EUROPEAN university communicators once again showed imagination and originality in their entries to the 2017 EUPRIO Awards, writes Nic Mitchell.
This year’s overall winner was Brno University of Technology in the Czech Republic for their ‘I Belong Here’ campaign which demonstrated original and creative ways to encourage young women to apply to study technical science subjects.
Second place went to ETH Zürich from Switzerland for their novel campaign to encourage children into science and technology from an early age using a cult comic book hero.
In third place was the University of Lodz in Poland for their ‘University Diversity’ project, aimed at making students and staff aware of being part of an intercultural community.
The EUPRIO Awards celebrate professionalism and creativity in university communication campaigns and public engagement that makes a difference. Winners are chosen by combining the votes of conference participants and the Awards jury consisting of EUPRIO Steering Committee members.
Challenging stereotypes to get girls into Tech
The winning entry from Brno University of Technology, or BUT, challenged stereotypical messages such as “Girls, you are not for maths; physics is too hard for you” that many women hear from an early age from friends, parents and sometimes even school counsellors, said Pavla Ondrušková, Brno’s marketing manager and co-creator of the campaign.
Central to ‘I Belong Here’ is a short and sharp high-speed video series aimed directly at the target audience.
“We were looking for a way to depict this issue so that teenagers of generation Z did not run away after a few seconds and it would be comprehensible to everyone,” said Jiří Fiala, one of the artists working on the project.
The campaign is backed from the very top at BUT, with the Rector Petr Štěpánek saying: “With ‘I Belong Here’, we want to address girls who intend to apply for university and at the same time, we would like to open a discussion on the lack of women in technology fields. The European Commission estimates that there will be shortage of up to 900,000 workers in ICT in future years. If we succeed in recruiting enough women into technology fields, it will help the labour market significantly.”
The campaign is supported by female ambassadors from the different faculties who young women applicants can contact, via www.technickyvzato.cz, to discuss life at a technical university.
Pavla said: “It is our intention to support female secondary school students who may be discouraged by those in their environment to pursue what they are good at and enjoy doing. Furthermore, technical education will make finding a well-paid job easier.”
The ‘I Belong Here’ campaign is also backed by Tania Le Moigne, country director of Google Czech and Slovak Republic, who appears in one of the videos.
Tania said: “Everybody used to tell me that I would be a teacher or doctor, but I liked maths too. In the end, I went to study informatics. The field of digital technology has great prospects, is well paid and very flexible. If you know how to design web pages, how to work with data or how to make YouTube videos, you will definitely be in demand, even if you have three kids.”
And the campaign is helping to make a difference, with the percentage of women studying at Brno University of Technology – the largest technical university in the Czech Republic – gradually increasing. In 2010, the proportion of female students was 23%; in the 2016/17 academic year that number has risen to over 28%.
University spokesperson Radana Kolčavová said in some areas the proportion of female applicants was even higher. “Last year we had over 31% of applications from female students at the Faculty of Civil Engineering; this year the share was 39.3% and at the Faculty of Architecture the proportion of female applications grew by almost 5%.”
Comic book Globi goes to university
The runner-up in the 2017 EUPRIO Awards features Globi, who is as famous as Donald Duck in the German speaking part of Switzerland.
The blue parrot-like being with a human rascal character has been central to more than 80 Globi books since the 1930s – visiting the zoo, going on television and to many other places. Now at last Globi visits academia – to ETH Zürich to be precise!
The university provides more than just the scenery for the new book, with readers welcomed in the foreword by ETH’s rector and president in a novel way to get children as young as five interested in the fascinating world of science.
In the story Globi sees a woman lose her purse as he is on his way to the train station. He runs after her to return it and the woman, Professor Schrödinger, invites Globi to visit her lab in ETH as thanks.
The lab is home to a ‘crazy machine’ which shrinks the two protagonists without warning to the size of a pea. Globi and the ETH professor go from one adventure to another across a host of different university laboratories. Their fast-paced journey takes them from the Zentrum to Hönggerberg campus and even to the Singapore-ETH Centre.
The project is part of ETH’s drive to interest young children in technical and scientific subjects and was realised by a core team of four people; three in the communication department and one in the Rector’s office and was assisted by two professors and aims to appeal to young girls in particular.
Among the questions tackled was what the frequency would be from a mobile phone that had shrunk to one millimetre!
Roland Baumann from the ETH Zürich communication department said: “Despite being one of the most international universities in the world, we still get 80% of our bachelor students from the German speaking part of Switzerland and the country desperately needs more engineers. So, it is vital interest to get children into technology and science from an early age.
“The book Globi and the crazy machine has been a big success and the entire Swiss media took notice of the launch. So far about 20,000 copies have been sold and it was number one in the bestselling lists for several weeks,” he said.
Tolerance and accepting other cultures
The third winner of an EUPRIO Award was University of Lodz from Poland for the project University Diversity. Launched in November 2016, it is a response to the growing number of international students at the University – over 2,000 from 95 nationalities at last count – and is helping to spread European values of tolerance and accepting various cultures.
Anna Rolczak, director of the University’s Promotion Centre said: “Its launch is especially important these days, as we witness changing atmosphere and mindsets following increasing diversity of ethnic make-up in Europe.”
The public events and activities – student photo session, International Spring Cook Book and Christmas Guest – engaged over 60 international students and caught the attention of hundreds of citizens of Lodz and the Polish media.
Anna said: “The first event involved 37 students representing 29 countries and consisted of short, interesting interviews with the participants about their homelands, hobbies, families, future plans and how they find living in Lodz. A professional photo shoot resulted in a poster exhibition in the Manufaktura centre of trade, culture, art and entertainment, which then moved to the City Hall to be placed next to the Council Chamber.”
The next initiative called Christmas Guest referred to the Polish Christmas tradition whereby an additional table setting for an unexpected guest is set. University employees and Polish students were encouraged to invite international students to their homes and spend time together,” said Anna.
“A few months later, inspired by the coming Spring, we wanted to learn how other countries celebrate the springtime awakening: Do they prepare as in Poland some traditional food?
“Our questions were answered when students shared the recipes of springtime dishes cooked in Armenia, Bolivia, China, France, Georgia, Galicia in Spain), Honduras, India, Indonesia, Paraguay, Romania, Serbia, Spain, Turkey, Ukraine and Poland. The final initiative was a joint cooking session, courtesy of BOOK & COOK Studio Kulinarne and a bilingual cookbook which included the recipes passed on by the students.”
Anna said: “As a result of the project, we continue to see a steady increase in engagement with our business and civil society partners. All the cooperation offers have been completely free of charge with costs covered by other institutions,”
Martin Herrema, President of the Jury, praised the winning projects and said: “Congratulations to our winners and thank you to everyone who entered our 2017 EUPRIO Awards. Once more the Awards have demonstrated the high quality of university communication campaigns across Europe.
“What is striking yet again is that universities are making a very positive impact in the communities they serve and that their communicators are ensuring that this message is being heard loud and clear.”