‘European networks on the rise’ proclaimed the headline in the Times Higher Education magazine on 3 November 2016.
So how timely that EUPRIO should be organising its next conference in Mannheim on precisely this theme, writes Nic Mitchell.
Networking for a better future: Universities, Cities, Territories and Enterprises is the title of our 2017 annual gathering of higher education marketing and communication professionals.
Taking place from 29 June to 2 July 2017, the conference will be the third hosted by Germany – the first was in Berlin the year after the Berlin Wall came down and the second was in medieval Heidelberg.
EUPRIO President Christine Legrand said: “Some of Germany’s best known enterprises have their headquarters in Mannheim, which lies at the heart of the important Baden-Württemberg region.
A highly networked city
“Mannheim is a highly networked city and the ideal venue for EUPRIO to look at how networking between universities, cities, regions and industry can support the universities of the future. I think participants will get a lot to help the strategic direction of their communication activities from the conference.”
Katja Bär, director of communications and fundraising at the University of Mannheim, is the main organiser of next year’s event.
She said: “The theme came very naturally to us when we were talking about Mannheim University as conference host. We were founded as a business school by the citizens and the Mayor of Mannheim in 1907 and born from the search of businessmen for business education combined with broader study.
“So right from the start, we have been aware of the importance of networking and relationship building with our environment.
Not living in an ivory tower
“Third Mission is a key word here. It is part of the Mannheim spirit to reject living in an ivory tower and we are always looking for exchanges and partnerships.
“And since we are part of the so called Rhein-Neckar metropolitan region, territory also plays an important role. We are inviting the region to get involved.”
German EUPRIO Steering Committee member and conference chair Kerstin Lauer explained the Mannheim conference will have four main strands built around its title.
Participants will be able to either focus on networking in areas of special interest to them or take a broader look at relationship building and networking both within higher education and with their cities and regions through public engagement.
Private public partnerships
“There will be special workshops and presentations covering private public partnerships with business and industry and on how to build and strengthen international networks in the era of growing globalisation.
“We will announce the first speakers early in the New Year and planning for the conference is already well underway,” said Kerstin.
The conference venue will be the main campus building at Mannheim, the splendid showpiece baroque palace, one of the largest in Europe, which was renovated after a fundraising campaign to raise €13million. Now a second campaign is underway to build on this success and raise another €13million to increase the university’s international visibility.
“Networking has been key to both campaigns, whether to win local industry support for the renaissance of the baroque palace or with alumni to strengthen our international profile,” said Katja.
New European networks
* In the Times Higher Education report on the rise of European networks, journalist Ellie Bothwell said: “The power of university networks is not that they determine institutions’ agendas but rather that they enable leaders to work on their missions with trusted friends.”
She was quoting Jaap Winter, president of VU University Amsterdam and founding president of Aurora, a new group of nine European universities with members in the UK, Belgium, Norway, Germany, Sweden and Iceland.
Aurora is not the only European university network to launch this year, for Ellie also reported that the Guild of European Research Intensive Universities, a group of 15 institutions from across the continent, was unveiled in June.
Last year, the European Women Rectors Association, was founded to promote the role of women and to advocate gender equality in academia.
And, of course, one of the biggest of them all is the European University Association, or EUA, launched in 2001 and now having 850 member institutions.
“EUPRIO was also an early pioneer of networking 30 years ago and the association is perfect place to discuss how to use and develop a network of ‘trusted friends’ to support European higher education and research in the future,” said Christine Legrand.
More about the Mannheim conference can be found at https://www.euprio.eu/mannheim-conference-2017/ and, of course, we will keep you updated in the New Year with the speakers and workshops.