The network was founded in 2016 on the initiative of the VU Amsterdam, with Universität Innsbruck joining in 2019. Currently, the network comprises nine members from all over Europe. In the Aurora Network, full-fledged research universities with strong regional foundations come together in the sense of "matching research excellence with societal impact and engagement" and exchange ideas. The collaboration in the network is organized through working groups, which have developed in a bottom-up process over time.
The Aurora European Universities Alliance, on the other hand, is part of the European Universities Initiative of the European Commission, which was kick-started by a speech of French President Emmanuel Marcon at Sorbonne university in 2017, in which he proposed the establishment of at least 20 European Universities by 2024. In this speech, Macron speaks of European universities as a place of pedagogical innovation and excellent research, where students can study abroad and attend seminars in at least two languages. This idea was picked up and implemented by the European Commission as an Erasmus+ call for proposals, to which European university consortia could apply.
A number of Aurora Universities Network members and further partners submitted a successful application for this Erasmus+ call. The Aurora European University Alliance was launched on 01.11.2020 and is thus one of 41 university consortia that were able to win this European pioneering initiative.
In view of the budget available for this particular Erasmus+ project, it can be said that the monetary incentives were not the driving force behind the application: For each European Universities Alliance, the Commission provides a total of 5 million euros over a funding period of 3 years, which will be distributed among the partners. Nevertheless, the European Universities act as a door opener to further funding channels that are exclusively available to European university consortia at both European and national level.
The motives are primarily content-related: the Aurora European Universities Alliance enables Universität Innsbruck to initiate new types of cooperation and networks that span all levels of the organisation and all fields of activity - teaching, research, third mission, administration. In general, the European Universities aim to achieve a substantial improvement in the quality, attractiveness and competitiveness of the participating universities and shall promote the exchange of knowledge transcending borders.
Erasmus+ is much more than a student mobility program. It is true that at the end of each Erasmus+ project, an added value in terms of quality is achieved for our students. But whether the European Universities, whose scope is wider than sheer student mobility, are funded through Erasmus+ or, for example, Horizon 2020 is not important in the end. What matters most is whether we as universities can together succeed in preparing ourselves for the challenges of the future.
Four so-called pilot domains form the thematic framework of the Aurora Alliance:
- Sustainability & Climate Change
- Digital Society & Global Citizenship
- Health & Well-being
- Culture: Diversity & Identity
This thematic clusters are only a starting point - also for project-related reasons - and networking across the entire spectrum of topics at Aurora Universities is generally desired.
Within the framework of these overarching topics, students of the respective Aurora universities should be equipped with the necessary professional competencies, but above all also with the "skillset & mindset" that enables them to tackle our major global challenges in the sense of the SDGs. This can be achieved both within the respective universities, but especially through alliance-wide (educational) activities.
In addition to these (educational) activities - which should also be seen in the light of the Erasmus+ funding scheme - the cooperation within European Universities immediately affects a wider range of our university life, such as: The dismantling of mobility barriers, support for research collaboration, initiatives to embed sustainability issues more firmly in our respective universities, the expansion of joint IT infrastructures or a more intensive exchange with our wider communities.
Aurora's networking and alliance activities are of interest to all members of the university. The Aurora Alliance focuses in particular on students and the promotion of mobility, but these issues are widely interconnected with a wider range of activities. In this respect, students, scientists and general staff are equally affected.
The Aurora Alliance is organised along work packages and activities in which members of different Aurora Universities participate. In a first step, colleagues from Universität Innsbruck were approached and invited to participate in these work packages and activities. Thereby they contribute to the alliance-wide work as well as the internal implementation at Universität Innsbruck. In subsequent steps, we expect more and more people to be interested and involved in the Alliance.
A list of involved colleagues from Universität Innsbruck can be found on the websites of the respective work packages. The Aurora European Universities Office at Universität Innsbruck will be happy to answer any general questions or to discuss the possibilities of involvement and participation in the Alliance.
The Aurora Alliance and its members offer academics a platform and institutionalized network for exchange, peer-learning and the (further) development of new teaching and learning formats and projects. Interested colleagues are supported in finding the right contacts at Aurora Universities for their projects and – where possible – also in the implementation of their ideas and visions.
The involvement of Universität Innsbruck within the Aurora Alliance does not, of course, entail any obligation to focus one’s research or study interest solely on Aurora partners. However, the stronger institutionalization and additional funding opportunities through the European Commission establishes a special network of trust and opportunities between selected European universities, which could benefit the agenda of academics involved.
The goal is that all students, regardless of their chosen degree or level (Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral) can participate in Aurora activities. Participation can range from attending a single course (with corresponding contents/didactics, fellow international students and lecturers), to blended mobility formats or to completing entire semesters at Aurora partner universities.
An essential, overarching focus is to provide all students with the "skillset & mindset" that enables them to tackle the major global challenges in the sense of the SDGs.
