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Engaging students as European citizens in the 21st century

"We are particularly excited about providing an arena for European students to become active co-creators of their education".

Jakob Grandin and Jan Reinert Karlsen
Jakob Grandin and Jan Reinert Karlsen planning on student-active forms of learning through the work package "Engaged European Citizens".
Photo:
Per Gunnar Sakseid

The University of Bergen (UiB) will invite students from across Europe to critically engage with the grand challenges of the 21st century through the newly founded Arqus European University Alliance.

As part of the work package on "Engaged European Citizens", UiB will lead a challenge-based learning programme as well as a student forum and an annual winter school. The potential impact is significant: the seven institutions participating in the Arqus Alliance have more than 300 000 students and 40 000 staff.

Rich possibilities for exhange activities

These activities draw on the innovative challenge-based and student-led education at the Centre for the Study of the Sciences and the Humanities (SVT) and the Collaboratory initiative for student-led learning at the Centre for Climate and Energy Transformation (CET). The collaboration will enable students to critically open up and engage with some of society’s biggest challenges through reflection, cooperation, and action.

"For the University of Bergen the Arqus alliance is a unique opportunity to integrate research and education to meet the aims of the alliance," says Vice-rector Oddrun Samdal.

"In this endeavour both our staff and students are core through their contributions. Moreover the collaboration with the other alliance universities offer rich possibilities for a wide range of exchange activities. I am very happy with the immediate and very positive response and impressive contribution CET and SVT already have provided in the development of the application. Now we look forward to the actual work in collaboration with all the faculties," emphasizes Samdal.

Collaboration to address real world challenges

In the challenge-based learning programme, students will work in interdisciplinary teams to address sustainability challenges in their local communities. They will develop skills and knowledge to address complex global challenges and to engage critically with notions of active European citizenship. Arqus Alliance students will also be invited to take part in the planning and organisation of learning programme and an annual student forum.

The activities will build on on the Major questions in research and society course portfolio as well as UiBs student-led course CET201 Sustainable Innovation and the Bergen International Student Conference.

"Today, democratic citizens need more than ever to master critical reflection, contextual understanding, and ability to communicate and learn accross disciplinary boundaries and academic cultures", says Jan Reinert Karlsen, academic coordinator for Major Issues in Research and Society.

Together with Jakob Grandin, Karlsen works on establishing the learning programme. Grandin is coordinator of the UiB Collaboratory, a platform for interdisciplinary student-led education at UiB.

"We are particularly excited about providing an arena for European students to become active co-creators of their education, in close partnership with researchers from across the Arqus Alliance. To meet the challenges of our time it is essential to move from lofty visions to developing practical methods that enable interdisciplinary collaboration and active learning, and we look forward to work closely with our European colleagues in transforming higher education," Grandin says.

"I believe universities are well aligned to take on society’s call, but students need the adequate scaffolding of interdisciplinary skills and competencies in order to become researcher citizens in democratic societies. By bringing disciplines together accross collaborating universities, the Arqus network provides an important oportunity to strengthen this work at UiB as well as broaden its scope at a European level," adds Jan Reinert Karlsen.

A strategic opportunity

Being one of the first European Universities as part of the Arqus Alliance is a strategic opportunity for deepening collaboration in research and education. It is also a great way to work more closely within the university.

Håvard Harstad is Director of the Centre for Climate and Energy Transformation (CET) and points out that as educators in today’s world we are striving to make education relevant to the global challenges we are facing. 

"This is an opportunity for us to bring the new teaching methods we have been testing here at home to this much larger network. Many institutions are trying out new education practices, so it is highly valuable to be able to share experiences," he says.

"As participant in the Arqus European University Alliance we see a great opportunity to further develop initiatives taken bay faculty in establishing student active learning programs, says the dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences Jan Erik Askildsen.  

"The large societal challenges of our time demand multidisciplinary approaches and international cooperation. Active leaning environments involving students from with different backgrounds can provide an environment for new and exciting insights, and innovation. There are great potentials to develop promising cross disciplinary initiatives within the international framework offered by the Arqus Alliance, thus strengthening innovative education and problem based learning," he summarizes.