The EU-Russia roundtable “New Models of Educational Processes Organization, Novel Educational Practices and Internationalisation in the Post-COVID Reality”, held at the end of 2020, led to a follow up, joint report identifying shared conclusions and recommendations to universities and relevant policy makers in the field of higher education.
The roundtable gathered experts from the European Union as well as from Russian authorities and universities and allowed participants to share experience, voice common concerns, and exchange best practices over the difficult situation relating to the COVID-19 pandemic that both the EU and Russia are struggling with. The roundtable discussion was organised around three thematic tracks: new challenges for the educational process, academic mobility, and safe campus.
Interestingly, albeit not surprisingly, the discussion revealed that the challenges that universities in the EU and Russia are currently facing and their approach to dealing with those challenges are in general very similar. While there is a common acknowledgement that the higher education sector has suffered greatly from the pandemic, there is also a general agreement that the new circumstances have pushed universities to improve, to innovate, to quickly and creatively work on revealed deficiencies. They urged, for instance, to put students as key actors in the educational process, heightened concern about their well-being, accelerated digitalization processes and diversification of teaching and learning tools and forms.
International student, researcher and university staff mobility were among the first victims of the pandemic due to travel disruptions and closure of national borders. At the same time, it provided a stimulus to move closer to the implementation of the virtual mobility concept. While there may not be high demand for such format, it could however open up opportunities for students with children, people with physical disabilities, and for those who are entering the academic environment for the first time.
One of the main concerns of higher education professionals in Europe and in Russia is the future of university campuses. There are worries that with the further development and wider spread of digital learning the role of campuses will diminish, which would be a highly undesirable scenario as campuses play very important role in forming communities through social interaction between students and informal face-to-face interaction that cannot be transferred into digital formats. In order to keep the campus the "boiling point" of intelligence and creativity, it is required to assure students and staff safety and comfort on its territory.
The roundtable was attended by experts from the European Commission, seven key Russian universities and seven universities from EU countries (Finland, France, Germany and the Netherlands), the Russian National Erasmus+ Office, DAAD and Nuffic Neso headquarters, Erasmus Mundus Alumni Association, Association of European Businesses, European University Association, and others. The EU and German Ambassadors to Russia Markus Ederer and Geza Andreas von Geyr, as well as a Head of Department at the RF Ministry for Science and Higher Education Natalia Trukhanovskaya, opened the roundtable with welcome speeches.
For more information, see full report