Maastricht University and YERUN - A recap and a glimpse into 2024

In 2023, Maastricht University (UM) continued to contribute actively to the Young European Research Universities Network (YERUN), a collaboration initiated seven years ago to amplify the voice of young academic institutions across Europe. Anchored in core values such as innovation, inclusion, openness and responsibility, YERUN provides a platform committed to nurturing research talent.

Within this network, UM is engaged in joint lobbying initiatives throughout Europe, fostering knowledge exchange and spearheading collaborative projects. The network currently consists of 23 members across Europe.

Each YERUN university has a dedicated coordinator who acts as a contact point for all developments surrounding the network. At UM, this person is Jan Hupkens. He underlines the significance of YERUN's current strategy, which pivots around the pillars of knowledge exchange, talent development and community engagement. These goals, he says, are pursued through cooperation between YERUN members.

"UM aims to enhance its understanding of Brussels affairs through this network, thereby bolstering its influence in European policy-making. The university also seeks to foster knowledge exchange on topics relevant to UM, including European Universities, Open Science, sustainability and support. Additionally, UM endeavours to facilitate new opportunities for both students and staff within this framework."

YERUN coordinator Jan Hupkens
Jan Hupkens
YERUN coordinator at Maatricht University

Reflecting on 2023

In the past year, UM actively engaged in several initiatives within YERUN. A dedicated internal working group at UM regularly convenes to delve into important themes, including Open Science, European Universities, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and collaborative efforts among Research Support Offices.

With input from UM, the YERUN Open Science Awards 2023 were launched and submissions were accepted until this month. UM researchers have been competing again this year. In February, two UM projects won prizes:

In March 2023, the YERUN General Assembly took place in Limerick, spotlighting strategic foresight in higher education. During the summer, UM actively participated in the YERUN Lunchtime Series tailored for early career researchers, featuring representatives from the EU and various universities. Aurélie Carlier, associate professor at MERLN and co-founder of FEM (Female Empowerment Maastricht University), represented our university by delivering a presentation on the importance of mentoring in scientific research.

Collaboration with Essex

Early this year, UM researcher Martin Schumann received recognition for his collaboration with the University of Essex, delving into the intersections of econometrics, applied research and innovation within companies. He is one of 157 researchers who have been selected for the YERUN Researcher Mobility Awards over the past five years.

PHD candidates from both universities also found each other for collaboration within the network. In the legal realm, a comparative analysis of the different cultural interpretations and regulations in the Netherlands and Wales/England regarding sexual consent was carried out. "The links with Essex demonstrate our university's commitment to international research networks," Jan Hupkens says.

Joint policy positions

"In addition to all the joint initiatives, YERUN has generated significant policy input. Several position papers have been published this year on key policy topics such as the evaluation of the Horizon 2020 and the Horizon Europe programme, and the European Research Area Policy Agenda."

The current policy focus centres on key initiatives: the European Universities Initiative, the European Excellence Initiative, for which a position paper was also published this year, the Research Careers Framework and the Reform of Research Assessment.

"Within the latter initiative, a position paper has been published on sustainable and attractive careers in higher education. This initiative builds upon the groundwork established during the YERUN General Assembly in Maastricht in November 2022. Notably, the network has developed a keen awareness of the significance of recognition and rewards in research. This year, the website showcased UM's leadership role in this realm, following the publication of a policy paper by HR policy adviser Daphne Snackers.”


Broader cooperation

Initiated by UM, a series of regular meetings between Data Protection Officers (DPOs) and Erasmus+ officers has been convened within the YERUN framework since this year. These consultations primarily focus on the interpretation and application of EU legislation, with the overarching goal of fostering knowledge exchange at the European level.

Prof Hildegard Schneider sits on the YERUN board on behalf of UM, but there is another link between UM and the European network of young research universities, says Hupkens: "YERUN regularly brings together the universities that have signed the CoARA declaration. That is the Coalition for Advancing Research Assessment and it is chaired by our president, Rianne Letschert."

Prof. Rianne Letschert, President of Maastricht University:

“I greatly appreciate the efforts of all colleagues involved in YERUN over the past year. For the coming year, I look forward to seeing important new initiatives, including the YERUN Research Collaborative Platform, come to fruition. Maastricht University, as the European university of the Netherlands, will continue its steadfast commitment to internationalisation in 2024, serving as a driving force for the region. From our European perspective, we will also strengthen our global engagement. YERUN's role as the voice of young universities in Europe is greatly beneficial for our objectives.”

Looking ahead - 2024

YERUN - Young European Research Universities Network

As YERUN's current strategic programme unfolds from 2021 to 2025, the upcoming year promises a flurry of activities and advancements. Jan Hupkens provides a brief overview of the key points on the agenda:

"2024 will see the introduction of the YERUN Research Collaborative Platform pilot, a digital dashboard designed to connect researchers and provide insights into available funding sources. This tangible initiative marks a crucial step in enhancing collaboration within the network.”

Furthermore, the action plan for the second phase of the strategic programme will come into effect, focusing on the impact of young universities on the region, promoting lifelong learning and advancing Open Science.

"Next year there will be 24 members, as Tallinn also joins the network. Another important event is the YERUN General Assembly in March 2024, held at Université Paris Dauphine-PSL. Finally, we are looking forward to the 10th anniversary of YERUN in 2026. This will be celebrated in grand style."

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