Today, July 27, 2022, the European Commission announced that CIVIS, the European Civic University, of which the University of Bucharest is part, is among the European University Alliances selected for another 4 years of funding.
The European Commission’s announcement ensures that the Alliance can push ahead its ambitious vision and stay, with its 10 member universities, at the forefront of higher education reform in Europe. Thus, the Alliance will move from the pilot phase to the consolidation phase.
In fact, since 2019, CIVIS was one of the pioneers of the initiative launched by the European Commission for the creation of European University Networks, outlining the idea of a European University as a milieu of innovation, responsible for teaching, research, cultural exchanges and citizen actions within Europe and its institutions.
After almost three years full of European Civic experiences, CIVIS currently means an inter-university campus for more than half a million students, academics and administrative staff. Supported by Erasmus+ funding, as part of the European Universities Initiative, CIVIS is centered on quality teaching and civic engagement, with important spillovers on research and innovation.
“The three years of CIVIS from the first funding phase meant an extraordinary opening for the University of Bucharest, a real connection at the level of students, professors, researchers, at the faculty level, a real connection to European education, to our other nine partners in Europe. I think that CIVIS 2 must mean the transition from the project of a European university to a genuine European university, to an open, integrated area of study programs, to an integrated research environment, to an area where human resources and material resources move from side to side, be very mobile and work together. Also, in the future, the project will make obvious contributions to the adaptation to the European labor market, an extremely important measure for higher education in Europe, because the labor market is extremely dynamic, constantly changing and higher education is still relatively rigid. Through new developments, through micro certifications, through joint programs and joint degrees, through joint institutional development projects and also research projects, we can cover much better the demands of the labor market with the offer that the University of Bucharest and the universities in the consortium can offer”, noted professor Marian Preda, PhD, Rector of the University of Bucharest.
Research-intensive universities active across a comprehensive range of subjects and disciplines, the members of CIVIS combine excellence in teaching and research with a commitment to diversity and civic engagement. These same values underpin the CIVIS Alliance, and the shared agenda is motivated by an awareness of the many challenges facing society today. CIVIS especially focus on 5 key areas where our world and societies face important challenges:
- Environment and climate change
- Health care
- Democracy and cultural heritage
- Sustainable and inclusive mobility
- Digital and technological transformations
“CIVIS meant a good “virus” for us. We are in a viral age and CIVIS meant our chance for better integration in academic Europe, as it is also the chance for academic Europe to strengthen itself with such alliances and become more competitive especially compared to the Anglo- Saxon and Asian universities. For me and for the University of Bucharest, for my fellow professors and students, CIVIS 1 meant many projects, ideas and a maximum effort of integration and administrative coordination. It’s a big challenge, but also a big chance that we have. A chance that, in CIVIS 2, we want to continue and consolidate in the sense of strengthening these strategic dimensions of scientific and academic collaboration, with Africa and with society”, pointed out professor Sorin Costreie, PhD, Vice-Rector of the University of Bucharest and CIVIS institutional coordinator.
Moreover, since its launch in 2019, the CIVIS Alliance has grown gradually:
- 5 challenge-based interdisciplinary Hubs. Academics work across borders and disciplines to develop innovative modular courses which respond to 5 major societal challenges. Hundreds of students have already participated in one of the 200+ CIVIS courses, either online or by visiting another member university.
- 10 local Open Labs were established – one per CIVIS member university. Each Open Lab gather academics, students and local civil society to deliver real social impact. Through this initiative, more than 30 projects have been supported, that respond to local and global issues, valuing diversity, thus giving students the chance to get involved and develop their skills.
- A CIVIS digital campus was developed to overcome borders, promote cooperation and facilitate intercultural experience. Tools include community platforms, but also a CIVIS passport powered by blockchain to certify students’ involvement in a wide range of CIVIS activities.
- Academic staff benefited from numerous opportunities to improve and update their teaching skills. In this sense, state-of-the-art pedagogical tools and methods have been developed for virtual and mixed mobility.
- A strategic partnership was established with 6 African universities in line with the original ambition to develop a Global Alliance.
- The CIVIS alliance was used as a springboard for other joint projects, especially in the areas of collaborative research and funding strategies, establishing a participative governance model that respects and values the independence and diversity of the 10 member universities.
“For the University of Bucharest, CIVIS 1 meant, on the one hand, the challenge of understanding institutional customs, institutional cultures for the ten partner European universities. It was necessary to understand and harmonize the internal mechanisms so that together we build a university, an international campus for which borders are not an obstacle to knowledge, interpersonal relations, sharing from our national cultures and institutional cultures. Understanding that these first three years were rather a phase of harmonization, innovation and the growth of some seeds that later in CIVIS 2.0 would further harmonize and strengthen this common culture of resource sharing, interconnection, innovation and why not, of ever deeper, ever more direct orientation towards the fortress. Because what CIVIS proposes, perhaps distinctly from other consortia of European Universities, is this perspective towards society and towards solving societal problems, whether we are talking about climate change, about educational or social inclusion, or whether we are talking about sustainable development”, concluded Mirabela Amarandei, CIVIS project manager.
The years ahead will not only consolidate the progress so far, but also allow to implement the shared vision more fully. Looking ahead, CIVIS will strive to:
- Boost both the challenge-based educational offer and civic engagement, by empowering and linking interdisciplinary Hubs and Open Labs.
- Strengthen the inter-university campus by increasing mobility for students and staff from all groups and by unlocking the potential of the Digital Campus.
- Achieve the implementation of true joint education and degree programs.
CIVIS, a European Civic University is an Alliance of ten European Universities: Aix-Marseille Université (France), National and Kapodistrian University of Athens (Greece), University of Bucharest (Romania), Université libre de Bruxelles (Belgium), Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (Spain), Sapienza Università di Roma (Italia), Stockholm University (Sweden), Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen(Germany), University of Glasgow (UK), Paris Lodron University of Salzburg (Austria). Selected by the European Commission as one of the first 17 European Universities pilots, it brings together some 470000 students and 68 000 staff members, including 35000 academics and researchers.
In 2022, CIVIS signed a partnership agreement with 6 strategic African partner universities: Université Hassan II de Casablanca (Morocco), University of Sfax (Tunisia), Université Cheikh Anta Diop de Dakar (Senegal), Makerere University (Uganda), University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa), Universidade Eduardo Mondlane (Mozambique).