Universities have come under increasing pressures in recent times from many directions – even challenging a central pillar of university life – namely academic freedom. This forms the theme of the international conference linked to the 25th anniversary weekend. Academic Freedom: New Times, New Challenges, will involve a number of keynote speakers discussing the range of growing pressures on universities today. While those in Turkey, in Poland and some in Hungary are in the front rank facing such pressures, all our Universities are having to confront the new student-led pressure to create ‘safe spaces’ without ‘extremist’ speakers. Cuts in public expenditure, linked to increasing demands for vocational and other ‘priority’ forms of education, form yet another threat to University autonomy. Finally, the search for new contracts from business and industry, can also force universities to adjust research priorities and goals. Participants and speakers will include rectors and deputy rectors from all 13 Europaeum partners, as well as some 50 select Europaeum alumni. The keynote session on September 15th will include a leader of the ‘Umbrella Movement’, straight from Hong Kong, and e Radosław Sikorski (Senior Fellow, Harvard and former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Poland), Zsolt Enyedi (Pro-Rector, Central European University, our newest Europaeum member). Please see the poster here > please note that the Friday session is now booked full, but you are very WELCOME for the Saturday follow up programme see here. On Saturday, additional speakers will include Voldemar Tomusk (Open Society Institute), Bharam Beckharadnia (Higher Education Policy Forum), Professor Denis Noble (Campaign for Science and Engineering) and Alan Rusbridger (who championed the Wikileaks information as former editor of The Guardian).
We are very sad to have to report that one of our successful Europaeum alumni, Christopher Allen, died in South Sudan last Saturday (26th August, 2017), aged 26. Chris was killed in a heavy fight between rebel and government troops in the town of Kaya, while reporting on the ensuring civil war in Africa’s youngest state.
Chris was an MA graduate in the 2013-14 cohort of the Europaeum’s pioneering MA in European History and Civilisation programme, which involves graduates drawn from all over the world, studying for one term each at Leiden, Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne, and Oxford universities, graduating from Leiden with a Europaeum Certificate.
Chris wrote a remarkable MA thesis on “Breaking Mau Mau: British Efforts to ‘Rehabilitate’ the Mau Mau and Create New Citizens of Kenya’ and, after graduation, began (or continued to work) as an independent front-line journalist, reporting on the Russia-Ukraine conflicts in Crimea and the Donbass. He went to intense conflict situations in search of the ‘real stories’, Mark Hugen, a fellow Europaeum student, remembers. Seeing, as he always said, more as a contemporary historian, with his reporting as ‘an extension of his studies’ of what war was like and how it influenced ordinary people.
He personally lived and travelled with many of the Ukrainian forces and has written for the Washington Post, The Daily Telegraph, and Al Jazeera, among others. In 2015, we invited Chris to speak about his work as part of our international conference on Crises in Europe. While nervous speaking ‘in front of a learned and academic audience’ he gave a rivetting first-hand, and strongly-illustrated report on “Europe’s Soldier in the Ukraine: Fighting for Freedom?” Though we had ministers, defence analysts, OSCE policy heads and many distinguished scholars, it was Chris’s paper that left a special impression on all there.
Our Secretary-General, Paul Flather, recalls: “Chris struck me as an incredibly brave and always stimulating young man, never one to do the usual or to follow the crowd. He was utterly committed to a search for a deeper truth, and saw himself as someone who would quite deliberately go where others feared to tread in his search for the real story behind the headlines and cosy reporting. That is important for understanding for all the rest of us. Few have the courage to do that. Those that do, perhaps, realise deep down, that, one day, the risks may prove overwhelming. Chris was just that person, committed to truth-seeking. This is a tragedy and we think now of his friends, family and those who taught him. Hats off to him. I salute him.”
His fellow Europaeum students add: “It was his calling to report on these conflicts, which tragically cost him his life. While the horrible nature of Chris’s passing has moved all of us greatly, we would like to remember Chris as we got to know him during the Europaeum: a passionate, determined, bright fellow student.”
We bid farewell to our friend, now lost.
Our thoughts are with Chris’ family and friends.
Internship programme to be suspended
The Europaeum has long benefitted from energetic young graduate interns to support its work over recent years. However until further notice the Europaeum will suspend its search for interns from its partner univerities as a new staffing structure is being set up. We note that such internships for graduate students are now widely recognised as a key ingredient for students entering the job market, according to articles in the University World News., and recognised under the EC new credit system under Erasmus for approved internship postings. The Europaeum has proudly offered lively supported internships to graduate students, doctoral candidates, and post-doctoral scholars from Europaeum universities for many years now, and we are grateful for their contribution to our work, and we trust that the experiences have been fruitful for the interns as they pursue their academic and professional career work. We will advise further on the position as it develops.
