One year of UNITE!, a project with the UPC's participation to build the university of the future

In their first year, almost fully virtualised because of the pandemic, the initiatives and projects of UNITE! have established the basis of an alliance that articulates the aims of seven of the most prestigious European universities. One of its first substantial missions is the design of a digital metaplatform that will connect the experience of virtual learning and joint teaching programmes of more than 167,000 students.

Dec 14, 2020

The UPC, along withTechnical University of Darmstadt ,Aalto University,  the KTH (Royal Institute of Technology), Grenoble INP graduate schools of engineering and management (University Grenoble Alpes), the Politecnico di Torino  and the Universidade de Lisboa , drive the UNITE!  project as a starting point of the European Commission’s new approach to the future of the European Higher Education Area. The aim is to build a common space with these institutions for multidisciplinary education and cooperation in teaching, research and knowledge transfer between regions. UNITE!, which is part of the strategic investment for improving the quality and appeal of higher education in Europe, celebrates its first year in the digital format imposed by the pandemic. Among the new projects that are in sight, one of the most relevant is the creation of the first pan-European virtual campus. IThinkUPC, a company in the UPC Group, is overseeing the development of the platform.

Adaptation and leadership in challenging times
In its first year, the project has faced the extraordinary situations that have arisen from the pandemic. One example is the adaptation to virtual environments of events such as INSPIRED, a summer school led by TU Darmstadt. In its virtual format and one-week duration, it served to configure an international project for digital learning. Oriented towards interdisciplinary research, its theme was interstellar pharmacy, within the scope of bioengineering.

One year of UNITE!
In its first year, UNITE! defined its shape from the configuration of its governance units and the arrangement of periodic face-to-face and virtual meetings, in which all the members of the alliance were present. Moreover, the project has started to define academic content around the focus areas in which the partner universities are global leaders. A good example is Virtual Credit Mobility in Energy, which will include virtual courses recognised by all participating universities. This virtual framework will open up an international academic experience to a wide range of student groups.

The task forces of the alliance, which are the main drivers of UNITE!, have also been organised, as well as the project’s main communication channels. Similarly, the quality assessment and the good practices of the alliance have been defined in the Quality Assessment Manual.

In this first year, UNITE! has also been one of the four participants in the EUniQ, project, which aims to develop a common European framework for the quality assessment of European university alliances.

A metaplatform for a future UNITE! virtual campus
The UNITE! metacampus will be developed in forthcoming months by IThinkUPC, the consulting and software advanced-services company of the UPC Group. The new metacampus will be a last-generation digital platform that will connect the seven universities in the alliance and grant online access to the teaching programmes and academic activities that are offered within the UNITE! framework.

The UNITE! metacampus joins the existing virtual campuses available at each of the partner universities. Students will be able to access mobility programmes tailored to their interests and individual needs. The metacampus will also articulate non-regulated learning events and experiences and will be the main tool for student communication, orientation and support.

Lecturers will also be able to take advantage of the metacampus as a tool to improve their relationship with individual students, with special attention being given to key aspects such as the specific needs of first-year students. One of the main values of the future UNITE! metacampus is also one of the main values of the alliance: to foster multiculturalism and multilingualism.

The metacampus will be developed during the pilot phase of the alliance (2019-2022) as an ever-evolving process, as it sows the seed for the virtual campus of the future European university that the UNITE! alliance aims to become.