Education and Training Institutions bringing research and innovation closer to citizens and communities
A World Café seemed the best format for the theme of Europe Closer to the Citizens and it did not fail to bring people together for a lively discussion on how Education and Training Institutions play a role in regional vitality. While different levels of education are increasingly blurred, the world café was split into conversations around higher and vocational education institutions. However, participants moved tables several times during the conversations in order to cross fertilise the discussions.
Before the conversations got under way, each host gave an introduction to the theme of their table.
John Goddard, a former vice rector for regional engagement at Newcastle University in the UK, introduced the concept of a Civic University. He made a strong argument for universities assuming responsibility to bring Europe closer to citizens, particularly in the places where they are located. In order to do this, they can take the mantle of what he calls a Civic University, which operate on the global stage but are locally engaged in meeting the challenges and realising the opportunities facing society in their cities and regions.
Carmela Calés, currently vice rector for internationalisation at the Autonomous University of Madrid, showed how the concept of the Civic University is being put into practice through a consortium of universities called CIVIS, which has recently been selected as an Erasmus+ European University. The mission statement of this alliance states that it will support all eight universities in their mutually beneficial exchanges with the cities and regions in which they are rooted, fully assuming their social responsibility towards the local communities.
Ellen Hazelkorn, from the technical university of Dublin, spoke about how vocational education and training can contribute to an informed citizenry that is more likely to actively participate in society, helping to build regional vitality. She said that VET institutions are more widespread across Europe than universities so can have a bigger impact. She spoke about the need to have courses that make students aware of local challenges and how they can help solve them.
Pieter de Jong illustrated how this is happening in practice at the Water Campus in the Dutch province of Friesland. Through collaboration between colleges and businesses it aims to tackle the shortage of skills in the water technology sector and prevent brain drain from the province. Its experience led it to become the leading partner of a recently approved European Platform of Vocational Excellence, funded by the Erasmus+ programme.
The World Café was moderated by John Edwards from the European Commission's Smart Specialisation Platform
Take away message
Education and training institutions can provide a valuable link between the places where they are located and the European Union. They place a bridging role between European missions and how these challenges are faced at local level. It is through education and knowledge that citizens become more engaged with the European Union and learn how cooperation can help address local issues.
"Like we speak of place based innovation, we also need to speak of place based curricula" Ellen Hazelkorn
"Universities need to be OF the place and not just IN the place they are located" John Goddard