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European Universities – driving the sustainable University of the Future

Una Europa, Freie Universität Berlin | Aleksandra Lis, Soledad Garcia Ferrari, Jan-Martin Wiarda, Doris Alexander, Verena Blechinger-Talcott, Günter M. Ziegler

2nd Una Europa Talk : European Universities – driving the sustainable University of the Future?

Join us for our second Una Europa Talk on YouTube on 2 November at 16.30 CET, where we will explore the role European universities can and must play in creating the Sustainable University of the Future.

Our Talk is your Talk. Share your thoughts and questions in the YouTube comments or on Twitter and Instagram using #UnaEuropaTalk.

Sustainable development is one of the biggest global challenges of our time. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the European Union’s European Green Deal address the global challenges we face today and provide the framework to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. They highlight the need to work across different disciplines and sectors and for closer engagement with citizens.

Higher Education Institutions have a crucial role to play as drivers of fresh thinking and innovation and key contributors to the objectives of both the European Green Deal and the UN SDGs. ‘Green Universities’ are also central the European Strategy for Universities with a focus on inter- and transdisciplinary education and research that is needed to assess, understand and solve the global challenges of today. In addition, the upcoming Commission proposal for a Council Recommendation on Education for Environmental Sustainability is testament to the growing importance of teaching sustainable development across disciplines to educate the European graduates and citizens of the future. Horizon Europe, the EU’s largest ever research and innovation funding programme (2021 – 2027), aims to tackle climate change and help achieve the UN SDGs with a notable amount of the Horizon Europe budget to be dedicated to sustainable development. The Missions in Horizon Europe, a novelty in the programme, in particular have been designed to bring concrete solutions to some of the greatest global challenges and support Europe’s transformation into a greener, healthier, more inclusive and resilient continent.

The focus on sustainability is fundamental to Una Europa, as a strategic building block of the alliance. The Una Europa partner institutions share an understanding of the ‘sustainable university’ as an institution that systematically develops communities, opportunities, spaces, and projects to tackle global environmental and societal challenges. Una Europa partner universities see it as their institutional responsibility to actively shape global discourse and address the related challenges in all areas of our universities, developing a ‘whole-institution approach’ to sustainability in linking efforts in teaching, research, service to society as well as governance and campus management.

The second Una Europa Talk brings together experts from across Una Europa partner institutions and CHARM-EU European University to discuss the role and responsibility of European Universities in driving the sustainable university of the future and achieving well-being of citizens and society at large. Our panel brings together diverse viewpoints, notably students, teachers, researchers and professional staff from across the European University community; the community that will be so central to transforming into a Sustainable University of the Future.



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The on-site event is for invited guests only.

If you are interested in the activities of the Una Talk, find more information on their website.

Aleksandra Lis

Jagiellonian University

Aleksandra Lis is a PhD student in cultural studies and prepares her second dissertation in cultural studies at Uniwersytet Jagielloński w Krakowie. She already holds PhD in management. Her fields of interest include Higher Education management, governance and academic culture. In the years 2010 – 2014 she worked in the Jagiellonian University Centre for Research on Higher Education. She has participated in national and European projects focused on different educational levels: higher education, vocational education and training, validation of prior learning. She is experienced in different kind of national and international projects dedicated to education, as well as cooperation with European agencies, such as Cedefop and national institutions – Regional Labour Office and Educational Research Institute. Currently she is engaged in the activities of the Future University Lab project—a joint initiative UNA Europa alliance and the Jagiellonian University, aiming at exploring the future challenges of higher education in Europe.

Soledad Garcia Ferrari

University of Edinburgh

Professor in Global Urbanism and Resilience at the University of Edinburgh. Professionally qualified in Architecture and Urbanism in Uruguay, her research focuses on current processes of urban development and regeneration in Latin America and Europe. Soledad has extensive expertise in sustainable planning in growing Latin American cities, with a focus on community-empowerment, participatory and co-creation processes in the production and management of the built environment, with particular interest in increasing resilience and adaptation to climate change. She is currently leading research focused on community-led climate change-related risk management in Mexico and Colombia. She taught in the Faculty of Architecture in Montevideo, the University of Seville and was invited speaker to the School of Architecture, CEU in Madrid. She is currently Dean International for the College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences and Dean for Latin America and Director of the Centre for Contemporary Latin American Studies at the University of Edinburgh.

