Universities during the Post-Covid Era: A View from the International Student Community
The UNICA Students' Conference, initiated in 2000 by Freie Universität Berlin, the first university to advocate for the involvement of students in the activities of the network, has already become an established and joyful tradition of UNICA. Every 2-3 years, the conference gathers from 200 to 300 students from UNICA member universities, whose enthusiasm and ideas bring a breath of fresh air to the network.
The conference provides students with a unique opportunity to meet with their peers from other European countries and share their views on important issues related to higher education. Students are also invited to formulate opinions and recommendations that can be voiced in the UNICA network, as well as relevant stakeholders, which will serve as an impetus for new interesting initiatives.
HSE students took part in two sections of the conference: “How can universities and cities work together to improve students’ life?” and “International students: engaging with local communities”.
Varvara Larina (International Management) and Anastasia Korovaeva (Marketing and Market Analytics) share their experience.
Varvara Larina, Master in International Management
“The UNICA conference was a unique experience in my student life. I decided to take part knowing almost nothing about it, but being very interested in the topic chosen, which was “How can universities and cities work together to improve students’ life?”, and in working closely with international students from different European universities.
Initially, the whole concept of the conference is to discover students’ needs and desires that can be left out by the universities’ management. All the work is usually done in small groups of students and their coordinator. This year all the participants conducted their own research and wrote an abstract in the beginning to be prepared for the conference, and then joined a few warm-up meetings in order to get to know each other and discuss the topic. Although not everyone had an opportunity to attend these meetings, they were a good opportunity to brainstorm on the topic given and to collect all the best ideas coming from various students’ experience. In addition, the Nova University from Lisbon invited a few experts to share their views on the problem of universities’ development, which also helped us, students, to work on our comprehensive topic.
Finally, on 19-21 July 2021, we all joined the UNICA zoom meeting to work in our groups on a final statement. We spent two days on sharing our experience and vision of students’ main needs and on choosing the most important ones among them. On the third day our coordinator from Nova University presented our ideas to the organizers and experts. Our group proposed universities and cities to pay attention to the financial side of students’ life; organization of a so-called career center with the aim of providing students with job opportunities such as internships, volunteering, and graduate vacancies; organization of cultural events and trips or, in other words, some entertainment that would add various experience to students’ life.
Overall, the whole conference was a great experience consisted of international collaboration, establishment of new contacts with students from different European countries, practice of team work and communication. An interesting discovery that I have made during the conference was that all the students have similar needs and desired, which means universities and cities already know what to do, and the only goal now is to collaborate altogether – universities, cities, and students – and improve students’ life.
I believe that such conferences are important for both students and universities in order to understand better each other’ needs and to establish good communication among students, professors and universities’ management.
Anastasia Korovaeva, Master in Marketing and Market Analytics
“This year I was lucky enough to participate in the international conference “Unica Student conference”. In the summer of 2021, the format of the event was remote, but the organizers tried to convey the spirit of live communication and interaction between the participants as much as possible.
The conference was held on ten topics, on which we prepared small reports, presented them and discussed together on various topics. There was no need for each student to present his article in detail on a piece of paper. On the contrary, the discussion took place as a whole group, in which there were interesting insights, and everyone could support one another.
My report was presented on one the topics of "International students: engaging with local communities". This semester, I was in another country for quite a long time (thanks to the HSE, I was a foreign exchange student at ESSEC Business School) and communicated a lot with both Erasmus and international students who were doing a bachelor's or a master's degree. It was an unforgettable experience that helped me at the conference. Most of the information I shared during the discussion was acquired from my own experience or first-hand experience. I think this is very important for such conferences.
I really liked the discussion with my team, where most of the time everyone was proactive, they wanted to share knowledge and experience. Even online round tables were organized, where everyone put their icon in a certain place and spoke on a certain topic. This created a special atmosphere and added interest.
Many thanks to the organizers of the conference and all partner universities! It is very important that even during the pandemic, we can all get together online to discuss topical issues for students!
I would really like the conference to be held offline next year so that we could see each other!
To get acquainted with the results of the work of student groups, follow the link.
UNICA is an institutional Network of Universities from the Capitals of Europe. It was founded in 1990, and it is currently made up of 54 universities from 38 capital cities of Europe, combining over 180,000 university staff and 2,000,000 students.