Dear YERUN friends,
The past year has been an eventful one, to say the very least. We have all experienced times of joy and sadness, of relief and shock. Through all of this, academic exchange in Europe has remained important, perhaps more than ever, and I am once again glad that our University can count on YERUN in times like these – for sharing joyful moments as well as for sending a signal of European solidarity. 2022 was also a year in which the ties within YERUN intensified and flourished.
Among the most inspiring ways in which YERUN can take shape are international conferences and events. Here, we can experience YERUN hands-on. One of our Network highlights of 2022 was the YERUN Multiplier Event on “International Collaboration and Joint Programmes at Doctoral Level in European University Alliances and Networks”, held in Brussels this past June. Together with the YERUN Office Team in Brussels, the University of Bremen organised the event, which was part of the Erasmus+ project “LINK EDU-RES”. At the event, participants discussed their experiences and plans for the internationalisation of doctoral programmes. Moreover, the summer of 2022 also saw the Summer School for Transferable Skills at the University of Essex; the attendees were around 50 doctoral candidates, three of them from the University of Bremen. The participants enhanced their knowledge of topics such as project management and communication skills, while also networking with their peers from fellow YERUN universities. One of our main take-aways from the past years was the appreciation of on-site events, and with this in mind, the exchanges taking place in Brussels and Essex were even more memorable.
However, 2022 also brought us sorrowful news. In February, Europe and the world stood in shock as Russia initiated a war of aggression on Ukraine in violation of international law. To this day, we are deeply saddened and troubled by the events. In times like these, European solidarity matters even more. The YERUN universities standing together in condemning the attack on Ukrainian sovereignty and European values is a strong sign of this solidarity. All of the YERUN universities have put forth initiatives to extend on-campus support towards Ukrainian researchers and students, such as scholarships, donation drives, and language training. I was greatly impressed by the speedy implementation of these important measures and the commitment shown by the universities in filling the term “European solidarity” with life.
As the year is nearing its end, we are looking towards Iran with feelings of grief and concern – grief for all the lives that have been lost in the past weeks, and concern over what the future will hold. What particularly saddens me as a university president is the fact that the Iranian government continues to limit the academic freedom at the country’s universities massively. We are frequently reading of arrests and violence against researchers and students, suspended classes, and sealed-off campuses. Universities have always been places of free thinking and speaking, and the brutality with which the Iranian government is restricting these freedoms is shocking. I hope for the violence in Iran to end soon, for academic freedom to be restored, and for the Iranian government to initiate investigations into the physical attacks against protesting students, researchers, women, and all Iranians fighting for freedom.
It is in this spirit of hope even in difficult times that I wish all of you happy holidays, no matter where you are and how or if you celebrate. May these days bring you peace and calm, and may you and your loved ones have a prosperous new year, filled with health and happiness!