Jón Atli Benediktsson, Rector of the University of Iceland, has been re-elected President of Aurora and will lead the university collaboration for the next two years. A proposal for continued funding from the EU for the next four years will be submitted by end of January, to further strengthen the Aurora collaboration in teaching and research. Iceland has taken a leading role in that process.
Jón Atli was elected president of Aurora in 2020 and the collaboration of the Aurora universities has grown stronger under his leadership; in part because Aurora was selected as one of the European University Alliances; transnational alliances that will lead the way towards the universities of the future, promoting European values and identity, and revolutionising the quality and competitiveness of European higher education.
All Aurora universities place great empahsis on high quality research and societal impact, and the EU grant has been put to good use in strengthening collaboration in research, innovation, and teaching.. Aurora recently received a glowing evaluation from the European Commission on its midterm report for the Aurora European University Alliance.
Increased research collaboration and new joint study programmes
"We are now entering a new phase with the writing of the new bid for the Aurora European University Alliance's continued funding. After seeing the hard work and dedication of the staff and students at our universities, I am confident that the Aurora collaboration will grow and create more opportunities for our students, faculty, and the greater community," says Jón Atli.
He adds that many things have been learned since the founding of the Aurora network in 2016, and even more so with being selected as one of the European University Alliances in 2020. "We can use that knowledge to streamline our work, apply lessons learned, identify the major challenges ahead of us, and address them proactively by improving and aligning our strategies across the Aurora universities," says Jón Atli.
He furthermore adds that he feels honoured to lead this partnership of committed universities and that he looks forward to working closely with Aurora´s newest member, Université Paris-Est Créteil. The work ahead opens up new avenues for increased research collaboration as well as further development of joint courses and degrees, effective teaching methods and student engagement.
"There are exciting opportunities for collaboration with universities in the Global South as well as universities in North America, such as the University of Minnesota," he says referring to the agreement he signed last autumn with Joan T. A. Gabel, President of the University of Minnesota last autumn on increased participation of the University of Minnesota (UMN) in Aurora.
Opportunities for global collaboration
Jón Atli points out that the universities are hoping for four more years of funding, but that the collaboration will undoubtedly extend beyond that. "However, it is difficult to address fundamental changes in higher education and the ways our universities operate without the certainty of long-term funding. We will approach this by looking at various options to secure the sustainability of our collaboration," he says.
Efforts will also be made to work closely with more partners, both in Europe and globally. "There are exciting opportunities for collaboration with universities in the Global South as well as universities in North America, such as the University of Minnesota," he says referring to the agreement he signed with Joan T. A. Gabel, President of the University of Minnesota last autumn on increased participation of the University of Minnesota (UMN) in Aurora.
"At the same time, these are devastating times for our associate member university in Ukraine, V.N. Karazin Kharkiv National University, which we will continue to support by any means possible."
Jón Atli says that with both challenges and opportunities ahead of us, "we will remain focused on our mission to equip our students with the skills and mindset required to drive societal change and address global challenges."
Aurora is a collaborative network of European research-intensive universities that works on the development of teaching and innovation in university activities to meet today's societal challenges. Participating in Aurora allowsUniversity of Iceland staff to learn new teaching methods, participate in events abroad, attract international students to courses and find European partners in research and teaching. Besides the University of Iceland, Aurora includes of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (the Netherlands), University of East Anglia (UK), University of Duisburg-Essen (Germany), University of Innsbruck (Austria), University of Naples Federico II (Italy), Universitat Rovira i Virgili (Spain), Palacký University Olomouc (Czech Republic), Copenhagen Business School (Denmark), and Université Paris-Est Créteil (France).
In addition, the following universities are associate members of Aurora: V.N. Karazin National University Kharkiv (Ukraine), University of Tetova (NorthMacedonia), South-West University Neofit Rilski (Bulgaria) and Pavol Jozef Safarik University Kosice (Slovakia).