“The Una Europa Student Congress is a great way to meet other European students wishing to develop interaction between universities,” says meteorology student Samira Ellmer of Freie Universität Berlin.
This November, Ellmer and 63 other students from 11 European universities attended the annual Una Europa Student Congress in Helsinki.
Una Europa is an alliance of 11 European universities, including the universities of Helsinki, Edinburgh and Zurich. Its goals are to incorporate the strengths of its partner universities and share Europe’s leading expertise in various disciplines between the universities.
Una Europa is visible both in the daily lives of students and researchers and within university administration. The alliance organises courses and training for students, researchers and staff.
In addition, it shares good practices and brings together researchers from different parts of Europe. The networks offered by Una Europa allow researchers of different fields to apply together for, for example, EU research funding or Una Europa seed funding available to early-career researchers to support long-term collaboration between the partner universities.
“Our goal is to be a campus for our 11 partner universities. Although we can’t, of course, influence each and every faculty or degree programme, we strengthen connections between the universities,” says Stinne Vognæs, Una Europa Project Coordinator at the University of Helsinki.
Learning from other cultures
The purpose of the Una Europa Student Congress 2023 in Helsinki was to enable students to spotlight issues and stories important to them and learn from both each other’s experiences and workshops. The attendees explored topics such as student views of European higher education collaboration and shared student values. Based on discussions, they created a Una Europa story, which is relatable to all students in the alliance.
Samira Ellmer’s favourite congress events included a visit to the editorial office of the magazine Maailman Kuvalehti, where students discussed topics that often go unreported by traditional media. This workshop helped them understand the versatility of the Una Europa community and take into account diverse student backgrounds.
Other workshops involved learning about podcasting and the use of data in storytelling.
“I gained so many new ideas and insights, not just through the workshops and other official events, but also by talking to other students. It was a great way to learn about other cultures,” Ellmer states.
Joint online courses and events
In addition to the student congress, Una Europa organises other events for member university students, both remotely and face to face. The annual summer school addresses challenges to human and environmental wellbeing, and remote workshops enable students to get to know their peers at other universities.
Moreover, Una Europa offers online courses for students to complete independently at their own pace. The University of Helsinki is involved in organising the Micro-credential in Sustainability and the MOOC course AI in Society.
“These studies allow our students to learn from leading experts in the field, whether near or far. It’s a brilliant opportunity,” says Vognæs.
At present, Una Europa is preparing a bachelor’s-level credential in European studies that would allow students to select studies from the other member universities.
The University of Helsinki also recruits student volunteers, usually once a term, to organise events and blog about Una Europa activities.
“If you’re interested in getting involved, contact me. There’s something for everyone, and each student can find their own way to contribute. Some students are very active, whereas others attend just one or two events,” notes Vognæs.