New opportunities will emerge at the Aurora universities with increased participation of the University of Minnesota (UMN) in the network. Jón Atli Benediktsson, rector of the University of Iceland and Joan T.A. last week signed an agreement pertaining to increased collaboration with the Aurora Network in order to explore new ways for UMN to participate in the network. UMN brings a strong international presence into the European network, adding further to the network's unique position, and thus strengthening the collaboration.
Aurora is a network of ten European research-intensive universities with high research impact; united by a shared commitment to social relevance and a diverse student body. The Network incorporates the Sustainable Development Goals in all its work and emphasises social responsibility and student participation.
A 40-year partnership
The University of Minnesota and the University of Iceland have been partners in student and staff exchange for 40 years. It is thus great news that the universities are extending their collaboration even further, with the aim of the University of Minnesota becoming a formal party to the Aurora Network; a platform hitherto dominated by prestigious European universities.
In Jón Atli's address at the signing of the declaration of intent in Minneapolis last week he talked about the goal of the Aurora collaboration in strengthening education, teaching, research, and innovation at all the network universities. This would be done in line with rapid societal changes.
Jón Atli also mentioned that Aurora created a platform for all the universities involved to further contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. He also stressed that the University of Minnesota would be an excellent addition in that regard, as it has a strong focus on the SDGs. It would thus be an important gain for the network to add the American university.
"The University of Minnesota is a prestigious, broad and dynamic research university. Their approach and emphasis on the same issues as Aurora has focused on will strengthen the foundation of the entire collaboration," said Jón Atli, on the impact of the entry of the University of Minnesota to the network.
The University of Minnesota is one for the most dynamic universities in the United States and among the best worldwide. Founded in 1851 it currently has over 60 thousand students in several campuses in the state of Minnesota. The largest one is in the twin cities Minneapolis-St. Paul. The University is a comprehensive research university and is ranked number 86 on the Times Higher Education list of the best universities in the world. It was announced just last week that the University of Minnesota is placed in seat 23 of all the public universities in the United States on a special list published by U.S. News and World Report, which is the highest it has been ranked in over a decade.
Fundamental changes in Aurora
The University of Iceland has been leading in the Aurora collaboration for a while now with Jón Atli as President. The Aurora Network has grown considerably since 2020 when it was chosen as one of the European University Alliances, receiving a substantial grant from the European Union. European university networks are one of the European Union's main emphases in the field of higher education with a view to strengthening European universities, increasing their collaboration, and making them more competitive on the global stage.
"There have been considerable changes within Aurora, especially after the European Union launched the European Universities Initiative. European university networks are a focal point of the EU’s strategy in higher education, and their goal is to strengthen all European Universities. Aurora received a grant from the European Union in 2020 and since then new universities all over Europe have joined the network. There are currently ten universities with the latest one, Paris-Est Creitel in París. The universities that have joined the collaboration in recent years are the: Copenhagen Business School - CBS (Denmark), the University of Innsbruck (Austria), the University of Naples Federico II (Italy), Palacký University Olomouc (Czech Republic), and Rovira i Virgili University (Spain)," said Jón Atli.
"By participating in Aurora projects academics can learn about new teaching methods, grow in their careers and strengthen their international network. The Aurora collaboration creates diverse opportunities for students to have a meaningful international experience as part of their studies at the University of Iceland as well as taking part of their studies at other Aurora universities. The network furthermore empowers them to participate in societal innovation and contribute to building a sustainable society. The financial support from the European Union has been vital in this regard," says Jón Atli Benediktsson.
Strengthens core operations in all Aurora universities
The Aurora Network revolves around core university operations in all these universities, benefitting both students and staff. The network is thus a dynamic collaborative platform creating new and exciting opportunities in pedagogical development and research. "It is, of course, the goal of the Aurora Universities to better equip their staff to effectively integrate societal innovation and sustainability into study programmes and research."
"By participating in Aurora projects academics can learn about new teaching methods, grow in their careers and strengthen their international network. The Aurora collaboration creates diverse opportunities for students to have a meaningful international experience as part of their studies at the University of Iceland as well as taking part of their studies at other Aurora universities. The network furthermore empowers them to participate in societal innovation and contribute to building a sustainable society. The financial support from the European Union has been vital in this regard. Diverse opportunities in student exchanges, joint degrees, dynamic research work, and shared research infrastructure is, and will become, even more prominent in the universities' collaboration," says the University Rector.
A strong network into the future
When asked about the next steps in the collaboration of these dynamic universities Jón Atli mentions that they are already preparing an application for continued support from the European Union for the next four years.
"This entails more financing than has already been put into the collaboration, which will strengthen the network considerably, if the application is approved. This would benefit students and staff at the University of Iceland as well as all at all the other universities of course. The point is to create exciting opportunities and strengthen university operations. The participation of the University of Minnesota is crucial to moving forward.