From the start, it has been clear that the strength of the Aurora would need to lie in the quality and relevance of its activities rather than in the frequency of presidents’ meetings. From even before the formal launch of Aurora on October 21, 2016, the drive has been to identify key priority themes of common interest with enough enthusiasm at the grass root level to learn with and from each other.
Some of these original themes reflected areas of teaching, research and outreach – linked to the grand societal challenges and therefor multidisciplinary and problem-oriented in nature. Others reflected cross-cutting (horizontal) dimensions of the matching of academic excellence with societal relevance, which is the core and essence of Aurora.
Aurora is ‘work in progress’, based on the shared vision of the university leaders married to the enthusiasm of academics, students and administrators. Consequently, the themes are dynamic and may rise or fade away.
Aurora has identified four core themes. On these, the universities´ leadership actively stimulates activities and results that reflect the core ambition of Aurora.
These four core themes predominantly lie in the domain of the cross-cutting dimensions of matching academic excellence with societal relevance – reflecting that academic experts will not, need not and should not be steered by institutional strategies in the choice of their academic partnerships and collaboration.
1. Diversity & Inclusion
The Aurora workgroup on Diversity and Inclusion aims to: (1) Create equal opportunities for our staff and students; (2) Create a working and learning environment at our universities in which different perspectives are explicitly valued and (c) Capitalize on the ability to generate creativity from different perspectives both in teaching and in education.
2. Societal Impact and Relevance of Research (SIRR)
SIRR aims to clarify in the Aurora network the university’s role in society and its regarding global chal- lenges. This includes demonstration of societal value and relevance of research and education. The first goal for the near future is to agree on a policy regarding impact in research within Aurora, working on separate policy documents on research impact and open access and/or open science.
Relevant activities of the Bibliometrics group are included here.
Aurora attaches great weight to student involvement, both as characteristic of each university and within the network. It is important that the students’ activities develop beyond the domain of student representation and include Aurora links between students who are active in all sorts of education related and campus related student activities.
4. Innovation of teaching and learning (ITL)
Aurora can serve its member universities specifically in the context of innovation of teaching & learning, which is understood widely to include developments in digitalisation of education as well as innovation in the content and the balance of subject-related, general cognitive and personal learning outcomes.
5. Digital World
Digital information now concerns all aspects of life (personal, professional, public – from social, economic, environmental and scientific perspective). For Aurora universities, the challenge is to be key actors in the study of the evolution of this digital world, but also in its design and development.
One priority of the academic world is the integration of new methodologies based on computing into humanities and social sciences. Digital tools improve data acquisition, treatment and analysis, and offer new forms of research and knowledge dissemination, new creation processes and new uses, and affect the way the society perceives science and innovation.
A more immediate question is what a “truly digital university” could or should look like in the years ahead. This question is tackled by the Aurora universities at the level both of the experts and Chief Information Officers and at the level of strategic leadership.
In an international network of universities, it makes sense to also explore the opportunities to learn from and with each other in the field of internationalisation. Internationalisation of – and international cooperation in – education, research and social outreach have become an everyday fact-of-life, certainly in societally engaged research universities.
The first focus of Aurora collaboration in internationalisation is on a) mobility in a broad sense and b) cooperation with Africa.
The Sustainability group aims for Aurora universities to:
- Operate and build sustainable universities that balance the four pillars of sustainability which are governance, environmental management, learning; research and social policy
- Create a working and learning environment at our universities in which sustainability is valued and measured.
- Capitalize on the ability to generate creativity and solutions from different perspectives both in our practices and education.
As a strategy, it aims to promote good practice, stimulate joint activities, and develop benchmarks to monitor progress at individual institutions and collectively as Aurora.
8. Aurora Sport
Contacts are being made across the network with individuals working closely within sport and specifically student sport. This is an ongoing conversation to determine what opportunities could exist for a sports league and or sports related activity that could take place asynchronously, co-ordinated live activity across multiple sites and live events at a chosen centre. Ideas are currently being discussed on a) bringing together the ‘directors of sports’ to exchange best practice and potential for collaboration and b) sports events which could be more or less competitive or relaxed and boundary crossing (different sports, students-academics-administrators, etc).