On 26 January, Transform4Europe (T4E), an alliance of VMU and six other European universities that was officially recognized by the European Commission last year as a ‘European University’, held a virtual kick-off meeting at which it showcased its activities to the participating universities and the alliance’s external partners in the different European regions. The alliance’s ambitious goals were discussed: joint study programmes, initiatives and exchange aimed at educating a new generation of Europeans who collaborate to acquire digital, intercultural and entrepreneurial knowledge and skills.
The T4E alliance unites Saarland University (Germany), the University of Alicante (Spain), the Estonian Academy of Arts (Estonia), the University of Silesia in Katowice (Poland), Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski (Bulgaria), the University of Trieste (Italy) and Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas (Lithuania).
“T4E will help to empower our students to become citizens of the 21st century Europe. Our faculty and staff are ready to absorb best practices of fellow partners, offering their expertise as part of a sustainable education ecosystem. I believe that by the end of this project we will find ourselves more knowledgeable, open, and eventually transformed with a solid background to continue our cooperation”, noted VMU Vice-Rector for Communication, Assoc. Prof. Vilma Bijeikienė, who attended the meeting.
The alliance’s ambitions were succinctly summarized by the President of Saarland University, Prof. Dr. Manfred Schmitt. “We are more than happy to see a great number of participants joining us today and your great interest in this very special and ambitious project. It will be one of the most important challenges and chances of this project to deeply anchor it within our universities and to stimulate alliance with various projects in all fields of education, research, administration, and university life”, Manfred Schmitt said.
A core objective of T4E is to encourage and promote entrepreneurial thinking. To realize this goal, one-week international visiting lectureships will be established so that businesspeople, professionals and practitioners can travel from their home regions in order to communicate some of the special features of the business culture in their respective home countries. There are also plans to run lecture series that are open to the public and that will be offered jointly by universities and companies active in a specific region.
According to the project’s institutional coordinator, VMU Professor Ineta Dabašinskienė, close partnership between European universities encourages one to surpass the established norms and regulations in studies, research, and other areas of university life. “It is a unique opportunity for the universities’ communities to envision the future of the University together, to create exceptional programs in research and arts, and to exchange wisdom and experience. The fostering of entrepreneurial thinking will likely gradually encourage young people to think not about how to find a job but how to create it for oneself and for another, how to give meaning to one’s life. First and foremost, a university should be about values, morality, and ethics, even nowadays”, the professor stated.
The main idea which unites the T4E’s activities is mobility which creates more opportunities for all members of the universities’ communities. For instance, the planned projects include an annual Mobility Week during which none of the partner universities will conduct examinations or mandatory teaching activities. Instead, the universities will host events dedicated to mobility: students will be encouraged to spend five days at one of the partner universities or participate in one of the virtual exchange courses. Moreover, various events and activities will be organised such as intensive language courses, workshops with accompanying lectures or job shadowing for non-academic personnel.
Since the T4E initiative emphasizes the importance of the digital sphere to education, the key challenges in distance learning and other areas were discussed during the kick-off meeting by the head of the VMU Institute of Innovative Studies, former president of the European Distance and E-Learning Network (EDEN), Professor Airina Volungevičienė.
“Open professional collaboration, recognition of expertise in the field should be basis for further dialogue and development. I think we all already started re-discussing quality assurance criteria for open and distance learning, identifying proper links and synergies among higher education curricula, open learning environment, European university digital infrastructure. My invitation would be to innovate, to integrate research-based and expert-validated solution, to experiment: it’s time to be bold and prepared for failure and success, but to address them openly, critically, in the European way”, Professor Volungevičienė noted.
A further aim of the T4E alliance is to promote multilingualism amongst students and university staff. Intensive language courses run at specific universities will be made available to all other partner universities and shorter preparatory courses at an elementary level will be offered in each of the languages used within the T4E Alliance. Lunchtime ‘language labs’ will also be introduced as a new language-learning format where small groups of students will be able to chat with their counterparts in partner universities in other parts of Europe.
Source: Vytautas Magnus University