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UNICA conference debates the ‘Ideal European University’

OSLO – The 2012 UNICA Student Conference, the seventh of its kind, was hosted by the University of Oslo from 20 to 13 October. Organised on the theme of the Ideal European University, the conference brought together some 250 students from the network of universities in the capital cities of Europe.

Divided into ten specialist subject areas, for example: the Ideal and Diverse European University, the conference sought to address both from an idealistic perspective and a more realistic and applicable manner the issues confronting the member universities of UNICA, and what practically students can and should do.

Over the summer, ESU was approached to provide some assistance moderating these ten discussion forums, and provided four facilitators from ESU’s current team of elected and selected representatives – Florian Kaiser, Aengus Ó Maoláin, Blazhe Todorovski, and Tinja Zerzer – while ESU’s Norwegian member organisation NSO provided another five, including ESU alumnus Magnus Malnes.

Before the conference each participating student was asked to prepare a two page abstract outlining their thoughts on their chosen topic, which were then published online for all participants to read. Each forum leader then asked their groups to do some extra background work, leading to a wide array of activities and discussions during the four day conference.

Alongside the hard work of constructing the “Ideal European University”, the conference hosted several guests, who took time to address the future leaders of higher education with universal calls for optimism tempered by realism. There are grand challenges, but we can surmount them, according to Jostein Gaarder, paraphrased from his opening keynote. ESU’s vice-chairperson Taina Moisander also gave an inspirational and motivational presentation to the participants, not solely on ESU, but on the responsibility of each participant in higher education to help make the sector better.

The sheer diversity and exceptional dedication of the participants could be seen by the closing days, when the ten forums presented their outcomes to their colleagues. Methods from interpretative dance to “the Bologna Rhapsody”, a Queen-inspired interpretation of the Bologna process’ implementation in universities, showed the depth of discussions and the inspirations of the participants as they tackled their subject areas.

The conference’s conclusions are still being compiled, but when complete will be fed into the UNICA Network’s rectors’ conference, an input described by UNICA President Stavros A. Zenios as highly anticipated. ESU is delighted to have been of assistance to this group of motivated and inspiring students, and looks forward to continuing our friendship and connection to the UNICA network.

Written by Aengus Ó Maoláin


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