4th EUniWell Rectors’ Assembly in Budapest: Expanding the borders of transnational cooperation in higher education

20/10/2022 | by EUniWell

Rectors and other leading representatives of all EUniWell universities came together for the fourth time in Budapest from 13 to 14 October 2022. On the occasion of the concurrent European Universities’ Assembly, Semmelweis University also hosted high-ranking Hungarian ministry representatives as well as leaders of other European University Alliances.

“EUniWell courageously and fearlessly takes the chance against all odds, despite all crises and challenges the world and we have faced. We practice excellence and inclusion, diversity and equity as part of well-being.” These were some of the words Professor Beatrix Busse, Chief Development Officer of the European University for Well-Being, directed at the participants of the European Universities’ Assembly in Budapest, held alongside the 4th EUniWell Rectors’ Assembly.

The 4th EUniWell Rectors’ Assembly brought together 75 delegates from all nine EUniWell partners for a unique programme and intensive exchange at Semmelweis University in Budapest last week. Coinciding with this meeting, Semmelweis University hosted the European Universities’ Assembly and EUniWell Mental Health Symposium, thereby widening the strategic and topical scope of international exchange on European higher education in the context of the European Universities Initiative.

Among the diverse, high-level programmes of the two-day event were a number of sessions dedicated to strategic exchange on key topics such as governance, student engagement and the forthcoming proposal for the 2023 Erasmus+ European Universities call. One central event of the EUniWell Rectors’ Assembly was the signing of the EUniWell Open Education Declaration, which sets out to promote open education by encouraging and supporting our staff in using and developing open educational practices and resources.

European Universities’ Assembly

In cooperation with the Tempus Public Foundation, Semmelweis University also invited nine rectors of Hungarian universities participating in European University Alliances as well as the  Hungarian Minister of Culture and Innovation, János Csák, and the Hungarian Deputy State Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Miklós Lengyel, to a European Universities’ Assembly. The aim of the event was to bring together leaders from relevant Hungarian ministries and universities participating in the European Universities Initiative to consider how to address the challenges facing the European Education Area, and to improve the quality and strength of European higher education. 

Opening the meeting in the Semmelweis Salon, Professor Miklós Kellermayer, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, welcomed the guests of the Assembly and emphasised its purpose and relevance: “The aim of today’s meeting is to map EUniWell strategies, discuss experiences and challenges of the European Universities Initiative and the future of the European Higher Education Area.” 

In his welcoming speech, Hungary’s Minister of Culture and Innovation, János Csák, focused on the topic of well-being in the context of current events. The Minister commented on the timeliness of the conferences stating: “I love the idea of the European University for Well-Being. A holistic focus on well-being can help people develop peace and security, help people develop their attachments and sense of belonging, and empower them to be self-sufficient. Semmelweis University, as the host institution, provides a special venue for this event because the courses offered by this university combine training for mind, body and soul.”

Professor Béla Merkely, Rector of Semmelweis University, pointed out the importance of international cooperation. Describing “universities as guardians of the intellectual treasure of humanity”, and highlighted the crucial role of well-being. “The role of Semmelweis University is unique within the consortium as we are both a specialised university and the only institution in a European capital. In our approach, well-being is generally seen in terms of both physical, spiritual and mental qualities, and we always make our decisions in this spirit,” the Rector said.

EUniWell Chief Development Officer Professor Beatrix Busse began her address by citing from the poem “An Ode We Owe” by Amanda Gorman, noting its resonance with EUniWell’s mission and vision as “the next generation urges us to take action now, and see the well-being of people and the earth on an equal footing, to join forces and do good”.  Against the backdrop of the current crises - the war in Ukraine, the energy and climate crises - she highlighted the value of connection, stating: “We shall continue to bring people together for and through well-being research, education and transfer, because we love what we do, because we are curious, because we are people who fight for and are united in the belief of freedom of science, democracy, rationalism, humanity and love for the other; all of which – I’m convinced – will help to restore a peaceful, democratic and sustainable society, and our planet of well-being.” Ending her impassioned speech, she thanked all institutions involved in the European University for Well-Being and Semmelweis University “for hosting us, and for their contribution to well-being by taking such good care of people’s health”.1

Opening Address - EUniWell Chief Development Officer Prof. Dr. Beatrix Busse

Mental Health Symposium

The second day of the event was dedicated to the Mental Health Symposium. Initiated by the students of seven EUniWell partner universities, the Mental Health Symposium was part of a winning EUniWell Seed Funding Project. It presented the results of a comparative analysis of mental health resources carried out across the participating Universities of Birmingham, Florence, Cologne, Leiden, Linnaeus, Nantes, and Semmelweis, offering Vice-Rectors and management representatives the opportunity for thematic input and exchange around the pressing topic of student mental health.

The symposium also provided insights into the results of the first EUniWell Policy Commission “Addressing inequalities in the social impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on young people”.  Another EUniWell Seed Funding Project, MATTERS, and a project of the EUniWell Teacher Education Arena presented sessions on “Key to survival: improving resilience in face of adversity” and “Professional Teachers’ Competences for Well-being - Taking Care for Mental Health at School” respectively.

For the student participants, the programme of the Mental Health Symposium continued on Saturday 15 October. Based on the exchange and insights gained from the project work and symposium, they will develop a proposal to improve mental health resources at EUniWell universities.

Participants of the European Universities Rectors Assembly:

  • Rectors and Vice-Rectors of the EUniWell consortium: 
    • Rector Adam Tickell from the University of Birmingham, 
    • Rector Axel Freimuth from the University of Cologne (online), 
    • Vice-Rector Beatrix Busse from the University of Cologne, 
    • Rector Alessandra Petrucci from the University of Florence, 
    • Rector Hester Bijl from Leiden University, 
    • Vice Rector Ann-Charlotte Larsson from Linnaeus University, 
    • Rector José Luján Alcaraz from the University of Murcia, 
    • Vice-Rector Olivier Grasset from Nantes Université,
    • Rector Béla Merkely, Semmelweis University, 
    • Vice-Rector Kseniia Smyrnova from Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, 
    • Vice-Rector Dorothea Debus from the University of Konstanz.
  • Rectors, Vice-Rectors and leading representatives of the Hungarian partner universities of other European University Alliances such as CHARM-EU, EDUC, EELISA, EUDRES, EUGLOH, EU4ART, FILMEU, NEUROTECH, RUN-EU.

1: Read the full Opening Adress from EUniWell Chief Development Officer Prof. Dr. Beatrix Busse.

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