UNIC Looks to the Future, Secures Funding for its Bold, New Phase

With 10 Alliance partners, an expanded commitment to the university of the future, and support from the European Commission (EC) for the next four years, the European University of Cities in Post-Industrial Transition (UNIC) is ready to kickstart its second phase in October 2023.

 The UNIC Alliance has secured continued funding in the 2023 Erasmus+ European Universities Call, enabling the implementation of its expanded, ambitious new Mission Statement over the next four years. The European University of Cities in Post-Industrial Transition – expanded to ten universities from the founding eight – will deepen its commitments and values, continuing a journey started after a successful 2020 Erasmus+ grant designed to foster the quality, inclusiveness and competitiveness of European higher education and a H2020 SwafS grant towards collaborative approach and structure for Engaged Research.

Since then, UNIC has built a rich diversity of activities and new offerings for students, researchers, staff, and citizens across Europe. It has enabled enhanced mobility through hybrid campuses and course offerings, started a joint MSc programme on “Redesigning the Post-Industrial City”, and offered an Engaged Research seed fund for collaborative research projects. It has created communities of practice and made available an open case repository through flagship “CityLabs”, which create opportunities for knowledge exchange between universities and the cities they’re embedded in.

UNIC’s new phase, with 14.4 million € in funding, begins in October 2023. It will be guided by a bold, new Mission Statement and roadmap that was signed by the rectors of all 10 partner universities earlier in January. 

A Renewed Focus on Maximising Societal Impact

UNIC’s initiatives benefit nearly 20 million citizens, students, staff, and researchers in post-industrial cities across Europe. Collectively, the next phase of this Alliance aims to further boost development of knowledge and co-creation through collaboration, innovation and inclusion for societal impact and improvement. Building on the foundations established in the last 3 years, UNIC’s renewed objectives in the coming years will center on unlocking models of inter-institutional learning, teaching, and research that are profoundly engaged with diverse post-industrial urban ecosystems.

"UNIC is committed to building the European university of the future, and we are delighted to be supported in our next phase by the European Commission,” said Prof. Dr. Peter Scholten, UNIC's Alliance coordinator. “ Our impact is in educating our students as change agents of the future, and we will continue to set a positive model for European cities on how to bring together learning, engaged research and innovation to create societal impact.“

The UNIC family at Erasmus University Rotterdam, October 2022.

 “UNIC goes beyond just the practical – it’s creating a shared institutional memory for future generations of students,” said Yağmur Kökden, UNIC Student Representative at Koç University in Istanbul. “As UNIC students, we’re excited by the opportunities that this new phase holds for us, and we feel more empowered and excited to shape our future.”

Paving the Way to Universities of the Future

In its next phase, the Alliance will roll out new programs and expand existing offerings that reflect its renewed mission:

  •  The UNIC Msc in Redesigning the Post-Industrial City will accept its first cohort in Fall 2023. This new program strives to educate the next generation of urban specialists with the 21st century skills and knowledge needed to address the challenges and opportunities of cities in transition and superdiverse societies.

  • The UNIC Centre for City Futures, a new “one-stop-shop” infrastructure built to enable our universities engage with cities, communities, and stakeholders for transformative innovation, will begin operations. It brings learning and research to the cities and communities, and the needs of cities and communities into learning and research.  “The UNIC Centre for City Futures is about meaningful and transformational real-world collaborations in both research and learning”, said Dr. Sari Hirvonen-Kantola from the University of Oulu, one of the co-developers of the Centre.

  • As education changes, technology must keep up with the times. UNIC’s innovative Hybrid Campus will set the foundations for state-of-the-art mutual exchanges, opening up Blended Intensive Programs, virtual courses, and joint degrees to an even wider community of students, researchers and citizens.

  • In order to facilitate a broader whole-university approach, UNIC will introduce Thematic Lines - new collaborative structures that act like UNIC ‘faculties’ around specific areas post-industrial transition (such as on health and wellbeing, sustainability, resilience and digitalisation, security, inclusion, entrepreneurship and arts), providing content and community for UNIC’s innovation in education, engagement and cooperation capacities.

“Since 2020, our unique identity has already provided a solid foundation for our joint European Alliance to impact the future of our cities,” said Prof. Dr. Ed Brinksma, President of Erasmus University Rotterdam. “We look forward to deepening UNIC’s work as a true partnership of students, teachers, and citizens – enabling the co-creation of knowledge to tackle the major transitions that will define Europe’s future.” 

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