FORTHEM organised on 2 June a workshop a discussion on “Student involvement” with colleagues from Unite! and ECIU Universities.  The purpose of the event was  to exchange good practices about the different ways students can be involved in the planning and decision-making of a European University.

Recognising the need to improve the level and the forms of student involvement in FORTHEM , this topic will be one of the key themes of FORTHEM Annual Meeting 2021. The meeting of 2 June serves as a preparation for the FORTHEM student involvement workshops  on 7 and 8 June. FORTHEM has so far involved student representatives in the decision-making and strategic planning within the Steering Committee and some of the mission boards, organised FORTHEM student conferences and launched a FORTHEM Student Ambassador initiative, but we need to increase students’ engagement in the planning and implementation of activities, to define the roles and tasks of students in different actions and structures and find a common approach towards compensating and recognising students’ work in FORTHEM activities.

Prof. Katrina Nordström from Aalto University, representing Unite! University, pointed out that there are two important national aspects that influence how easily students can be involved in the EUN-activities:  

  • the local academic culture and the level of independence expected from students
  • the official role and mandate of student unions

Prof. Nordström also noted that we should not lose sight of the primary ‘task’ of university students which is to study for the degree they have been enrolled in. In Unite! students are involved in all the ten work packages and in Unite! Academic Forum which takes decisions about study-related matters. Furthermore, Unite! Student Association has been launched in early 2021. Unite! highlights particularly the co-creation with students in concrete projects as a good tool for student involvement and a channel to influence Unite! activities.  As recommendations regarding student involvement, Prof. Nordström mentioned close cooperation with European student organisations, launching of alliance-specific student associations and creating a strong strategic roadmap for student involvement instead of just fulfilling the EC requirements ‘on paper’ for reporting purposes.

Minna Haka-Risku from Tampere University introduced the educational vision of ECIU University which has challenge-based learning  as its core. This facilitates in-built student involvement in the planning and implementation of educational activities. Benjamin Beton (INSA), Student Community Engagement Manager for ECIU, introduced the forms of extracurricular student engagement, which include

  • ECIU Student Agora, which is open for all students and arranges regular events and discussions on pre-announced topics
  • ECIU Student Representatives group, formed of student representatives of local  university boards
  • ECIU Challenge Community, providing peer to peer promotion, support and information regarding challenges

Furthermore, there are two student representatives (ECIU Student Board) in the ECIU Board, bringing the students’ point of view to the decision-making. Currently, student engagement is recognised only in the challenge activity through the certificate of participation, but ECIU is planning to extend the recognition to all student activities carried out within ECIU University and to deliver badges for students developing skills during the Agoras.