With our 25th anniversary celebrations in September imminent, the Europaeum is delighted to welcome the Central European University as a “special” new member for one year. The invitation was made by Europaeum members as a sign of solidarity with the CEU in its current plight in the face of new punitive laws being pursued by the Hungarian Government. For more see also the Footnote of the Month in our April Bulletin here. CEU representatives will attend the special 25th anniversary celebrations due in Oxford next September, and the linked annual international Europaeum Conference which will focus on the highly topical theme of Academic Freedom in European Higher Education. In their recent letter of welcome this month to Professor Michael Ignatieff, the Rector of the CEU, the Europaeum wrote : “We feel that the principals of academic freedom are universal and essential, and all leading European universities must stand together in their defence.” The Europaeum is also offering to host an event at the CEU in Budapest. The CEU was formed in the wake of the collapse of the Iron Curtain and ‘re-unification’ of Europe and in time the Enlargement of the European Union, founded by the philanthropist George Soros and his Open Society network. It was founded in Prague, with our own Secretary-General as its founding CEO/Secretary-General, but by 1994 had moved to its current home in Budapest after a dispute with the Czech government.
Paul Flather set to step back from key role
After more than 15 years at the helm of the Europaeum association, having presided over its growth and development, Paul Flather will be stepping back from his key role this autumn.
He has helped pioneer many of its signature programmes and projects – the jointly-offered degree courses, one of which is to win Erasmus Mundus support; the international graduate workshops for advanced research students; the exiting week-long flagship summer schools; and the many academic mobility and exchange schemes, scholarships schemes and bursaries.
“I will miss so many aspects of the work,” Paul Flather says. ”But most of all working with so many lively and smart students from all over the world, not just Europe. The personal thanks, the warm feedback, even the tears and hugs at the end of our events, will be something I will be sure to cherish.”
“All good things must come to an end – and it is a time for a change for me, and, no doubt, for the Europaeum too. It is now 25 years old now, the right moment to move on”, he adds.
He was first introduced to the Europaeum in the mid 1990s when he served as Director of International and External Affairs at the University of Oxford, when he first got to know Lord (George) Weidenfeld, the founding inspiration for the consortium, and they built up a very deep relationship – which continued after the Europaeum became an independent charity under UK law from 2000 and Paul Flather was appointed as founding Secretary-General after a job competition across all the members.
Paul recalls: “One of my highlights has been regular visits to discuss progress with George either in his office at Weidenfeld and Nicolson, or in his book lined office in Chelsea. He was always so full of energy, so flattering, dubbing me ‘the alchemist who watched over the growth of his first baby’!”
After the Europaeum, Lord Weidenfeld went on to help to initiate many more significant projects and programmes – including the Blavatnik School of Government, the Weidenfeld-Hoffmann scholarships scheme, the Club of Three, and the Institute of Strategic Dialogue.
Dr Flather began his professional life as a journalist, working variously for the BBC, Times Newspapers, the Times of India, and the New Statesman, before returning to Balliol to complete a national prize-winning D Phil (PhD) on Indian democracy, then being elected to run higher and further education at the London Council, before serving as the founding Secretary-General and CEO of the Central European University and various other Soros programmes in Central Europe, and then returning to Oxford to head up a new department. He has been a Fellow of Corpus Christi College, and now of Mansfield College.
The Europaeum began with three founding members, but now has 12 members, and extensive programmes including the Jenkins Scholarships scheme, the Oxford-Geneva and Oxford-Prague Study bursaries, the Brussels policy-making workshop, the International debates in Lisbon, the annual Classics colloquia and various research projects, joint MA programmes, and graduate workshop series, and the publication of journals, pamphlets, edited books and many reports.
Over these 25 years the Europaeum has benefitted some 5,000 graduates and engaged with some 1,000 experts and academics.
“I have made many friends, been privileged to work on many beautiful university campuses; delighted in working with so many keen graduates. It has been an amazing roller-coaster of a journey.”
“There is a new climate abroad in Europe, forged out of the migration crisis, populist politics, Euro-scepticism, the legacy of the Eurozone crisis, and now Brexit and the arrival of President Trump. This means our agenda has in so many ways, grown. We owe it to George and our other founders to keep the Europaeum afloat. I will, of course, continue to do my best to support all this.
Dr Flather will step down after the 25th anniversary meetings at the end of September, but will stay involved to direct some special projects and offer guidance for future work. He will focus on two other foundations he has been running in a voluntary capacity, editorial boards he serves on; taking up visiting academic posts, and writing projects. .
A formal new MA led by Charles University is to be launched in the autumn on European Politics and Society linked to other Europaeum universities, Leiden, Pompeu Fabra Barcelona, and the Jagellonian University Cracow. This follows the success of a bid to the European Commission to gain support and backing via Erasmus Mundus. The registering cohort of perhaps 20 graduates will begin their studies together at Charles University, and then continue their studies at one of the other partner universities. A joint diploma will be issued by the universities involved, as well as the Europaeum and graduates will be able to attend the well-known Spring School, which takes place each year at Oxford University. Professor Lenka Rovna and her team which has secured the EU support report that applications for this new programme are picking up very successfully. The course is an out-growth from the Europaeum’s Vaclav Havel Programme, which links Charles, Paris 1, Leiden together with Cracow and Barcelona set to join. It involves a first year at their host university and a third trimestre at a partner institution. The two programmes are set up to continue side by side with the new programme marking an important step forward in the Europaeum’s joint teaching initiative, serving as an ‘international university without walls’.
