The University of Jyväskylä is part of a network formed by seven European universities. The foundational idea of the FORTHEM Alliance is to discover the best possible means for cooperation between partner universities in a way where the universities complement each others’ skills and come up with new solutions to common challenges. The goal is particularly to offer new opportunities for internationalization to students in a changing world. Within the initiative students can, for example, get funding for week-long intensive courses, increase their virtual mobility by participating in common online courses, find international internship opportunities more easily, or participate in the activities of multidisciplinary and multinational expert teams.
As the second year of the project begins, the basic functions of the initiative are well on their way and operating models have been formed, so the Alliance activities are expected to become even broader and efficient.
New ways for international cooperation
The Digital Academy mission builds a common platform for common virtual courses and collaborative projects between the Alliance universities. The Mobility mission, on the other hand, plans and executes diverse student and staff mobility across the Alliance universities, both physically and online. Outreach organizes internship positions for students and supplementary training for school teachers, while FORTHEM Labs enables the operation of multidisciplinary expert teams to solve societal challenges.
The University of Jyväskylä is working closely not only with other Alliance universities, but also with local schools, third sector actors and private businesses. The FORTHEM Alliance makes it possible for local businesses to hire international interns and form new contacts with companies in the other Alliance universities’ countries. Schools that act as external partners can also hire international trainees and provide their teachers an opportunity for international supplementary trainings.
Concrete cooperation with schools and businesses in the Jyväskylä region
“For example, the principals of the Jyskä and Mankola schools have been closely involved in thinking what kinds of internship opportunities their schools could provide to students of the FORTHEM Alliance,” says Reija Häkkinen, JYU’s contact person for the Outreach function. “We aim to time pre-service teachers’ internships in a way that there are both an international and a JYU intern there at the same time. This way we hope to find as many opportunities for success and learning to all participants as possible.”
“We also want to provide opportunities for internationalization to the local businesses and the third sector through the FORTHEM Alliance’s students. FORTHEM cooperation can provide students with internships or student-led, international projects based on the principles of sustainability,” Häkkinen says.
JYU coordinates the multinational and multidisciplinary lab expert networks
“Labs are composed of students, researchers and external stakeholders of the respective Alliance universities, says Scientific Manager for Lab Actions Tamás Péter Szabó. “Labs seek workable, research-based solutions to societal challenges such as climate change, multilingualism and multiculturalism of societies, sustainable food production, digitalization, and health. There are seven Labs, and their activities focus on pilot projects that create useful outputs such as trainings, learning materials and publications to students, researchers and external stakeholders. Partners’ excitement and interest in the outputs was clearly visible in the Labs’ kick-off seminars. The autumn term will see further development of the outputs, and there is still plenty of time to join in. The core of JYU’s stakeholder network is currently comprised of the Jyskä and Mankola schools, the Multicultural Center Gloria and NGOs Paremmin yhdessä ry and Keski-Suomen yhteisöjen tuki ry, but we hope to expand this network in the future. We intend to integrate Labs’ activities to each partner university’s courses and researchers’ international research projects.”
“For the University of Jyväskylä, being part of the Alliance is a major form of international cooperation that is systematic, goal-directed and ambitious, says Marja-Leena Laakso, Vice Rector responsible for education. “The FORTHEM Alliance finely represents our university’s aim to build strategic, long-term companionships with foreign universities.
The Alliance’s goals to promote language and culture awareness, strengthen multidisciplinary and multinational cooperation in the solving of challenging global phenomena, and increasing civic engagement fit perfectly with our university’s strategy ‘Wisdom and wellbeing for us all’.”
Other universities that are part of the network are Johannes Gutenberg Universität Mainz (Germany), Université de Bourgogne (France), Università degli Studi di Palermo (Italy), Universitat de València (Spain), Uniwersytet Opole (Poland) and Latvijas Universitāte (Latvia).
The FORTHEM Alliance got its funding in the first European University pilot call in 2019 organized by the European Commission, and the second year of the Alliance has just kicked off. The goal of the Commission’s European University initiative is to build a European higher education area by 2025 by creating common degree programs, increasing student and staff mobility, reinforcing the connections between education, research and innovation and by increasing cooperation between universities and the business world.
The FORTHEM website www.jyu.fi/forthem contains detailed information about the current affairs of the Alliance. For more information about the project, you can also contact Project Manager Sanna Väisänen, firstname.lastname@example.org
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