solutions and nationalist attitudes are budding, I am deeply concerned. I would therefore like to help underline the importance and advantages of Europe. In NEOLAiA we live a piece of Europe: we are convinced of the freedom of science and teaching, we want critical discourse, we argue constructively, we make a joint effort to raise money and then spend it together. Does it get any better than that?

Posted by JBömer in General
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