“Transform4Europe” is the idea connecting seven European universities which jointly decided to take part in this year’s edition of European Universities competition announced by the European Commission. One of these universities is the University of Silesia in Katowice, whereas the leader of the project is the Saarland University (Saarbrücken, Germany). Assoc. Prof. Małgorzata Myśliwiec, Professor of the University of Silesia, member of the working team at the University of Silesia in Katowice, cooperating with the project preparation, talks about the importance of European University Network.
The European Universities Initiative is mainly intended to increase the research potential of European universities by increasing the mobility of employees, students and doctoral students. Consortia consisting of different European universities may take part in the programme. This is another project increasing academic exchange, intended to establish international cooperation. What makes it different from other undertakings?
The situation in Europe is changing dynamically. Brexit, which took place a little over two months ago, put the other member states in a difficult situation, also with regard to the position of higher education on the international arena. Top 20 of the most important global rankings included mainly research centres from the United States and Great Britain. After Brexit, Europe will lose its high position in these rankings. In preparation for the effects of the recent events, European Commission announced a pilot competition for creating a European University network (European Universities) last year. These are consortia established on the basis of cooperation between various research centres located in our continent, which found a common denominator. The programme beneficiaries will receive a three-year grant in the amount of up to EUR 5 million.
The second edition of European Universities competition has been announced this year. The University of Silesia, together with six other universities, began to make efforts to join the prestigious group of European Universities network.
I think that taking the effort to be accepted in this elite club is a great opportunity for the University of Silesia. The emerging international consortia consist of universities with seats in different parts of the continent. These research centres usually already cooperate with each other, but the important thing here is to find the common ground that links them. An interesting example is one of the winners of the first edition of the competition – the “European University of the Seas” network, which associates several European universities located in close vicinity of the sea. The University of Gdańsk belongs to this group.
What distinguishes the group that the University of Silesia has become part of?
Our University has joined the group connected with the idea „Transform4Europe – T4E”. The other universities in this group include: Saarland University from Saarbrücken (Germany, leader of the project), University of Alicante (Spain), Università degli Studi di Trieste (Italy), St. Kliment Ohridski Sofia University (Bulgaria), Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas (Lithuania) and Estonian Academy of Arts in Tallinn (Estonia).
What connects us is that we all aim to transform the style of scientific work and way of thinking about conducting scientific research and teaching. This, in turn, is supposed to lead us towards enhancing cooperation of the University with its surroundings, region and self-government. We would like the research results to contribute to gradual transformation of this environment. The “Transform4Europe” concept connects the universities of high importance for the regions where they operate. It’s an important aspect. We want to face together challenges such as climate change effects, migrations and depopulation.
Another challenge is to think from a wider perspective than just domestic. After Brexit, we definitely have to take up the subject of transnational values. We hear more and more frequently about the growing popularity of nationalist ideas. In my opinion, European universities should play the key role in such discourses. The identity of specific nations is extremely important. The linguistic, religious and ethnic variety is a great value. Nobody denies it. However, does it mean that we don’t have a common European cultural heritage?
We are stronger in a group. What do we get from becoming a member of such a consortium?
As I’ve already mentioned, we strive to strengthen the research position of European universities. By combining our efforts, we get a bigger opportunity to obtain grants for research. If a particular subject is taken up by scientists representing seven scientific centres, not only do we become open for exchange of experience and learn different styles of practising science, but also our voice gets stronger.
Another great advantage of such cooperation is obviously the increased mobility of employees, doctoral students and students. Such network facilitates academic exchange and organisation of joint events, as well as allows scientists to use the laboratory facilities of the cooperating units. We know that contacts between the scientists in a particular field of science very quickly result in new ideas for international research projects. It’s enough to make the first step and want to get to know one another. Please note how varied these countries are. Bulgaria, Estonia, Spain, Lithuania, Germany, Poland and Italy – these are all different political systems, languages, religions, but also different methods to conduct scientific research and specific systems of higher education. We may learn to operate in an international team and communicate effectively through practice. I think that this form of cooperation shows that each of us has certain barriers that are worth getting to know and breaking. It also teaches us respect to something that is different. It’s a great value.
The results of the competition are planned to be announced at the turn of June and July 2020. As we can easily guess, regardless of the results, certain forms of cooperation between the universities have already been initiated…
We talk with every partner in our group all the time. Certain ideas for joint projects have already appeared. We have plans to jointly organise scientific seminars and invite visiting guests. We are getting to know one another. This time will definitely not be wasted. We’ve been working hard to prepare good material with this competition in mind and we hope to achieve success.
Thank you for the interview.