20/12/2022 | by Lara Marie Andres and Eva Laurie
With the end of 2022, the final year of the EUniWell pilot phase is approaching. As we look to the future with eager anticipation, we also want to celebrate what we have accomplished. So let's take a look back together at the highlights of this year, which saw us continue to build and expand on previous successes as well as implement a number of brand new initiatives to promote well-being at our universities and beyond.
Looking back at the outgoing year, it is hard to believe what can be achieved in 12 short months. We have broken new ground, launched programmes and initiatives, embraced welcomes and farewells, fostered intensive exchange, and hosted major events. Of all that has been accomplished, however, some successes stand out in particular. Let’s take a look at six special highlight areas of our European University for Well-Being in 2022.
EUniWell has grown strongly this year, with three new members joining our Alliance. First, we welcomed the University of Murcia in March 2022, a Spanish university that excels in the field of disability services and social inclusion. The Ukrainian Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, which ranks among the TOP 50 Eastern European universities, joined EUniWell in August. Given the difficult situation of the institution due to the ongoing war of aggression, we at EUniWell are particularly glad to be able to support our new member as much as possible. Finally, in November, the University of Konstanz became our latest member university. With its strong focus on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the German university is well positioned to support EUniWell’s mission and vision.
Our FestiWell took place for the second time and extended over two weeks from 2 to 13 May 2022 under the theme “Towards global sustainable well-being”. Each EUniWell university organised a day of events, with programmes taking place partly at the university campuses and partly as hybrid and digital formats. The date was chosen in consideration of Europe Day, which is celebrated annually on 9 May. On this day, a joint programme of all EUniWell universities was organised to emphasise our European connection and cooperation, and to help deliver the day's message of peace and unity in light of the war in Ukraine. The diverse and wide-ranging programme of FestiWell 2022 was a result of our intensive intercultural cooperation.
In 2022, our Seed Funding Programme further established itself as a fruitful bottom-up approach. At the beginning of the year, the winners of the third call were announced. The EUniWell initiative supports collaborative projects implemented by students, teachers and administrative staff from our various member universities. Following the success of the previous funding rounds, the fourth call was announced in March, resulting in the successful launch of ten selected ideas. A fifth call is already in the works for early 2023.
Having been selected for funding under the ERASMUS+ programme in November 2020, we have now completed the second year of our three-year pilot phase. The development of EUniWell is a continuous process that requires ongoing democratic and reflective discourse. This year, our third Rectors’ Assembly took place at Leiden University, where rectors, management and student representatives actively shaped the future of EUniWell. In this context, the accession of Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv to EUniWell was made official. The fourth Rectors’ Assembly took place in October at Semmelweis University in Budapest. This time, during the bi-annual conference, the rectors signed the Open Education Declaration, which aims to promote open educational practices and resources at our universities. An outstanding moment of the event was the opening speech by EUniWell Chief Development Officer Professor Beatrix Busse, who, against the backdrop of the current crises, highlighted the value of uniting on the basis of the shared belief in freedom of science, democracy, rationalism, humanity and love for the other (read her full speech here).
During a final digital Rectors’ Assembly on 13 December 2022, it was decided to establish the EUniWell Association (registered as e. V. under German law) and thus a legal entity for EUniWell.
This year, we launched numerous new initiatives and created offers that will sustainably promote lifelong learning, academic exchange, and civic engagement within our Alliance and beyond. The EUniWell School Ambassador Programme was initiated to offer students the opportunity to act as role models in schools, promoting higher education and fostering diverse potentials within the younger generation. Our EUniWell Mayor's Placement Scheme also ran for the first time in 2022. It provides students from our universities with exciting internship opportunities working on high-impact policy projects in our cities and regions. Another novelty was the introduction of the EUniWell Research Thesis Prizes, which recognise outstanding Ph.D. research in the fields of “individual and social well-being” and “environment, urbanity, and sustainable development”.
Coinciding with this year’s Climate Change Conference (COP27), the first EUniWell Sustainability Forum took place at Nantes Université with the aim of bringing together local EUniWell actions with the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. November also saw the launch of our Civic Leadership Platform, which aims to strengthen international cooperation between universities, students and external stakeholders by offering various mobility and engagement opportunities, as well as collaborative networking spaces. Another end-of-year highlight was the first EUniWell Start-Up Exchange, which took place in Nantes. This event provided an opportunity for a group of student entrepreneurs to meet, practice their pitches in an international setting as well as to network and receive feedback outside of their own local contexts.
Outstanding educational opportunities of the year included the continuation of the ongoing EUnIWell Open Lecture Series, our Summer School “COVID-19: Impact on European health & well-being” and the EUniWell Research Communications Programme for Doctoral Candidates, which will continue with two additional courses on 20 and 27 January 2023.
There have also been great developments in student engagement in EUniWell this year. One highlight is the participation of our Student Board in the inaugural session of the European Student Assembly. This event brought together 275 students from 38 European University Alliances in early March to discuss complex current challenges facing the European Union. In the same month, the Student Board also elected a new Chief Student Officer, Lotte Nagelhout.
In 2022, EUniWell students were able to take up various internship offers. Two students from Cologne, Franca Müller and Lea Böhling, completed a three-month internship at Linnaeus University and Student Board member Liam Walsh was involved in an important project of the Birmingham City Council as part of the Mayor’s Placement Scheme. The Student Board also met in person this October for a teambuilding weekend at the University of Cologne to get to know each other better and discuss questions, such as “How do we want to be and work together?” and “What can we learn from our development since 2020?”.
Student engagement shone particularly brightly at the Mental Health Symposium. Initiated by the students of seven EUniWell partner universities, the Symposium was part of a winning EUniWell Seed Funding Project. It presented the results of a comparative analysis of mental health resources and offered Vice-Rectors and management representatives the opportunity for thematic input and exchange around the pressing topic of student mental health during the second day of the Rectors’ Assembly in Budapest.
2022 was a turbulent year, marked by difficult events that will continue to challenge us and give us cause for reflection, but also impetus for action. For us at EUniWell, 2022 was also a year marked by major developments and wonderful successes that will carry us forward with courage and enthusiasm. None of our achievements would have been possible without the dedicated researchers, educators, staff and students of our member universities. Therefore, at the end of the year, we would like to say a big thank you to all of you.
We are excited to continue to grow together with you in 2023 as we enter the final year of our pilot stage and to prepare our next phase together. Let’s continue to work together to improve well-being at our universities, in our cities and across Europe. Until then, we wish you Happy Holidays and a prosperous New Year!
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