European university partnerships more important now than ever
‘European university partnerships more important now than ever’ is written by Sally Faulkner, Exeter’s Assistant Deputy Vice Chancellor (Europe).
In this last blog for 2021-22, I want to reflect on the past, present and future of the University’s work in Europe.
Prof Sally Faulkner
We currently face enormous challenges with the war in Ukraine and our once strong European partnerships effectively undermined through the continuing delay over our membership of Horizon and uncertainty over ‘Plan B’.
I remain hopeful for the future, though, because of all the fantastic work I see and experience every single day in this role from colleagues, students and university communities who are determined to maintain and deepen valuable partnerships. This commitment to staying united across European education institutions in the face of adversity is powerful, inspiring and has been shown to work before.
Turning first to Ukraine, the University of Exeter is working closely with our partners in government and higher education to ensure a coordinated response. We will soon be twinned with a Ukrainian university (as part of a scheme run by the Cormack Consultancy Group) that will enable us to support academics to continue to research, teach and award degrees, and students to study. Additionally, we are looking at scholarship schemes to support Ukrainian students forced to flee the country.
Here in Exeter, our Foreign Language Centre has set up a course so our local community can learn Ukranian. We had a fantastic response with over 40 people currently booked on to the introductory course, and we now plan to offer a 10 week course from October. The course is led by Iryna Ilnytska, originally from Ukraine, and is designed to help people begin to communicate in Ukrainian. Iryna says many of the course attendees have joined to help the Ukrainian refugees and they want to learn the alphabet, words and phrases in Ukrainian to welcome people as warmly as possible.
Iryna has been moved by the response: ‘One of the students told me during the lesson: “When the war in Ukraine is over, I will go there and help to rebuild the country”. These words touched my heart deeply, and I nearly cried in the class. And I felt even more grateful that I could do this course and meet all these amazing people. It is so important to know for me, for my friends, for all Ukrainians that there are so many people who stand with Ukraine, and they are ready to support not only by words but also by their kind deeds.’
Muireann Maguire, Professor of Russian and Comparative Literature, comments more widely on the responses of all Russian Programme staff at Exeter. ‘We have made every effort to adapt to a rapidly changing situation, while recognizing the continuing close association of Russian and Ukrainian Studies at an academic and cultural level. Our Lecturer in Russian language, Yuliya Kostyuk, is in fact Ukrainian: but as a native speaker of Russian, she offers Russian language classes at every level for our undergraduates. We have offered current and future Year Abroad students extra language classes and/or placements in Russophone language schools in the Baltic countries to replace the practice they would have experienced, in normal years, studying or working in Russia. Our Senior Lecturer in Russian, Dr Emily Lygo, has raised funds and supplies for helping Ukrainian refugees ever since the outbreak of the conflict; she continues to volunteer as a translator for newly arrived Ukrainians in the city. Dr Ben Philips, as a committee member for the British Slavonic Studies subject association, has raised awareness nationally and internationally of these funded short-term grants for displaced academics. Professor Katharine Hodsgon and I also sit on the University’s Ukraine Advisory Committee.
I also encourage you to watch the fascinating discussion of the intertwining of politics and aesthetics between translators of contemporary Ukrainian literature for which Muireann provided a platform as part of her as ERC-funded Russian translation research project. You can access their reflections on Serhiy Zhadan’s Voroshilovgrad, a novel of Ukraine’s troubled Eastern region, here: https://www.youtube.com/wat.’
I am also delighted that our collaboration with European, as well as other international partners, at the Venice International University (VIU) continues to go from strength to strength. Exeter has been a member of VIU for two and half years now which has enabled 46 of our students to be part of the VIU Globalisation Programme, making us one of the largest senders of students. Several colleagues have taught, or been selected to teach, on the Globalisation Programme from Humanities, SSIS and CLES: three male and three female, at different career stages. We have also had three PhD academies / Summer Schools approved: The State of the Art in Area Studies led by Gareth Stansfield and William Gallois in SSIS; Environmental Humanities led by Gabriella Giannachi; and Linguistic Landscapes led by Richard Toye in History, both from Humanities. I also love teaching on Films in Venice and Filming Venice and I am delighted that Humanities have awarded scholarships to 3 Exeter students to attend in August. Fabrizio Nevola will also teach on the Summer School ‘Advanced Topics in Digital Art History II: Bringing Projects to a Public through Digital Exhibitions and XR’.
There are many exciting forthcoming opportunities at the VIU and also at our eight European strategic university partners . For example, in Humanities, 20 postgraduate students at Exeter and our partner Leiden have just successfully completed a co-taught and co-accredited COIL (Collaborative Online International Learning) module on Ancient Epigraphy. We have renewed our match-funding project scheme with the University of Geneva, ‘Genex’, for the next academic year and have recently held positive conversations with the University of Hamburg about working together on research areas we both identified as mutual strengths: Climate Change, Infectious Diseases, Astrophysics, Written Artefacts and Manuscript Cultures. I urge colleagues to seek out deeper partnerships with our eight strategic partners spanning Denmark, France, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and Spain. Professor Gabriella Giannachi chairs the Europe Funder Advisory Network (FAN) and can also help support research funding applications.
We will see some structural and personnel changes in the autumn. Professor Li Li has been appointed the new Associate Pro Vice Chancellor, Global Engagement for the Faculty of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, and in that capacity attended the successful EUniverCities event at Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter in early June. Partners in the EUniverCities Network came together in Exeter to discuss how cities and universities can work together to support arts and culture in their local areas. Delegates from all over Europe explored the challenge of developing creative cities through a packed programme of talks and workshops, featuring creative industry experts and change-makers from Exeter.
One of my favourite projects as Assistant Deputy Vice Chancellor (Europe) has been a collaboration with the University’s Press Office and our MA Translation Studies students who, supported by my colleagues in the Modern Languages and Cultures Department, have translated numerous news stories into European languages for media outlets across Europe. Not only has this helped us get additional media coverage in Europe, but it has provided vital skills to our students and enhanced their job opportunities. It is a simple collaboration that has enriched everyone who has taken part. I am pleased to say that we have just published the latest story led by Exeter’s Dr Katie Brown and Dr Miguel Vásquez from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, funded by a European Network Fund grant from University of Exeter. You can read ‘Hearing New Voices of Venezuelan Migrant Women: An international students-as-researchers project’ online now in Spanish, German and French!
So, there is much to look forward to and fight for in the coming years. I have not hidden my disappointment about the loss of the Erasmus+ programme or my frustration at the uncertainty over the EU Horizon research programme but, we know partnerships matter and collaborating across countries, cultures and languages is vital for future prosperity and happiness. We must continue to stand together and reach out across borders to advance knowledge and education to create a better world.
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