UK university-indstury links ‘set to suffer’ after Brexit
Large research-intensive universities in the UK are most at risk of having their collaborative links with industry damaged by Brexit, according to a report with the title UK Universities Interacting with Industry: Patterns of research collaboration and inter-sectoral mobility of academic researchers. This report was presented at the Centre for Global Higher Education’s annual conference on the 1st of March in London by Professor Robert Tijssen and Dr Alfredo Yegros from Leiden University. Together with a third author, Wout Lamers, also from Leiden, they have been measuring the relations between British universities and industry, with a particular focus on academic collaboration with companies based in other EU member states. They found that 24% of academic-industry connections among the 47 most research-active British universities were with companies in the EU, an average of 40% of the co-publications with foreign companies included at least one firm located in an EU member state. Speaking to University World News, Tijssen said: ‘There are several reasons why research links with European companies would be at risk from Brexit. In the case of European Commission-funded research, UK universities are likely to have less access to European Union funding and it will be harder for them to be research project coordinators. They might have to renew or renegotiate contractual arrangements, notably on intellectual property rights issues, that are now covered by standardised European R&D contracts that apply equally to all member states.’
Based on a story by Nic Mitchell (02-03-2017): http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20170302205045714
Europaeum members enter into world of MOOCs
MOOCs – massive open online courses – have been discussed regularly in our bulletins over the past two to three years. Now, Oxford, which had stood steadfastedly against MOOCs has launched its first MOOC on Poverty, from its Blavatnik School of Governance, which attracted over 40,000 participants globally. Most other Europaeum partners have a long involvement in this form of innovative distance learning. – something for everyone and invariably free. Leiden offered its first MOOC in 2013 and its variety and offer has been steadily increasing, 19 programmes today ranging from evolution to music to law and security, recording 480,000 participants from 196 countries. Paris has since 2015 offered 10 courses – most in French. Barcelona has been active since 2014, with 19 MOOCs on offer ranging from microscopy to the Middle Ages to 21st century entrepreneurship, with 180.000 participants. The Complutense, too, has launched 7 MOOCs, mostly, while the Graduate Institute (IHEID) launched its first-ever MOOC early in 2017, on the topic of Globalisation, with a second MOOC on Global Governance scheduled to open in November. The Jagiellonian launched its first MOOC on European Culture and Politics just last October, drawing more than 10,000 learners from across the globe. Due to its success, the course will be repeated in 2017 as well. At the University of Helsinki, MOOC courses were opened in 2015 and many are offered in both English and Finnish. Finally the LMU Munich is exploring new forms of collaborative learning through its MOOCS, freely available on the Coursera platform. Please see our full survey of the offer of Europaeum partners in our latest Fact Survey review here.
The Rector of the Charles University, Professor Tomáš Zima, has stepped into a row over the threatened expulsion of a Russian anarchist student, whose student visa has been revoked by the Czech authorities. In an open letter to Interior the Czech Minister Milan Chovanc (ČSSD), the Rector argues that the move against the student, Igor Ševcov, was “totally disproportionate”. Ševcov was originally indicted for throwing ‘fire bottles’ at the House of the Czech Defence Minister Martin Stropnický (ANO), though in the end he was charged only with keeping look-out for his colleagues who were spraying slogans. He was banned from public demonstrations for three years. According to supportive news sources, his visa was revoked due to an administrative error related to the earlier charges. The Rector is now appealing to return his visa, for fear that his life would be threatened in Russia. Professor Zima argues that Ševcov has already been politically persecuted in Russia, and would face further persecution for his political views, and lose his chance to finish his studies at the Faculty of Philosophy, where he is seen as a diligent student. In his recent annual University address, Professor Zima promised to defend truth, democracy and freedom.
Pompeu Fabra has approved an initiative to allow transexuals, transgenders and intersexuals, to change their names on internal University documents, “to guarantee their right to be called by the name corresponding to the gender they identify with.” The move allows use of a different name to the one that appears on their official IDs in all internal, non-legal, matters, such as student cards, intranet practices, emails, and class lists. It is part of a wider inter-university project being coordinated by UPF, to apply the 11/2014 ‘anti-LGTBIphobia law’ into higher education. The law establishes conditions to enacts the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersexual people in all areas of social life, and “contribute to the overcoming of stereotypes that negatively affect the social perception of these people.” For more on the law, see here, and on the UPF initiative, see here (Spanish sources).
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