In addition to the relevant professional skills that our students attain during their studies, university studies do also shape one’s very personal development: Horizons are broadened, skills are sharpened - especially those soft skills that are needed to meet the economic, social and cultural challenges of our time.
The Aurora Alliance is trying to develop and provide new tools and formats for this question of competency development, which can be used by academics and are reflected in the study progams of our universities. This fosters the development of a particular "skillset & mindest" of our students, which makes graduates of Aurora Universities to change agents in the sense of social entrepreneurs and innovators .
For academics who see an added value for their teaching efforts, the term "aurorisation" is used within the Aurora Alliance: This means that teaching and learning units (such as courses, modules or entire studies) take up and fulfill at least one of various criteria that we perceive relevant to become social entrepreneurs and innovators.
The following criteria shall be understood as a starting point and will be refined in the course of the Alliance’s working programme, substantiated in terms of content and thus further developed in the sense of quality standards:
Criterion 1: Aurora teaching and learning units contribute to the students’ development of general academic and personal competences that will help them to act as social entrepreneurs and innovators.
Criterion 2: This contribution is visible in defined learning outcomes, the learning- and teaching environment and the assessment mechanisms.
Criterion 3: Aurora teaching and learning units have an interdisciplinary, cross-university approach to promote the societal impact of teaching and learning and make it visible. For the (further) development of corresponding teaching and learning units, this can mean, among other things, that the following are increasingly taken into account:
- teaching / learning activities that promote the development of personal and social skills (e.g. service learning, internships)
- use of interdisciplinary approaches
- description of measurable learning outcomes in relation to the examination regulations
- competence measurement (tests, external certification)
Criterion 4: Aurora teaching and learning units lie within (content, learning outcomes) at least one of the described pilot challenge domains, in relation to one of the 17 SDGs.
Criterion 5: Aurora teaching and learning units offer all students an opportunity to have a meaningful international experience, whether through virtual, short term physical mobility, internationalisation at home or a mixed approach (e.g. COIL).
Criterion 6: AURORA teaching and learning units strive to make internationalisation efforts inclusive.
Criterion 7: AURORA teaching and learning units facilitate increase in language proficiency in one and preferably two foreign languages.
For additional information, please visit our website for Materials and links.
Individual teaching or research cooperation should of course not be limited to partners of Aurora Alliance member universities only. This neither corresponds to university realities nor is it generally desirable. What the Aurora Alliance can offer is a more structured form of cooperation with an increased range of services and support. This includes, of course, the provision of additional funding, e.g. for mobility, and the fact that the initiative is a pioneer initiative of the European Commission throughout Europe.
Currently, some activities are underway (such as an alliance-wide questionnaire to identify courses/course leaders "willing to cooperate" or the adaptation of teaching data management) to build up such a pool. If you are interested in cooperating with Aurora partners, you can also contact the Aurora Office of Universität Innsbruck at any time via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. The set-up of a "matching platform", where interested parties can post the syllabi of their teaching and learning units or project ideas in general, is also being discussed.
Yes, all ideas are welcome! As far as funding is concerned, new mechanisms will be set up.
For teaching and learning units, that can be assigned to the module "Interdisciplinary Competencies" (Bachelor, Master) or "Generic Competencies" (Doctorate), a call for funding will be published in September 2021 for courses starting in the summer term of 2022. (Information on the application).
The same applies to teaching and learning units that are part of a “core curriculum” and assigned to other compulsory and/or elective modules. In this case funding via “proLehre” will be possible (Information on the application).
If the number of applications exceed the available funding, a jury will decide upon the final selection.
The Aurora Alliance is an Erasmus+ project, so similarities in procedures and processes are to be expected, but Aurora also wants to contribute to removing obstacles to mobility in general. In the course of the project, known processes and procedures will be advanced and new (virtual) mobility opportunities implemented.
"Aurora teaching" takes place within the framework of regular studies (bachelor, master and doctoral studies), insofar it is of course recognized or counted as such. Aurora teaching and learning units can be, for example, existing courses that are further developed in terms of content/topic and/or in terms of didactics/methodology (of course within the framework of the curricular requirements), or they can be completely newly developed. In the case of a new development, which e.g. does not find an allocation in the “subject-modules” of the curriculum, an allocation to the module "Interdisciplinary Competencies" (Bachelor, Master) or "Generic Competencies" (Doctorate) would be possible, provided that the curriculum provides this module.
Yes, this is one of the goals. Depending on the Aurora Alliance universities involved, different solutions can be implemented. The goal will be that students can complete courses/modules at all Aurora Alliance universities.
A graphic presentation of the Aurora Alliance academic calendar can be found here.
Yes, several tasks within the Aurora Alliance deal with these issues. Potential activities, such as individual staff training (courses), are being discussed and planned – or are already underway.