On 14 January 2021, students from the ECIU member universities came together to kick-start the ECIU University Student Agora: an environment where students are at the heart of university not only as learners, but also as active co-creators.
Students and staff from the ECIU University members met for the first time to start the discussions regarding the involvement of the students in the ECIU University development. The opening speech of ECIU President Victor van der Chijs focused on the objective for the ECIU University to become an open, agile co-creation ecosystem: “student voices matter – we need their curiosity and creativity; we would like students to provide the ECIU University with their insights and their own vision of how this university could be a game changer”.
Gohar Hovhannisyan, external expert for the ECIU University and former President of the European Student Union (ESU), also stressed the connection between the ECIU values and those of the students’ representatives and the students’ communities: “students’ values are not only seen within the University walls but in all the society. When students are embedded in a whole environment, they become change makers”.
She also underlined the active role of the university in involving students in as many decisions and projects as possible: “sometimes opening the possibilities and giving independence in the construction of their learning can be rough at the beginning because this is not something students, especially straight from school, are used to. Yet the students can and will adapt, and this adaptation will lead to a full engagement”. Ms Hovhannisyan suggested creating a link between students and the institution, also ensuring both-way communication in the form of regular meetings, workshops, etc.
In the event’s break-out session, students shared their university experiences in co-creation. Even if the definition of co-creation was stressed to be a large one, all the students’ representatives were used to forms of co-shaping, co-creation or important participation in projects and decision making in their universities. Students also highlighted that co-creation within the ECIU University brings the topic to another level of participation, and this is highly motivating.
For student engagement to be facilitated, the ECIU University together with the Institut National des Sciences Appliquées (INSA) created the ECIU Student Community Engagement Manager position. Benjamin Beton, the former President of the Erasmus Student Network (ESN) in France started working in this position this January. Mr. Beton sees the Students Agora as a dialogue opener with the students: “starting this dynamic is the first step of an important inclusion of all the students’ voices into the development of the ECIU University. We aim, through this dialogue, to link the students with member universities’ stakeholders. I strongly believe that these connections will lead to a strengthened community”.
The start of ECIU Student Community Engagement Manager and kick-off of Agora mark the beginning of a long-lasting collaboration, new ways of student engagement and co-creation.