Rectors, Vice-Rectors and other leading representatives of all EUniWell universities came together for the fourth time in Budapest from 13 to 14 October 2022. On the occasion of the concurrent European Universities’ Assembly, Semmelweis University also hosted high-ranking Hungarian ministry representatives as well as leaders of other European University Alliances.
The 4th EUniWell Rectors’ Assembly brought together 75 delegates from all nine EUniWell partners for a unique programme and intensive exchange at Semmelweis University in Budapest. Coinciding with this meeting, Semmelweis University hosted the European Universities’ Assembly and EUniWell Mental Health Symposium, thereby widening the strategic and topical scope of international exchange on European higher education in the context of the European Universities Initiative.
Among the diverse, high-level programmes of the two-day event were a number of sessions dedicated to strategic exchange on key topics such as governance, student engagement and the forthcoming proposal for the 2023 Erasmus+ European Universities call. One central event of the EUniWell Rectors’ Assembly was the signing of the EUniWell Open Education Declaration.
European Universities’ Assembly
In cooperation with the Tempus Public Foundation, Semmelweis University also invited nine rectors of Hungarian universities participating in European University Alliances as well as the Hungarian Minister of Culture and Innovation, János Csák, and the Hungarian Deputy State Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Miklós Lengyel, to a European Universities’ Assembly. The aim of the event was to bring together leaders from relevant Hungarian ministries and universities participating in the European Universities Initiative to consider how to address the challenges facing the European Education Area, and to improve the quality and strength of European higher education.
Opening the meeting in the Semmelweis Salon, Professor Miklós Kellermayer, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, welcomed the guests of the Assembly and emphasised its purpose and relevance: “The aim of today’s meeting is to map EUniWell strategies, discuss experiences and challenges of the European Universities Initiative and the future of the European Higher Education Area.”
In his welcoming speech, Hungary’s Minister of Culture and Innovation, János Csák, focused on the topic of well-being in the context of current events. The Minister commented on the timeliness of the conferences stating: “I love the idea of the European University for Well-Being. A holistic focus on well-being can help people develop peace and security, help people develop their attachments and sense of belonging, and empower them to be self-sufficient. Semmelweis University, as the host institution, provides a special venue for this event because the courses offered by this university combine training for mind, body and soul.”
The Minister also pointed out that Semmelweis University has again moved up in the latest Times Higher Education (THE) world rankings: it is now in the top 250 and it is a leader higher education institution in Central and Eastern Europe. “This proves that institutional reforms are working. I really look forward to further cooperation, and hope that the current discussions will lead to a fruitful exchange of views,” the Minister said.
Professor Béla Merkely, Rector of Semmelweis University, pointed out the importance of international cooperation. Describing “universities as guardians of the intellectual treasure of humanity”, and highlighted the crucial role of well-being.
“The role of Semmelweis University is unique within the consortium as we are both a specialised university and the only institution in a European capital. In our approach, well-being is generally seen in terms of both physical, spiritual and mental qualities, and we always make our decisions in this spirit,” the Rector said.
As an example, he referred to the charity concert of Semmelweis University’s Medic Orchestra, organized for schoolchildren with disabilities and special educational needs a few days earlier. This event highlighted our convictions and values, and demonstrated our horizontal approach to fostering the link between science and society.
“By now we have reached an important milestone in our joint venture, the EUniWell consortium. Today we are conducting discussions with the partner universities’ leaders on legal entity, potential expansion, fruitful continuation, and re-application,” Prof. Béla Merkely pointed out.
EUniWell Chief Development Officer Professor Beatrix Busse began her address by citing from the poem „An Ode We Owe” by Amanda Gorman, noting its resonance with EUniWell’s mission and vision as “the next generation urges us to take action now, and see the well-being of people and the earth on an equal footing, to join forces and do good”. Against the backdrop of the current crises – the war in Ukraine, the energy and climate crises – she highlighted the value of connection, stating: “We shall continue to bring people together for and through well-being research, education and transfer, because we love what we do, because we are curious, because we are people who fight for and are united in the belief of freedom of science, democracy, rationalism, humanity and love for the other; all of which – I’m convinced – will help to restore a peaceful, democratic and sustainable society, and our planet of well-being.”
