Global CIVIS Days 2021 explore the ‘University in the City’

The University of Glasgow joined CIVIS in December 2020. Almost a year on, our communities have finally come together for the annual Global CIVIS Days event to celebrate our joint achievements, to inspire our students, staff and extended communities, and to continue to design engaging and innovative activities and programmes for all.

The theme of the Global Days was the University in the City and the symbiotic relationship between the two. We were particularly delighted to co-organise the three-day event with our CIVIS partners the Université libre de Bruxelles (host) and the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, around a topic that attunes so well with the ‘Community’ pillar of our institutional strategy and our civic mission to engage with our local and global communities.

"I was inspired by our collective sense of purpose, to make a real difference in the world as research-intensive universities anchored in our civic communities."

Between 24 and 26 November, students, university staff, civil society, innovators, policymakers and local representatives from across Europe came together to connect, discuss and reflect on the topic through a series of workshops, meetings and events open to external participants. The outcomes of these seminal interdisciplinary sessions will be woven into CIVIS’s aims and objectives to address societal changes brought about by climate change, and digital and technological transformation.

Getting to know each other

As the pandemic continues to restrict our travel, the Global CIVIS days were a particularly meaningful opportunity to build a shared sense of community, whether we met in person or online. Alongside workshops to develop our Interuniversity Digital Campus and remove the barriers to study and work freely within CIVIS, the photo contest and online exhibition anchored us firmly in our 10 campuses across Europe and provided a great way to discover each other's perspective on our places of study and work.

Creativity in action

And what better way to showcase the talent and creativity of our colleagues and students than setting them a challenge? The CIVIS Creathon saw 10 interdisciplinary multilingual and multicultural teams of staff and students compete to propose practical and innovative solutions to ‘Town & Gown’ challenges and improve the provisions and experience of students and local stakeholders. After two days of tireless work, our competitors had just three minutes to impress the Jury.

Beyond the Creathon, CIVIS Open Labs are actually where the university meets the city. From community building, quality of life for senior citizens, circularity, sustainable mobility, urban resilience and development, Open Labs projects have contributed to creating and nurturing partnerships with their ecosystem and brought truly transformative solutions to the local communities. The CIVIS Open labs public - and livestreamed - event demonstrated the long-term impact of the projects have already had on our city and regional partners, and how they have been the catalyst for creating new ways of approaching and addressing local needs by connecting the CIVIS research and academic communities with the knowledge and experience of their local partners.

European universities in the making

At the heart of the Global Civis days was a public conference in which our Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli, joined Paul Magnette, Mayor of Charleroi, President of the Socialist Party and Professor of Political Science, and Amaya Mendikoetxea, Rector of the Univerdidad Autónoma de Madrid, to reflect on the European University Initiative and its role not only in shaping the future of higher education in Europe, but also in helping reduce inequalities, increase access to quality training and create real opportunities for success for all our students and staff.

"The University of Glasgow is thrilled to be a member of CIVIS and we were grateful to have the opportunity to come together in-person to celebrate the successes of the Alliance, and further develop our ambitious plans, at the annual Global CIVIS Days in Brussels," says Rachel Sandison, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (External Engagement).

"It was wonderful to engage with our partners across nine European universities, including the newest member - the Paris Lodron University of Salzburg - and I was inspired by our collective sense of purpose, to make a real difference in the world as research-intensive universities anchored in our civic communities. I am excited to see what we can accomplish through our shared activity in the coming years."