In this interview, meet Muriel Mambrini-Doudet, the lead of Circle U. Think and Do Tank and Ana Elvira García López, its manager. The European University Circle U. brings together Aarhus Universitet, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, King’s College London, Универзитет у Београду / Univerzitet u Beogradu, Universitetet i Oslo, Université catholique de Louvain, Université Paris Cité, Universität Wien and Università di Pisa. The “European Universities” initiative, which promotes cutting-edge teaching and research in Europe, is supported by the European Commission. Our goal is to build an inter-university ecosystem and make Circle U. an inclusive, research-intensive and interdisciplinary European university where students, staff and partners from civil society, businesses and the public sector collaborate to jointly develop competencies and solutions.
Could you share with us what your organisation is about?
The Think and Do Tank of Circle U. is the main mechanism of the alliance to transform partner universities from the inside. Our core mission is to support all pedagogical developments that serve a sustainable education.
We are providing the means to co-design a sustainable approach to education supporting active, intercultural and interdisciplinary learning, critical thinking and social inclusion. The Learning Planet Festival is the perfect occasion to share what we think and what we do, to inspire and to get inspired, and translate the needs of the youth to adequately shape the future of higher education.
How are students and youth represented and how involved are they in the discussions?
Several students were included in the co-design phase of our Think and Do Tank to set the basis of our priorities and strategy. Currently, a group of young researchers are leading a project to operationalise the concept of sustainable education as a prior step to include their view in curricula and teaching methods at partner universities. We will have the occasion to hear their voice at a conference on January 25 at the Learning Planet Institute.
How do you think higher education and research are adapting and getting ready for our changing world?
In teaching and learning spaces, innovative teaching methods that connect research and education, are student-centered and encourage the active participation of students in their own education are more and more present. At the University level, the focus is on the transformation of curricula towards a more sustainable education, the dissemination of good teaching practices and the identification of the opportunities for, and obstacles to change.
What are your objectives in the next 2 years?
The Circle U. Think and Do Tank’s mission is to be a link between the Circle U. European University, its various regional environments and the local, national and European policy makers in order to contribute to shaping the future of higher education.
In other words, our goal is to create a link between those who demand an education adapted to the challenges of the changing world that they will be living in (students), those who plan education (policymakers), those who educate (professors) and those who “think” about education (innovators).
Do you see a shift in students’ objectives and desires for their future?
Their demand for a sustainable education is recurrent. They are willing to see how research results can have a major impact upon the sustainability of our societies. As for their personal passage across higher education, they expect to gain the skills to meet complex, interdisciplinary and global issues, and excel in a global and evolving labour market.
You are planning an event during the LearningPlanet Festival. Can you tell us more about it?
At the National Conference of Circle U. in France, on Monday 23 and Tuesday 24 the focus will be on the internationalisation of Higher Education. We will imagine new ways of teaching and learning as global citizens -and Planetiziens!-, and discuss how to address the challenges of an international curriculum (recognition of joint programmes, short mobility) as well as the best strategies to involve students across universities.
From Tuesday 24 until Thursday 26, we will put the spotlight into the following question: How do we ensure that curricula and teaching methods are supporting sustainable education? The Think and Do Tank of the alliance will lead the discussion through different activities: a conference to share the results of a led-student research project on the concept of sustainable education, a round table to integrate and implement these ideas at our home universities, a café on the impact of assessment, a seminar to present innovative pedagogies in the field of global health, and other internal meetings.
Finally, on Friday 27, we will disseminate some actions that the ERIA (Empowering Research and Innovation Actions) project is implementing to empower early-career researchers.