Learn Polish, study in Croatia, research on Malta: the European University of the Seas, SEA-EU for short, wants to give students, researchers and workers more mobility in Europe. This ambitious initiative is proceeding apace thanks to digital offers – for instance, with language courses for university members.
The SEA-EU university alliance is fully committed to the European idea. Under the leadership of the University of Cadiz (Spain), in 2019 the Universities of Western Brittany (Brest, France), Gdansk (Poland), Split (Croatia), Malta and Kiel joined forces to create a European university campus. The aim is to enable students, teaching staff and university employees to enter into professional and personal exchanges with the partner locations. "As far as getting to know each other on site is concerned, COVID has put something of a spanner in the works for us," said Johanna O’Brien of the priority research area Kiel Marine Science (KMS), who is responsible for Mobility & Outreach in the SEA-EU team at the CAU.
However, numerous offers have already been implemented digitally from Kiel. Most recently, for instance, was the digital research excursion digiCruise on the Kiel fjord and an interdisciplinary summer school on the subject of the ocean and sustainability with lecturers from Kiel, Split, Gdansk and Cadiz. "Despite the virtual formats, we are trying to give the students space for new ideas as well as friendships and connections," emphasised Kiel's programme officer, O’Brien. It is also slowly becoming more and more likely that Erasmus semesters with physical presence will also resume.
There has been further growth in the SEA-EU spectrum since the beginning of October. The participating universities are offering beginner courses of between two and eight weeks in their respective national languages. "This isn't just an offer for students, but also expressly for employees of the partner universities," said Johanna O’Brien. At the beginning of the semester there are virtual taster courses to allow interested parties to gain an understanding of the various languages. The project also offers support with the placement of tandem language partners.
The long-term goal of the university network is to create unbureaucratic and equivalent offers for Europe-wide courses, research work and further education. "SEA-EU plays a leading role in our internationalisation strategy because we expect it to give us a boost in various areas, especially in teaching," explained Professor Nele Matz-Lück, CAU Vice-President for international affairs, young researchers, equality and diversity. She emphasised how forward-looking initiatives such as this one are. "University partnerships in the EU are tremendously important, because what is wanted is nothing less than a transformation of the national universities towards a 'European University' that is as uniform as possible. The EU's objective is to increase the number of universities participating in higher education alliances in the Member States."
In 2017, the EU called for the establishment of transnational partnerships. Two years later, the European Commission's ERASMUS+ programme selected 17 of them, including SEA-EU. "We are now entering the final year of this first round of funding," said Johanna O’Brien. The team is currently working on the concept for the next round of applications, when the decision will be made as to how to proceed with the university alliances from September 2022.
Author: Anna-Kristina Pries