On December 6, leadership from UArctic higher education member institutions convened for their first face-to-face meeting since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Rectors' meeting took place at the University of Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines (UVSQ) just outside Paris, France. With speakers from UArctic member universities, the French government, the EU Commission, and International Association of Universities, the day offered valuable exchange of experiences and interesting perspectives to common issues.
Olivier Poivre d’Arvor, French Ambassador to the Poles, spoke about the increasing interest and emphasis on Arctic issues in France, including the upcoming French strategy on the poles, and the role of academic and scientific networking and collaboration, now more important than ever. With the upcoming Arctic Science Ministerial co-hosted by France and Russia, Valeriy Mikheev from Russian State Hydrometeorological University joined the meeting online to present an overview of the plans for ASM4. In his presentation Rector Mikheev also referred to the plans that are underway for the next International Polar Year, plans in which UArctic is involved as well.
Deputy Director-General for European Commission Signe Ratso highlighted European perspectives to higher education, including the European strategy for universities, and Europe's global approach to research and innovation. She also briefly introduced the new EU Arctic strategy which outlines how the EU responds to Arctic challenges. Concluding the day's presentations, Vice-President Sandrine Lacombe gave an overview of Université Paris-Saclay, an impressive project of bringing together 18 French institutions for excellence in higher education and research.
The second half of the meeting consisted of two panels. Moderated by Satu Uusiautti, Vice-Rector for Education at the University of Lapland, the first panel focused on the internationalization of studies, and especially the challenge of merging higher education institutions. The panelists discussed the role of alliances and mergers in becoming stronger and tackling joint problems, and also their role in boosting internationalization. Representing the highest leadership of their institutions, the panelists also spoke about the opportunities and challenges that internationalization presents, as well as the obstacles to internationalizing their institutions.
- Dag Rune Olsen, Rector of UiT the Arctic University of Norway
- Sandrine Lacombe, Vice-President in charge of International Relations of University of Paris-Saclay, and PI of the European University Alliance EUGLOH
- Birgitta Bergvall-Kåreborn, Rector of Luleå University of Technology
- Hanna Snellman, Vice Rector International of University of Helsinki
The second panel continued on the topic of internationalization of studies, this time from an Arctic context, and also discussed the creation of joint degree programs. Moderated by Hilligje van’t Land, Secretary General of the International Association of Universities, the session introduced perspectives from larger and smaller UArctic member institutions, ranging from Ilisimatusarfik (University of Greenland) with 750 students to Memorial University in Newfoundland with nearly 20,000 students. No matter the size of their institutions, the panelists agreed on the importance and value of building degrees and education based on local needs.
- Chik Collins, Rector of the University of the Faroe Islands
- Vianne Timmons, President of Memorial University of Newfoundland (online)
- Anatoly Nikolaev, Rector of North-Eastern Federal University (online)
- Uffe Jakobsen, Associate Professor at Copenhagen University, representing Ilisimatusarfik/University of Greenland
The meeting day concluded with a private tour and dinner at the Palace of Versailles, a memorable ending to the successful Rectors' meeting.
UArctic Rectors' meetings serve as a discussion forum and meeting place for the leadership from UArctic’s higher education member institutions. Often organized around a specific theme, the Rectors' meetings provide the opportunity to discuss joint issues related to higher education, training, and research, and the role of higher education institutions in the development of the Arctic as well as globally. Each Rectors' meeting is organized by the host institution(s), not by UArctic itself.