EMUNI’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic
As we share the hopes and aspirations of the world that we will be seeing the end of the COVID-19 pandemic soon, we cannot but ready ourselves for its aftermath and future consequences on the world, and specifically on the Euro-Mediterranean region.
Aware of the fact that the COVID-19 crisis will usher a new norm with regard to how we work and go along with our daily activities, the Euro-Mediterranean University (EMUNI) has set about identifying its response to the crisis. Together with its 136 partners from 33 countries across the Mediterranean, EMUNI intends to address the challenges and opportunities posed by this crisis. Within the six identified areas of intervention (see the background discussion document), particularly three: education, research and international cooperation are directly related to EMUNI’s activities.
To this end, EMUNI held an extra-ordinary Management Board session by video-conference on the 9th of April 2020 to discuss at length, based mostly on the circulated background document, while referring to other data sources, the aspects of the Covid-19 crisis and decide on EMUNI’s concrete response to this crisis.
During this session, the following general statements and objectives attained consensus among the members of the Management Board:
- There is a pressing need for strategic, impact-driven cooperation in education, research and innovation, based on the core values of open science and free access to data. Such cooperation is much more successful and effective when it is both inter- regional and trans-regional;
- Higher education institutions (HEIs), and particularly EMUNI, together with its network institutions, are perfectly positioned to play a leading role in the current crisis. This role is generally bestowed on HEIs as global knowledge hubs and more specifically on EMUNI as a regional platform and network of institutions;
- A general reflection on the future of the Euro-Mediterranean partnership in Higher Education (HE), Research and Innovation (R&I) is urgently needed. This is best conducted through a dialogue among the Euro-Med region’s multiple stakeholders, including policy makers, academics, UfM Secretariat, European Commission (EC), inter-government and international organisations, and the civil society;
- For the efforts to be effective, EMUNI shall focus only on aspects within its mission, directing its attention and resources to a few areas. These include employing emerging technologies in graduate education, establishing relevant common educational programmes and activities among its network members, fostering its network cooperation, partnership in research and other relevant activities;
- International cooperation, which is at the heart of EMUNI’s mission, is all the more relevant today. Instead of reverting to the intellectual self-sufficiency at the national scale, the benefits of international cooperation should be acknowledged and defended. EMUNI’s network of Universities should be encouraged to engage in redefining areas of common research priorities and joint educational programmes, where they could cooperate, including but not limited to, the post-crisis emerging topics, such as digital transformation, public health, public administration, sustainable development, risk management/mitigation, environment and climate change;
- EMUNI should foster its knowledge and resources in the area of digital transformation and online education and take the lead in enhancing capacities and capabilities of other HEIs in the Euro-Mediterranean, especially its network members;
- EMUNI should attempt to play a central role in contributing to the regenerative capacity of the region’s scientific and research sector by providing support to the maintenance and strengthening of independent research institutes and autonomous research agendas;
- Promote the development and implementation of new multi-disciplinary programmes that contribute to mitigating and preventing future crises, in a holistic approach. In addition to being supportive of SDG 4.7, the new programmes need to contribute to regional cohesiveness, understanding and international cooperation;
- EMUNI, in partnership with its inner circle institutions, will continue to pursue and allocate funds for educational projects and research activities in areas of common interest, mutual benefit and direct relevance to their missions;
- Reinforce EMUNI’s partnership with the Euro-Med University of Fes (UEMF) in order to jointly and comprehensively address the challenges/opportunities arising from the crisis on both shores of the Mediterranean;
With a view to achieving the above-mentioned objectives, the EMUNI Management Board adopted the following conclusions and recommendations:
- The Management Board decided to set up a Task force to direct the response of EMUNI in face of the complex and multi-faceted crisis. The Task force is envisaged to be interdisciplinary, composed of designated and committed members from the EMUNI Management board, Senate and Inner Circle institutions, as well as external competent experts. The Task force will map the dimensions and repercussions of the crisis and liaise with EMUNI on its capacities to carve out the appropriate responses. This adhoc task force, facilitated by the EMUNi President, will report back to the MB within 4 weeks from its first assembly.
- Foster EMUNI’s capacity in online and e-learning through acquiring &/or developing state-of-the-art technologies and building or adapting online learning platforms and tools. This can be achieved through intensifying the development of educational projects’ proposals and fund-raising, within and beyond its network members.
- Organise webinars to build the capacity of the EMUNI network on the use of technology in education and conducting online teaching and learning.
- Accelerate the development and implementation of online courses and programmes addressing relevant fields, especially those related to public administration, public health and sustainable development. Special attention should be directed to emerging cross-cutting topics, such as future trends in globalisation, social cohesion, strategic planning and crisis management.
- Engage EMUNI’s Senate members, Inner Circle Institutions and General Assembly, as well as the general public, in a meaningful consultation to further shape EMUNI’s response to the crisis and develop co-ownership for future actions.
- Call upon the UfM Member States and Secretariat, the EC and the Slovenian government to hold a Euro-Med Ministerial meeting on Higher Education and Research to re-energise the efforts in this sector. This event could be aptly organised during the Slovenian Presidency of the EU (2nd semester of 2021).
- Reiterate the significance of a joint conference, as planned, between EMUNI, UEMF and UfM on internationalisation of HEIs when the circumstances allow. In addition, EMUNI and UEMF are encouraged to establish a joint initiative for advancing cooperation and partnership among Euro-Med HEIs through:
- a) Monitoring and evaluation of the state-of-the-art in higher education cooperation and recommendations on how to reinforce this cooperation;
- b) Promoting and coordinating effective mobilities of staff and students across the Mediterranean;
- c) Exploring the possibility of establishing a joint degree programme in one of the areas of high priority and relevance to Euro-Med cooperation.