Moderator Dr Jan-Martin Wiarda, born in 1976, is a freelance journalist and blogger for education and science. From January 2013 to July 2015, he was Head of Communications and Media and Press Spokesperson of the Helmholtz Association. From 2004 to 2012, Wiarda was editor and most recently deputy head of the education department “Chancen” of the weekly newspaper “DIE ZEIT”. He studied political science, economics and sociology in Munich, attended the German School of Journalism there and then transferred to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,USA, where he continued his journalism studies.

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The Transformative Effect of Science – A Joint Event of the Berlin University Alliance and the European Research Council

Doris Alexander


Associate Director of European Engagement, Trinity College Dublin,and Project Management Team CHARM-EU European Universities Alliance. Doris established Trinity College’s Research Development Office in 1994and together with previous researcher experience, has a history of interaction with the EC Research Framework Programme (both policy and project level) dating back to Framework 2. Coupled with experience of other EU programmes, Doris is an EU policy and strategy expert who drove the successful development, implementation and delivery of theUniversity’s first in-depth Research Diversification Strategy. Doris took up post as the Associate Director of European Engagement in 2019 and is responsible for, the development of strategies of engagement with theHorizon Europe and Erasmus Programmes. She was one of the principal writers of the CHARM-EU European Universities application and, subsequent to that, of its R&I top up project, TORCH. She developed a document around incorporating environmental sustainability in HorizonEurope and Erasmus projects and has an interest in how Universities can contribute to a more sustainable future. She is the Principal investigatoron a national grant (Enterprise Ireland) focussed on driving out more ArtsHumanities and Social science engagement in the EC Framework programme. She is also currently on the steering group of the European ResearchProjects Managers Group of the League of European ResearchUniversities (LERU) and is on the management team for CHARM-EU and represents that alliance on the R&I subgroup of the FOR-EU informal network. Doris served on the board of the European Association ofResearch Managers and Administrators (EARMA) and is now linked totheir Horizon Europe working group. She has also represented Ireland on the Expert Group of Member states on the Horizon Europe/Horizon 2020Model Grant Agreement. She was a Vice WG lead in the recently concluded INTREPID EU COST (European Cooperation in Science andTechnology) action which focussed on interdisciplinarity. Doris holds a BA(Hons) in Mathematical Science and an MSc in Computer Science (Healthinformatics) from Trinity College.

Verena Blechinger-Talcott


Vice President for International Affairs and Professor of Japanese Politics and Political Economy at Freie Universität Berlin. She studiedPolitical Science, Japanese Studies and Law in Munich, Kyoto and Tokyo.She received her M.A. in Japanese Studies in 1991 and her PhD in PoliticalScience in 1997, both from Munich University. After postdoctoral research as Advanced Research Fellow in the Program on US-Japan Relations atHarvard University, she was Assistant Professor in the Department ofGovernment at Hamilton College, Clinton (NY). In 2004, she joined the faculty of Freie Universität Berlin. At Freie Universität Berlin, she wasDean of the Department of History and Cultural Studies (2007-2011) and a member of the Academic Senate (2013-2018). In 2018, she was elected and appointed Vice President for International Affairs at Freie Universität Berlin. She has written and edited several books and numerous articles onJapanese politics, international relations and political economy. Photo credit: Bernd Wannenmacher

Günter M. Ziegler

Freie Universität Berlin

He started his studies at LMU Munich. He received his PhD in Mathematicsat M.I.T. in 1987. Since 1995, he has been a Professor of Mathematics at Technische Universität Berlin, and then from 2011 at The Freie Universität Berlin, where since 2018 he has served as the President.

He is a member of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, of the German National Academy Leopoldina, and of the German Academy of Engineering Sciences acatech. He has received numerous awards,including a DFG Leibniz prize, an ERC Advanced Grant, the CommunicatorAward, and the Berlin Science Prize of the Governing Mayor of Berlin. Photo credit: Bernd Wannenmacher

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