14 January 2022
Young Universities for the Future of Europe (YUFE)

Successful maiden voyage through the global storm

Young Universities for the Future of Europe (YUFE), the UM-led European University, has launched its maiden voyage – in the choppiest of waters. YUFE puts students at the centre and invites them to co-create the institution. Dora Christodoulou and Giulia Giardino are among the UM pioneers in the YUFE Student Journey.

It was, to put it mildly, not the most auspicious of starts for YUFE. Its great selling points – European mobility and a chance to integrate into and experience different societies and cultures – were firmly cancelled by the pandemic. And yet, with its core compromised by the march of events, YUFE went ahead: already in the academic year 2020/21, the first 200 students, ten from each partner university, began the YUFE student Journey.

Having received an outstanding evaluation for their proposal for an EC grant to create the first European University, a UM led alliance of ten dynamic, innovative universities dedicated to open access, and sharing a strong sense of social responsibility and service to the regional communities, have set up YUFE. For students, this means: European mobility, professional development, language skills and civic engagement independent of socioeconomic and cultural background.

Inclusive: students at the helm

Students are at the centre: not only can they create their own curriculum, they are also in the lead during the development and implementation of YUFE. After two rounds of extensive evaluations and an online Meet&Greet chaired by UM President Martin Paul, the YUFE Student Journey pioneers are doing their part in co-creating this unique project.

“During the first evaluation, several of us mentioned that it was difficult having to navigate so many different online platforms, some of which weren’t even in English," remembers Dora Christodoulou from UM’s European Studies programme and one of the YUFE pioneers. “By the end of the year, there was already a YUFE Student Portal [part of the YUFE Virtual Campus], which made navigating a lot easier.” That is not to say that it was plain sailing.

“The days were really packed,” Dora says. “I’m working on the side, I chose one of the hardest minors and the course I followed in Antwerp [through YUFE] was at master’s level – so I certainly learned how to prioritise.” In addition to the political science course in Antwerp, she took a course in sustainability marketing and a German language course in Bremen. “The professors were all aware what YUFE was, so I felt accepted and welcome.”

Dora Christodoulou

A vast sea of knowledge

With mobility off the table, the greatest upside is the vast course offer students could choose from. “It’s obviously a very ambitious project but it has incredible potential. It’s a path to broad knowledge, to combining different perspectives.” Another student from the UM contingent, Giulia Giardino, a second year European Law School student, took a total of five courses in Antwerp, Eastern Finland, Essex and Madrid.

“It was great – it allowed me to gain a broader perspective. For example, I took philosophical courses, like bioethics, and other subjects that go well beyond the law curriculum.” Giulia says it’s about more than just the knowledge though: “UM’s approach is very particular – it’s one of the reasons I’ve decided to study here – but it was interesting to be exposed to different approaches, not just to learning but also how to interact with each other.”

Post-pandemic unmooring

“The one thing I’ve really missed was connecting with students from other universities,” says Giulia. “I realise there was no other way of doing it under the circumstances – but still, It was one of the things I was most excited about.” Giulia is looking forward to this aspect and can’t wait to re-enter the YUFE experience. “I think all the different perspectives and challenges will help me to better understand who I am and what I want to do.”

Giulia Giardino

Beyond the purely academic advantages, YUFE offers integrated extracurricular activities to aid personal growth. In the YUFE Student Journey, students can get four stars in the categories mobility, language learning, professional development and civic engagement. Giulia, who participates in the YUFE Student Journey, is focusing on achieving the first two stars, although they will – at least to her – carry the asterisk that it was all onscreen.

Despite the positive reactions so far, the full potential of YUFE will only be realised once the foundation of European mobility is restored after the pandemic. “It was a great experience,” concludes Dora, “but I’m even more optimistic about what’s to come for the next cohort. YUFE will take some time to build a reputation to be a success and because of the constantly changing student population at its centre, it will evolve a lot over the years.”

‘UM & Europe’ in the spotlight
2022 marks the 30th anniversary of the Maastricht Treaty; time to take stock of European integration. Moreover, a special conference on the future of Europe is scheduled in Maastricht from 11 to 13 February 2022. Plenty of reasons for the European university of the Netherlands to launch a new series of stories, and to publish an overview of all of our 'UM and Europe' information. Read more.

YUFE members

Academic:

  • Maastricht University
  • Nicolaus Copernicus University, Poland
  • Universidad Carlos III De Madrid, Spain
  • University of Antwerp, Belgium
  • University of Bremen, Germany
  • University of Cyprus, Cyprus
  • University of Eastern Finland, Finland
  • University of Essex, the United Kingdom
  • University of Rijeka, Croatia
  • Tor Vergata University of Rome, Italy

Non-Academic:

  • ETS Global
  • European Entrepreneurs CEA-PME
  • Kiron Open Higher Education gGmbH
  • The Adecco Group
By: Florian Raith