Miklós Lengyel, Deputy State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, highlighted the Stipendium Hungaricum program, in which 29 Hungarian higher education institutions participate, as a good example of internationalization.
Since its launch in 2013, tens of thousands of foreign students have had the opportunity to study in Hungary with scholarships, and interest in the program has been growing every year.
Miklós Lengyel said that the program has a positive impact on research and development and plays a major role in improving Hungarian competitiveness.
Dr. Károly Czibere, President of the Board of Trustees of the Tempus Public Foundation, stressed that international cooperation must be present in all activities of higher education institutions.
As he said, a good example is the Erasmus+ programme, which is a success story not only for the European Union but also for the Tempus Public Foundation.
One of the main objectives of the program is to achieve the European Education Area by 2025. It will be open to an even wider range of people than before, with increased accessibility and more flexible forms of mobility, supporting the development of innovative approaches and promoting green and digital solutions.
The founding members of EUniWell are University of Birmingham (UK), University of Florence (Italy), University of Cologne (Germany), University of Leiden (The Netherlands), University of Linnaeus (Sweden), University of Nantes (France), Semmelweis University
Attending Rectors and Vice-Rectors of the EUniWell consortium:
Rector Adam Tickell from the University of Birmingham, Rector Axel Freimuth from the University of Cologne (virtually), Rector Alessandra Petrucci from the University of Florence, Rector Hester Bijl from Leiden University, Vice Rector Ann-Charlotte Larsson from Linnaeus University, Rector José Luján Alcaraz from the University of Murcia, Vice Rector Olivier Grasset from Nantes Université, Vice Rector Kseniia Smyrnova from Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, Vice Rector Dorothea Debus from the University of Konstanz
Chief Student Officer of the EUniWell consortium, Lotte Nagelhout,
Attending Rectors, Vice-Rectors and representatives of the Hungarian partner universities of other European University Alliances:
Rector László Borhy from Eötvös Lóránd University representing CHARM-EU; Vice Rector József Betlehem from the University of Pécs representing EDUC; Director Dóra Fekete from the Budapest University of Technology and Economics representing EELISA; Dr. Zsuzsanna Tarr from the Hungarian University of Agriculture and Life Sciences representing EUDRES; Vice Rector Márta Széll from the University of Szeged representing EUGLOH; Rector István Erős from the Hungarian University of Fine Arts representing EU4ART; Rector Zoltán Rátóti from the University of Theatre and Film Arts representing FILMEU; Vice Rector László Csernoch from the University of Debrecen representing NEUROTECH; and Vice President Eszter Lukács from Széchenyi István University representing RUN-EU
Further attendees of the Rectors’ Assembly included:
- Deputy State Secretary of the Hungarian Ministry of Culture and Innovation, Balázs Hankó
- Chancellor of Semmelweis University, Lívia Pavlik
The European Universities Initiative was launched by the European Commission in 2019 to increase the competitiveness of European higher education institutions by encouraging a more efficient use of teaching and research capacities. The European Universities Network includes 10 associations of Hungarian universities.
Mental Health Symposium
The second day of the event was dedicated to the Mental Health Symposium. Initiated by the students of seven EUniWell partner universities, the Mental Health Symposium was part of a winning EUniWell Seed Funding Project. It presented the results of a comparative analysis of mental health resources carried out across the participating Universities of Birmingham, Florence, Cologne, Leiden, Linnaeus, Nantes, and Semmelweis, offering Vice-Rectors and management representatives the opportunity for thematic input and exchange around the pressing topic of student mental health.
The symposium also provided insights into the results of the first EUniWell Policy Commission “Addressing inequalities in the social impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on young people”. Another EUniWell Seed Funding Project, MATTERS, and a project of the EUniWell Teacher Education Arena presented sessions on “Key to survival: improving resilience in face of adversity” and “Professional Teachers’ Competences for Well-being – Taking Care for Mental Health at School” respectively.
For the student participants, the programme of the Mental Health Symposium continued on Saturday 15 October. Based on the exchange and insights gained from the project work and symposium, they will develop a proposal to improve mental health resources at EUniWell universities.
Photo: Attila Kovács – Semmelweis University