ENLIGHT’s mission is to undertake a fundamental transformation of European higher education that empowers learners as globally engaged citizens with state-of-the-art knowledge, skills, and innovation potential to tackle major societal transitions and to promote equitable quality of life and sustainability.
Professor Hiltraud Casper-Hehne, the ENLIGHT academic lead from the University of Göttingen discusses the impact of ‘ENLIGHT’ with NUI Galway ENLIGHT Project Manager, Pamela Devins.
Q. What do you think ENLIGHT will mean for the University of Göttingen and the other partner institutions including NUI Galway?
The ENLIGHT European University aims to address the flagship challenges of climate change, energy use, health and wellbeing, digital revolution and equity, through teaching and research and outreach. As a network, we can provide a considerable range of new study modules and courses for our students, as well as carrying out a wide variety of teaching projects focused on these global societal challenges. Institutions in the network will learn from each other, and together, we can develop inclusive mobility schemes to integrate underrepresented groups and establish climate-friendly mobility programs to promote sustainability. Through the joint implementation of a digital campus, we will lower barriers to mobility and create a truly European University.
ENLIGHT also enables partners to share best practice in all areas including research, teaching and university governance; this will further strengthen all of our institutions. Through ENLIGHT, we not only strengthen our competitiveness at national and European levels, but also will become drivers of innovation for European higher education and research policy. Finally, as a European University we were able to receive funding from the Erasmus+ program, from Horizon 2020 for ENLIGHT RISE, ENLIGHT’s sister research and innovation project and, in our case in Germany, from our national funding programs. This has enabled us to implement many of the activities I have outlined.
Q. In what ways has internationalisation shaped the University of Göttingen in the past 10 years, and how do you see internationalisation shaping the future of the University? What role will ENLIGHT play in this?
Internationalisation has been a main strategy of the University of Göttingen throughout the last 10 years. For example, we have focused on intensive international research collaboration, we have strengthened the internationalisation and digitisation of curricula, and we have internationalised our administration. In 2015, the University was awarded the European Prize for Innovation in Internationalisation by the EAIE (European Association for International Education).
Our international cooperation, in a range of networks such as Coimbra, Guild, HeKKSaGOn and U4 Society, have made a significant contribution to the University of Göttingen’s excellent position in research and teaching, both nationally and internationally.
As a member of ENLIGHT, we can now take the next step and, together with our partners, create shared virtual and physical spaces and structures for research, teaching and learning. This will enable us to take our international cooperation to a new, higher level from individual international cooperation to a common transnational institutional framework for day-to-day cross-border work.
Jointly designed and implemented courses, study programs and research projects will become just as natural in ENLIGHT institutions as regular research committee meetings and professional services team discussions. ENLIGHT will pose new challenges and opportunities for each of us: we will all have to learn to question our own routines and national concepts, and to open ourselves up to new cross-border solutions. This applies, for example, to the scheduling of courses and multilingual work, to the mutual recognition of credits, as well as collaborative organisational development.
Q. How do you think the European University Initiative will change the landscape of higher education in Europe?
The European University Initiative will change the paradigms of research concepts and curricula development to cultivate a ‘European Higher Education Area’, through the establishment of a common European university system. This means that higher education will, in future, focus more on the European dimension of research, teaching and administration. In addition, the European University will become an important vehicle for social and sustainable transformation in line with the United Nations’ Agenda 2030 and will promote its’ sustainable development goals.
European University Networks will also play a major pioneering role as policy makers at both European and national levels leading on key concepts including the implementation of the European degree, micro-credentials, digital teaching and learning, green mobility, sustainable governance, and diversity and inclusion. European University Networks also facilitate the strengthening of outreach, developing lasting relationships between universities and society, which is an integral goal for ENLIGHT, to formulate sustainable solutions to today’s societal challenges.
Finally, the discussion in Germany and elsewhere about how many new networks the EU Commission should grant in the next phase of the initiative underlines the relevance, importance and attractiveness of this concept and shows how highly the objectives of the European University Networks are estimated by Higher Education Institutions.
Q. What will being a partner institution in ENLIGHT allow the University of Göttingen to do that it couldn’t have done otherwise?
ENLIGHT enables all partner universities including Göttingen to collaborate more systematically, far beyond the development and implementation of individual internationalisation measures. Through ENLIGHT, we can learn from our collective best practices and use this to improve the structures at our own University.
ENLIGHT will enable us to remove obstacles to cross-border cooperation in research, teaching and university governance in the long term, and will result in increased international opportunities for our students and staff.
ENLIGHT joins our institutions’ collective expertise enabling us to address global challenges in research and education together and find appropriate solutions for Europe and the global world.
Q. What impact do you think ENLIGHT will have on the student experience in partner institutions?
One of the overarching goals of ENLIGHT is that in the long term all students can have at least one international learning experience during their studies. To enable this ENLIGHT will offer flexible international learning opportunities with a greater diversity of virtual, blended and physical formats. This will offer many attractive experiences for our students, for example in new challenge-based, research-oriented courses and workshops in our flagship areas. ENLIGHT will empower our students to contribute to solving global challenges in economic affairs, politics, culture and civil society. We will also enable students to be active participants in the development of ENLIGHT and its offerings through the ENLIGHT Student Network. Students can use this platform to shape teaching and research at their university and within the consortium. The activities of ENLIGHT will empower learners to become globally engaged citizens.
Q. How do you think ENLIGHT will benefit researchers across the network and in Göttingen in particular?
Joining up nine research-intensive universities opens up new opportunities for researchers for innovative inter- and transdisciplinary research approaches. The high profile and complementary expertise available within the network will enable researchers to collaborate in creating solutions to global challenges. When looking for project funding researchers can also benefit from ENLIGHT’s strong visibility as part of the European University Network initiative. ENLIGHT will enable researchers to cooperate seamlessly and without barriers, and the network offers an array of administrative support for collaborative research initiatives and this will be further facilitated through ENLIGHT RISE, ENLIGHT’s Horizon 2020 funded project focused on research and innovation. Work has also already started on establishing an ENLIGHT Doctoral Network to support early career researchers. Networks such as ENLIGHT offer numerous interesting opportunities for postdocs who may lack exposure to international partners at the beginning of their careers. ENLIGHT is built on trust and confidence, and is focused on removing all obstacles to international research cooperation, while at the same time promoting its sustainability.
Hiltraud Casper-Hehne is Professor for Intercultural German Studies and the University Representative for International Affairs at the University of Göttingen.
She currently serves as member of the Directors Board of ENLIGHT and is project lead for ENLIGHT at Göttingen. Her work experience encompasses internationalisation of institutions and research, in addition to teaching, learning and intercultural communication.
NUI Galway is a member of the ENLIGHT European University network, which links us with eight research-intensive universities across Europe including Ghent in Belgium, Tartu in Estonia, Bordeaux in France, Göttingen in Germany, Groningen in The Netherlands, Bratislava in Slovakia, the Basque Country in Spain and Uppsala in Sweden.
The aim of the ENLIGHT network is to transform higher education and collaboratively address some of the societal challenges we face across our participating regions, promoting equitable quality of life and sustainability.