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February 17, 2021



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More than a hundred participants met together for the first time last week in an online kick-off event for the ECIU University spring semester challenges. In upcoming weeks, the challenge participants will work together in international and multidisciplinary teams to tackle the most relevant problems of our regions and communities.

The ECIU University is all about the international co-creation – the participants from all around Europe are co-developing the new type of university. “Right now we all are in different parts of Europe on the international setting, online for now, and we will act together to solve challenges. This diversity is our power”, the event was opened by the inspirational speech of Dr Màrius Martinez, Vice-Rector for International Relations at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) and the Member of the ECIU University Board. Dr Màrius Martinez also noted that “the ECIU University is a new, interactive way of learning, working and researching – and the students are at the center. In this sense, students are truly the front-runners of innovation at the ECIU University”.

The ECIU University is also about challenge-based learning – CBL – the approach that is pinned into different parts of learning. The main aspects of CBL were introduced by Dr Andrea Brose, the ECIU University Leader for challenge-based learning and Dr Dorothea Ellinger, CBL expert, both speakers from the Centre for Teaching and Learning at Hamburg University of Technology (TUHH). “Challenge-Based learning is a pedagogical approach that actively engages students in a situation that is real, relevant, and related to their environment. The learning experience involves different stakeholder perspectives and aims to find a collaboratively developed solution”, Dr Andrea Brose and Dr Dorothea Ellinger summarized in their presentation. They also noted another novelty of the CBL approach: “Students take ownership of their challenge, the teacher’s role being a guide and facilitator”.

The unquestionable feature of ECIU University is a journey towards more flexible tailor-made learning. Trym N. Holbek Senior International Adviser at the University of Stavanger and the ECIU University Leader for systems and services integration, emphasized: “The ECIU University is built on European values of trust, non-discrimination, equality, inclusion, and cooperation. In this novel university, we experience the radical shift from a teacher and curricular oriented learning to challenge-based and team-work oriented learning”. Trym N. Holbek also paid attention to the experimentation: “the first participants will not only shape their learning process; they will also help us design and test the ECIU University experience for the students that come next. So we encourage students to share their thoughts and suggestions”.

The last speakers in the event stood out from the rest – they were the ones who have already experienced the challenge-based learning first-hand. Robin Ross and Ivona Glišić, Autumn Challenge participants from the University of Twente, shared their insights: “during our learning process, we had an opportunity to work on real-life pressing issues. We had an opportunity to meet the challenge providers and various experts in our challenge field, from researchers to practitioners. For us, it was a great learning experience”.

The ECIU University is a diverse, multi-cultural, multi-disciplinary, and multi-layered environment. In the end, the ultimate goal is to create an ecosystem that makes a real impact – provides environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable solutions for our cities, regions and communities.


ECIU University Spring Challenges at a glance:

  • Around 300 students have applied to take part in the challenges for spring semester 2021; more than 100 of them have already started their work together in teams with teachers and challenge providers.
  • Around 30 “teamchers” have joined the challenges – these teachers will guide and facilitate teams.
  • 30 ECIU University challenges were provided by the partners of 12 ECIU University members.
  • The challenge providers come from city or region municipalities, non-profit and business organisations.
  • The ECIU University spring semester challenges are diverse in their theme and scope but they are united by addressing the UN Sustainable Development Goal 11 "Sustainable cities and communities”.
  • The international and multidisciplinary teams will incorporate a challenge-based approach while trying to answer a wide range of questions, for example, how to extract value from data and improve the quality of life of urban inhabitants? What strategies can amplify bottom-up urban planning? How to add new functionalities to these solar fields and increase biodiversity, recreational possibilities, educational options, and citizen engagement?
  • The next round of ECIU University challenges for the autumn semester 2021 will be opened in a few following months.

to all challengesto all challengesto all challenges


ECIU is the leading international consortium of research intensive universities, with collective emphasis on innovation, creativity and societal impact, driving the development of a knowledge-based economy.