Rector Pouyioutas: “We are creating an innovative digital European university, with campuses across nine European countries”
As a full member of the NEOLAiA European University Alliance, the University of Nicosia recently participated in the Alliance’s meeting that was held in Tours, France on 21-22 February 2022. The University of Nicosia was represented by a six-member team headed by the Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs, Professor Panayiotis Angelides. The team included Dr Melpo Iacovidou, Director of Academic Compliance Office, Petros Petrikkos, a PhD candidate, and Gülcan Damdelen, an undergraduate student. Ms Marianna Charalambous, Research Project Manager at the University’s Institute For the Future, and Irene Papapetrou, an undergraduate student, also attended the meeting virtually.
The aim of the meeting in France was to finalize the role of each university in the Alliance and to assign leaders, participants, and tasks to each work package, as well as to finalize the proposed budget. In addition, the meeting set up a Student Network, under which the students of the nine Alliance members will be able to more effectively participate and coordinate their activity. The Alliance will submit an application to the European Commission in March 2022 for a grant of approximately €14.4 million over the next four years, under the European University Alliances funding scheme.
The University of Nicosia will lead the “Digital Transformation” work package, as well as co-lead the “Adopting and Sustaining Open Science” work package, taking on a vital role in materializing the Alliance’s vision.
The “Digital Transformation” work package is heavily focused on the Metaverse and one of its aims is to support all universities/members of the Alliance to embrace digital transformation in education via the Metaverse and the innovative development of Virtual and Augmented Reality applications.
In addition, as the co-leader of the “Open Science” work package, the University of Nicosia will undertake the task to develop and sustain a comprehensive “NEOLAiA Open Science Policy”, by designing the appropriate rules, internal procedures, and strategy to enable the NEOLAiA Alliance to better understand and implement Open Science principles and practices. The NEOLAiA Open Science policy will be aligned with national and European policies.
Following the two-day meeting, Vice Rector Angelides commented: “The meeting to finalise the budget and the strategic decisions of the NEOLAiA Alliance was extremely constructive. We are confident that the network will bring significant benefits to the University of Nicosia but also to Cyprus in general, given its focus on investing in the future, in research, and in the improvement of our way of life“.
Dr Iacovidou, in turn, stated: “Through the meetings we had with colleagues from nine academic institutions across nine different cities and countries in Europe, we can clearly recognize that each university, utilizing its strengths, innovative programmes of study and its research centers, as well as its academic, research and administrative staff, can make a lasting contribution to achieving the vision and goals of the alliance in terms of digital transformation, diversity and inclusion, and global health“.
Ms Charalambous added: “The Department of Digital Innovation and the Institute For the Future recently announced the UNIC Open Metaverse Initiative, which is focused on the academic, research and policy issues relating to the Metaverse, with a particular emphasis on open public systems and standards. The University’s expertise will substantively inform the “Digital Transformation” work package, contributing to the achievement of the work package aims via the development of stronger synergies”.
Student representative, doctoral candidate Petros Petrikkos stated: “Having the opportunity to represent the University of Nicosia, put forward our questions, and express our views and opinions, both to other students and to academic and administrative representatives of the alliance, is a testament that the alliance has already achieved a great deal. It is an initiative that unites a variety of views and contributes to the continuous improvement and establishment of a more open and European culture in academia“.
Undergraduate student Gülcan Damdelen said: “I had the opportunity to discuss what we can do as a student network with my fellow students, and how we can support and connect the students of our alliance, while at the same time we shared our views, discussed cultural issues, and got to know each other better on a personal level. I look forward to the bright future of this initiative“.
Finally, undergraduate student Irene Papapetrou added: “Being a student representative for NEOLAiA has been a truly rewarding experience. I have met and engaged with distinguished students from universities in nine different countries across Europe. It’s an honour to be given the opportunity to be part of the student network for this new innovative alliance project”.
The Rector of the University of Nicosia, Professor Philippos Pouyioutas, thanked all five participants for their participation in the highly productive meeting, and stated: “I am very proud of the ever-increasing international recognition that our university enjoys, which was an important criterion for our membership in the NEOLAiA Alliance. Together with our partners, we are creating a digital and innovative European University with campuses across nine European countries, including Cyprus, continuing to successfully promote our country as an international centre for quality Higher Education”.
The main strategic goal of the NEOLAiA Alliance, among others, is to strengthen and acquire a common digital identity, to digitize the educational environment, to strengthen tolerance, diversity, and inclusion, to invest in research, to contribute to society and culture, to support democracy, to offer innovative solutions to global health issues, and to provide high quality education for all the member university regions.
Participants in the network, alongside the University of Nicosia, are the University of Jaén, Spain, the University of Tours, France, the University of Bielefeld, Germany, the Örebro University, Sweden, the University of Salerno, Italy, the Uliauliai State University of Applied Sciences, Lithuania, the “Stefan Cel Mare” University of Suceava, Romania, and the University of Ostrava, Czech Republic.