The ECIU University of the European Consortium of Innovative Universities is almost a year on its way. Project director Sander Lotze looks back on an eventful period, with COVID-19 as an extra challenge. He also looks ahead and outlines opportunities and expectations.
‘We have taken good steps. This autumn, the first challenges have actually been launched in education. Challenge-based learning is at the heart of ECIU University, both in education and in research and innovation. It's good to see that almost all partner universities will be offering CBL education next semester.
In the field of research, we have received a two million Euro investment from the Horizon 2020 Program. This money is intended to set up SMART-ER, a virtual research institute aimed at our smart resilient regions in Europe. This constitutes an enormous boost for our research.’
‘ECIU is a network and it works by being together, through personal contact. Many ideas arise over a pint after the official meetings: that is where the agendas are aligned. Because of COVID-19, it was no longer possible to come together. Still, I have noticed that everyone, despite the difficult time in which we find ourselves, is committed to the project for one hundred percent. And everyone is still enjoying it. It's just strange to be in digital consultations with several people you don't know very well yet. On the other hand, as ECIU in the COVID situation, we had a big advantage of being an existing network and knowing our partners and each Board members very well. We have continued and everything has been picked up, albeit mostly online. One of the partners is now even working on a digital ECIU University where virtual collaboration is possible'.
‘I thought we could get the ECIU University story out much faster. But we are working with twelve partners, all online. Something that seems very simple and easy is suddenly a lot more difficult. One example: the development of a challenge within educational units is something that takes place in the field of national regulations, times twelve. Complex, in other words.’
‘We want to make the challenges in the next semester - spring - bigger and more compelling, especially outside the existing curriculum of the universities. Furthermore, we are looking at different models for a competency passport; we will also start with challenge-based research projects and next year the concept will be opened to lifelong learners. And we look ahead: we are working on a clear vision for 2030 that describes the future role of ECIU University and indicates what we need from Brussels and from the national governments.’