Europe plays a central role at the University of Passau – because of its numerous partnerships with other universities throughout the continent but also because Europe is an important teaching and research focus of the university. "The European responsibility to respond to global challenges with suitable solution strategies has led us at the University of Passau to the scientific examination of social development issues", said Professor Christina Hansen, Vice President for International Affairs, Europe and Diversity and head of the REform-EUN project. This commitment of the University to Europe is expressed in its application for the European University Alliance REform.
The REform consortium was established in the second half of 2022 and consists of higher education institutions from Tallinn (Estonia), Kajaani (Finland), Lyon and Paris (France), Pristina (Kosovo), Kufstein and Vienna (Austria), Porto (Portugal), Bucharest (Romania) and Budapest (Hungary) as well as Passau. While a large part of the application and project coordination took place online or bilaterally, representatives of ten higher education institutions met in person for the first time in mid-January at the Bucharest University of Economic Studies. The focus was on finalising the research proposal for the 2023 call and planning the joint project activities for 2023. The University of Pristina (Kosovo), which joined the REform project at the end of January 2023, will also participate in these activities, thus expanding the catchment area of the higher education alliance to the Western Balkans. "Within a very short time, a committed team of representatives from all partner universities has come together. Nationalities don’t matter at the conference table or in Zoom meetings – the people working together on this are simply dedicated Europeans", said Florence Ertel, Managing Director of the Science Hub for Europe, who coordinates the REform project activities.
Goals of the REform-EUN project
The European Union faces a multitude of challenges in 2023 caused by security uncertainties and the growing importance of geopolitical interests pressing on from the outside as well as anti-democratic and populist movements arising within it. In order to promote European values – such as human dignity, freedom, democracy, gender equality, the rule of law and human rights, which are mentioned in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union – the REform-EUN project aims to create an integrated, responsible, innovative, open and creative space. To this end, the partner universities pool their expertise in the fields of sustainability, ethics, business, technology, digitalisation, social welfare/medicine and social sciences in their remits of teaching, learning and research and transfer. The vision and long-term goal of the work of the REform-EUN project is a paradigm shift: from science in society to science for and with society, with the aim of having a positive impact on European and global society.
The consortium is united by a common vision for higher education in Europe: the unfolding of an ethical education space that will enable future European generations to address global challenges together and to act ethically and responsibly in developing innovations with great societal transformation potential. This vision builds on the Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) approach, which links the excellence of higher education institutions to how they discharge their social responsibility. Some of the experts on this are based in Passau – from all faculties of the University – where a clear focus on ethics research is emerging.