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“The Idea of a European University is Now Coming to Life”

A conversation with the new YUFE head coordinator Dr. Philipp Baur

Campus Life

Ten universities are working together in the “Young Universities for the Future of Europe” (YUFE) network to create a European university. Philipp Baur has led the Bremen team since November. The alliance is entering an interesting phase, he says, and explains how students, administrative staff, and researchers can benefit from YUFE.

Mr. Baur, what are your tasks in YUFE?

As head coordinator, I bring together a team of more than ten people to work directly on developing YUFE with their varying expertise – student exchanges, quality development, personnel training, technical infrastructure, and legal advice. I mediate between these different areas and work on anchoring YUFE better into the university structures. To do so, I meet regularly with students, administrative staff, the faculties, and the university administration. And finally, within the Executive Committee - the management committee at alliance level - I have a role that acts as a link to the institutional coordinators of the other partner universities. I am getting to know many different fields of work and many people. This is very fulfilling for me.

What aspects of YUFE do you find fascinating?

I value the opportunity YUFE provides for intense university collaboration at an institutional level. European exchanges of students, teaching staff, and administrative staff have been around for a long time, amongst others, with the Erasmus program. This allows the individual participants to receive cross-cultural experiences independent of how closely their universities cooperate. Alliances like YUFE go further: We want to not just support individuals with our various services, but also use their training and experience here at home to further strengthen and develop the University of Bremen. YUFE offers a community of practice in which we can test new ideas and learn with our other partners. When it comes to digitalization in teaching and administration, further training for personnel, or preparing students for the job market, I am convinced that we can gain inspiration from our YUFE partner universities.

What stage is YUFE at now?

The project is in a very exciting phase. YUFE was established in 2019 and in the first three years, the main goal was to create concepts and goals for the collaboration. Students have been using YUFE’s services since 2020. Across the alliance, more than 1,300 students have participated so far. At the end of 2022, the funding period was extended for an additional four years. Now everything is more concrete and we can show what we have been working on behind the scenes this whole time.

In fall 2024, YUFE will offer three new further training courses on leadership competencies, personnel development, and open science. These courses are a mixture of online and in-person training. These are unique in that participation is not just possible for those in Bremen, but from all YUFE partner universities. This European outreach is a central component of the courses. In addition, students and employees will have the opportunity in 2024 to take part in language courses in the languages of the YUFE partner countries. Courses offered range from regular online and in-person language courses with ECTS to guided self-study courses to an online language café. This also provides real intercultural YUFE experience.

What are the parts you would like to implement at the University of Bremen?

We would like to support faculty initiatives with start-up financing from third-party funds. In the future, there will be funding for technical equipment, to support digital teaching, student assistants, English-language teaching assignments, and cooperation in the form of Blended Intensive Programmes (BIPs), for example. The goal is to support the collaborations, which are currently being established to give YUFE a broader and more sustainable anchoring. We also look forward to new “bottom-up” initiatives, in which teaching staff members of various faculties can work together to develop teaching collaborations, such as the BioYUFE or the YUFE law initiative.

The next call for the Student Journey will be open in April and May 2024 and we are already looking forward to many applications from students in Bremen. This service gives students the chance to study over a period of four semesters at various universities, to participate in individual online courses or language courses, or to volunteer. These possibilities go way above and beyond an individual Erasmus semester. YUFE minors also provide a pre-structured program for possible YUFE exchange semesters. A minor consists of 30 ECTS, includes a wide range of course options, and is offered by one or more alliance universities – a great option for integrating YUFE into your degree program. It is worthwhile to look at the YUFE website and the YUFE virtual campus.

What international experiences have you taken part in?

I am originally from Augsburg, where I studied modern history, German, and English. During my degree program, I spent a bit of time in England and at the University of Georgia in the USA. I received my PhD from the University of Mannheim, and nine years ago, I moved with my family to Uppsala, Sweden. I worked in the international office of the university there, in particular, with international cooperation projects and networks. In addition to research and teaching, cooperation (samverkan in Swedish) is an important mission of Swedish universities, and I learned how to establish and maintain partnerships. Uppsala is also involved in establishing a European university. From this experience, I know the challenges, but also the unforeseen internal synergies that the initiative can create.

How have your first weeks in Bremen gone?

The move back to Germany with my partner and two children was rushed and arduous, but by now, we are well established here. My partner works as professor at the University of Oldenburg, where we both live. I felt at home right away at the University of Bremen – the type of campus university from the 1970s reminded me of my alma mater, University of Augsburg. My experience with people here has been very relaxed and that makes working together a lot easier.

About YUFE

The goal of the YUFE project is for the University of Bremen to establish a European university with nine other universities: Maastricht University (Netherlands), Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń (Poland), Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (Spain), University of Antwerp (Belgium), University of Cyprus, University of Eastern Finland, University of Essex (Great Britain), University of Rijeka (Croatia), and the Sorbonne Nouvelle University (France). The YUFE alliance was selected and is funded by the European Union. The University of Bremen also receives support from the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) as well as Bremen State.

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