STARS EU partners showed at Tenerife their commitment with this alliance

Group photo of all those attending the ULL Conference.

STARS EU celebrated on March 30 and 31 at University of La Laguna its third annual Conference. During the opening ceremony, Rima Dijkstra (Hanze University of Applied Sciences), coordinator of the alliance, explained all the work carried out in 2022 to strengthen the network and the objectives faced by this initiative, which aims to offer a new future oriented to students, betting on innovation, flexibility and the diversity of its components.

Rima Dijkstra

The nine allied universities have 77 faculties spread throughout Europe. Their strength lies in the fact that they are not located in capital cities, are highly oriented towards regional growth and are complementary to each other. This alliance must face challenges such as demographic change in an increasingly aging society, and also making advances in entrepreneurial attitude, digital skills, technological changes and sustainability.

An interregional connection between universities is intended, seeking solutions to regional problems, but also exercising European leadership, highlighted Dijkstra, who explained some of the cooperation structures on which it is based. The topics of interest have to do with digital transformation, creative arts, health, circular economy, living spaces, energy transition, entrepreneurship and innovation and creativity. All these areas must be interconnected, said the coordinator, who also explained how the working groups and the network’s governance system work.

Dijkstra explained the STARS EU future plan for four years, highlighting the possibility of continuing to work in a network with seminars, workshops and conferences, continuing with the design of shared degrees, both undergraduate and postgraduate, promoting the exchange of students between the different campuses, and continue with the curricular work to create micro-credentials that are valid in the different universities, as well as internships and interregional cooperation work.

The most important thing highlighted by the coordinator was to continue the sustainable collaboration network model between universities. Bremen, the Czech Republic and Bezançon will be the next appointments of this network in the remainder of the year and until March 2024.

During this session, the Vice-Rector for Internationalization of the University of Granada, Dorothy Kelly presented in videoconference the experience of another alliance called Arqus, which has recently obtained funding from the  call for European Universities. She was a firm defender of the networking of higher education centers to promote a more flexible curriculum, achieve a more interdisciplinary approach to university studies and carry out more internationalized research on the European continent.

Welcome ceremony

Opening ceremony

Previous to Dijkstra and Kelly words, there was a more protocolary welcome ceremony, with representation of the nine universities involved in STARS EU. Dick Pouwels, president of the Hanze University of Applied Sciences (Netherlands), recalled ironically that his country had been invaded at different times in history by Spain, France and Germany, and now all these countries are part of the alliance, which exemplifies the collaborative spirit behind STARS EU.

The president of the Polytechnic Institute of Bragança (Portugal), Orlando Rodrigues, explained that his university is, at this moment, undergoing a process of transformation within which the STARS EU alliance will be of great help for its development.

The President of Financial Affairs, Human Resources and Infrastructures of the Bremen University of Applied Sciences (Germany), Daniel Engelbrecht, highlighted the fact that the partner universities are relatively close to each other (or one flight away) and was very optimistic about the possibility of «building something very big together”.

The vice-rector for Studies and Social Affairs at the Silesian University in Opava (Czech Republic), Michaela Weiss, stressed that it was positive to see one another in person rather than through screens, because close contact improves communication and this is crucial in any process. She also claimed for “bringing the university to the streets”, to eliminate the rigidity that academia sometimes possesses.

Jan Theliander, vice-rector of the University West (Sweden), showed his joy at being able to participate in a project as ambitious as the alliance and showed his confidence that they would be able to develop it successfully. In his opinion, work should focus on four values: diversity, inclusion, generosity and freedom.

Representatives of the STARS EU universities at the ceremony

Katarzyna Matras-Postołek attended the meeting on behalf of the Crakow University of Technology, still under the shock caused by the sudden death of Andrzej Bialkiewicz, rector of the institution who was supposed to be at the event, and to whom the audience in the Auditorium dedicated a minute of silence. Despite the difficult times, she expressed her joy at being part of the consortium.

One of the latest additions to the alliance has been the Albanian Aleksandër Moisiu University of Dürres, whose rector, Kseanela Sotirofski, highlighted the great opportunity of being part of STARS EU. “We are a small country but a great university”, she pointed out before expressing her predisposition to offer her best collaboration, as well as her interest in learning from the experience of the other institutions.

The association of the University of Franche-Comté (France) is also recent. Its vice-rector for Internationalization, Samir Jemel, expressed his interest in focusing on objectives such as improving student training; involve local agents; and make your center better known, something that will undoubtedly be helped by the fact that it will be your university that will host, on March 21 and 22, 2024, the next conference of the alliance.

After the interventions of the representatives of the guest associated universities, the island director of Innovation of the Cabildo de Tenerife, María Aránzazu Artal Díez, summarized the great potential of the island to host research activities.

The last ceremonial speech at the opening ceremony was made by the coordinator of STARS EU at the University of La Laguna, the vice-rector for Research and Transfer Ernesto Pereda, who made a more informal presentation in which he wanted to express the aspirations of the alliance: “alome you can advance faster, but together we go further”

Thursday programme continued on afternoon, with a series of simultaneous workgroups which took place in a dozen of rooms at the Guajara Campus, regarding the Thematic Interest Groups of the alliance, the administration and government entities within STARS EU, and the student board, among other subjects.

Second day

One of the work groups during the Thursday afternoon.

During the morning of Friday 31 of March, there was a summarization of the work done during the Tenerife conference. All TIGs were very satisfied with the meeting held these two days, which has served to talk extensively, find out the status of the projects of each team and plan the next steps.

Around twenty students from the different universities were very involved in the meeting and have assumed the role of ambassadors of this European network. As it is still a very young initiative that has not yet generated specific products such as shared degrees or micro-credentials, the youngsters opted to spread the spirit of this collaborative network of universities, with great impact in their regions and but all with a broad European vision.

The rector of the Hanze University of Applied Sciences affirmed in the closing session that internationalization has great potential in universities and opted for the future of this networking, despite the great cultural diversity and contexts between them. . For his part, Ernesto Pereda, the local host, together with Lidia Cabrea, pointed out that the network works globally on major challenges facing societies, providing expert knowledge and solutions. «Our ability to create things is not only by the sum of the parts, but by the combination and interaction that the members of this network make,» he said. Finally, the coordinator of the alliance, Rima Dijkstra, asked all members to feel proud to belong to this alliance.

Pictures of the meeting

There are several folders in which you can download the pictures taken during the conference:

Pics by University of La Laguna

Pics by Polytechnic Institute of Bragança