The strength of Aurora Universities Network lies in the quality and relevance of its projects. From even before the formal launch on October 21, 2016, the drive has been to identify key 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 therefore 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 has identified four key themes. On these, the universities’ leadership actively stimulates activities and results that reflect the core ambition of Aurora. These 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. Consequently, the themes are dynamic, and may rise or fade away.
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 position regarding global challenges. 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.
“Sustainability”- or the Sustainable Development Goals – is seen as an excellent expression of the core Aurora objective of matching academic excellence with societal relevance and may thus become a crucial part of the overall Aurora narrative. Moreover, “Internationalism” seems a logical and inevitable theme for an international network of universities.
Beyond this core, we see meetings in Aurora of groups with a shared interest, meeting to learn from each other and find things to do together that fit their internal strategies. When these are not connected to one of the broader themes, they are styled birds of a feather group.
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. Next, to create a working and learning environment at our universities in which sustainability is valued and measured. And lastly, to 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.