Nearly 240 participants from 22 countries, some coming from as far as New Caledonia, Cyprus and Lebanon, gathered in the Polish university city of Poznań for EUPRIO’s annual conference, which this year focused on managing internal communications and reputation building, WRITES Nic Mitchell
The three-day event once again created that ‘big family’ atmosphere and sense of community that EUPRIO conferences are famed for, with Herwig Daemon, Head of Communications at the University of Liechtenstein, summing up the views of many attendees by saying: “It was an excellent opportunity to network with professionals who soon become friends.”
Marcin Witkowski EUPRIO secretary and head of the local organising team at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, said his fears that EUPRIO members might think Poland was “too far east to travel or too unpredictable in terms of weather” were unfounded as the temperature hit record highs and attendance targets were easily surpassed.
He said over 120 institutions were represented in Poznań – all pooling ideas on effective internal communication pathways and how Higher Education communicators can engage with our university communities to help build stronger brands and increase our value to society.
Marcin paid particularly thanks to his team of 17 student helpers and volunteers and EUPRIO treasurer Paola Claudia Scioli, “whose help was invaluable” and Philip Graham, chair of the programme committee and Martin Herrema, chairman of the EUPRIO Awards.
Real sense of community
Philip said the EUPRIO 2019 conference saw “the largest number of speakers to date” and added: “I was struck by the real sense of community that exists between EUPRIO delegates.”
Paola, who also serves as the association’s development manager, echoed this and said: “Year by year our Euprians (as we like to call EUPRIO members) are more engaged and it is great to see older and newer members creating a virtual circle of knowledge and experience. I enjoy watching how they are not afraid to learn from each other about what works best in university communications and how to make the best use of new approaches and tools in the digital age.
“No one is afraid of sharing ideas and best practice. And nobody worries about advising others what to avoid when doing comms activities and they do so in a friendly and professional way.”
Will European alliances encourage more competition?
It is a hallmark that EUPRIO President Jan Dries is determined to protect as European universities enter a new age of alliances with the active encouragement from the European Commission’s new European Universities initiative, which aims “to bring together a new generation of creative Europeans, who are able to cooperate across languages, borders and disciplines to address the big societal challenges and skills shortages that Europe faces”.
While applauding the European Union’s injection of new funding for the 17 successful proposals for cross-border university alliances – many involving institutions which are EUPRIO members – Jan told the Poznań conference: “My strongest hope is that the competition (for the best students) that exists between universities on a local or national level, will not spread to the European level. Competition does not easily lead to openness and sharing of ideas, which has been the hallmark of EUPRIO, where everyone speaks openly about their communication and marketing strategy and best practices are easily shared. Let’s hope that the new university alliances create new ways of collaborating with and within EUPRIO.”
Jan said EUPRIO stands ready to help the communication challenges of establishing the new alliances, particularly through effective internal communications to win “total buy-in” from stakeholders, and helping external communications at a pan-European level.
But during his presentation, he said there are “more intelligent ways” of looking at differences in Europe than “by competition between university networks.”
One concrete way that EUPRIO has already pledged to help the new environment facing European higher education and research is by cooperating with the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 project on science communication through the QUEST – QUality and Effectiveness in Science and Technology communication – initiative.
The project aims to increase the quality of science communication, focusing on three strands (journalism, social media and museums) and three topics (climate change, vaccines and Artificial intelligence).
“EUPRIO is involved as a stakeholder, mainly in activities related to capacity building, incentives and impact of science communication,” explained Jan.
The project team represents eight institutions from six countries and involves higher education communication professionals from Venice International University; Norwegian University of Science and Technology; City University of London; Ca’ Foscari of Venice; Tallin University; WAN-IFRA FR; Science Gallery Dublin (TCD) and the Agency for the Promotion of European Research.
The team has launched a survey with the aim of mapping the current situation in the European universities. Jan hopes EUPRIO members will fill it in or pass to your colleagues involved in the specific field of science communication before July 10, 2019. The link to the survey can be found at www.surveymonkey.com/r/quest_educat.
EUPRIO is also organising a workshop on ‘Training the scientist’ at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice on October 1, 2019. This will be opened by Brian Trench, one of the most important European scholars in science communication. During the afternoon, a specific workshop will be organised for EUPRIO members to delve more deeply in the field of educational tools for scientists and communicators.
“On the one hand the project’s team will present preliminary results and discuss strategies, on the other hand we will have the opportunity to co-design a new toolkit for improving science communication,” explained Jan.
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Also see >
- Art of science wins the 2019 EUPRIO Awards news story
- International HE and communication departments need to talk – University World News report on EUPRIO Mobility Programme
See you at #EUPRIO2020 in Trieste, Italy, from 30 August to 2 September, 2020, when the focus will be on science communication.
Photo credits: Adrian Wykrota-Życie Uniwersyteckie