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New horizons for Unite!

14 March 2022

After a long period of online meetings, the Unite! Alliance Dialogue in Barcelona brought hope for future in-person meetings, and the organizing team at KTH was hoping for an on-site Dialogue in Stockholm. Unfortunately, uncertainties regarding the COVID situation prompted the move back to an online event. Nevertheless, the core team of the alliance decided to convene in-person at KTH with the participation of two representatives per partner, including the ones from the new future partners. 

Around 230 participants including leaders, academics, staff and students from the seven alliance universities and the two future members attended the open plenary session on March 9. It was the first Unite! event with a wider audience from the new partners. Tanja Brühl, President of Unite! welcomed the new partners and expressed great hopes for the future development of Unite! in her welcome speech: "We selected the title “New Horizons” for this Dialogue. I think it is a perfect frame for this event, but also for where we currently are as an alliance and what we are aiming to set for the future."

At the plenary session, the current state of the alliance was presented and discussed. The many achievements so far, the new grant application, the ambitions for the future and the introduction and first presentation of the two new future partner universities (Graz University of Technology and Wroclaw Tech) were the topics on the agenda. The alliance is now widening and deepening its operations with nine partners moving towards a full rollout phase, taking advantage of everything that has been developed during the pilot phase. 

An open plenary session for the Unite! Horizon 2020 project - UNITE.H2020 - with over 100 participants was another important component of the 5th Dialogue. The aim of the Horizon 2020 project is to develop a shared, integrated long-term research and innovation (R&I) strategy in synergy with the Unite! Erasmus+ project, and to develop pilot initiatives along different policy modules. During the session, the coordinators of the nine work packages presented their ongoing activities to the entire Unite! community. 

"In the current stage of Unite! the Dialogue has been essential  for pointing out how we during the next phase can establish the initiatives that were initiated during the pilot phase, and at the same time continue to develop new activities that will  benefit Unite!, our partners and the European perspective on higher education and research" says Stefan Östlund, Vice President for Global Relations at KTH and the host of the plenary session.

Apart from the open sessions, meetings for the Unite! Governing Platform and the Unite! Academic Forum were also hosted with the participation for the first time of all the future nine partners. The UNITE.H2020 General Assembly was held as closing session of the Dialogue.

In the meeting for the Unite! Governing Platform, the Rectors and Presidents discussed additional funding for Unite! beyond the budget provided by the new Erasmus+ project. They also agreed to officially sign the Unite! Mission Statement 2030. Additional topics were the European Degree,  the war in Ukraine, and how to offer refugees a possible new academic home.

The Unite! Academic Forum endorsed the Unite! Mission Statement 2030 through its first official voting procedure. The mission statement was unanimously adopted. The Erasmus+ proposal, seed funding and student involvement were also discussed.

The UNITE.H2020 General Assembly approved the initial structure of the common R&I agenda that will be finalized by June 2022. The common R&I agenda will consist of the common R&I strategy and the pilot actions that will be developed during the project, contributing to set the basis for common policies to boost the R&I dimension in Unite!.

During the Dialogue – although not part of the official Dialogue programme – the Grant Writing Team brought the new Erasmus+ grant proposal closer to a final version.  The proposal covers a 4+2 year period starting in November 2022. The deadline for submission is March 22 and the selection results are expected during summer 2022.

"The discussions that took place at the 5th Dialogue will be pivotal for the future of the alliance and in light of the recent international scenario, the values of respect, tolerance, unity and progress that Unite! incarnates will be of even higher relevance in the years to come" says Mirko Varano, Key Liasion Officer for Unite! at KTH

Due to the fact that the Dialogue was held online, the Unite! staff will be given the opportunity to meet in person  at a Community Event to be hosted in Stockholm in June when the Task Forces and Work Package representatives will hold a number of meetings over a three day period. The next Unite! Dialogue will be hosted by Politecnico di Torino in September 2022 and will be the last Dialogue of the pilot phase.