International Cooperations, Projects, and Events
FernUniversität Follows French President's Initiative
In his Sorbonne speech in September 2017, French President Emmanuel Macron recommended founding at least 20 European Universities by 2024. These European Universities will consist of a network of universities from multiple European countries which work together across national and disciplinary borders in order to address the social challenges and skills shortages facing Europe. In addition, they should serve as sites for pedagogical innovation and excellent research.
The FernUniversität has responded to French President Emmanuel Macron’s call and has become a partner in the OpenEU European Universities Initiative. In the European Universities Initiative’s second call for proposals, the FernUniversität in Hagen has joined its partner distance-learning university in Catalonia, the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) in its OpenEU application.
European University Alliances
This positions distance learning universities as universities of the future in the context of lifelong learning, flexibility and accessibility. In addition to the FernUniversität, the seven partners include the Open Universiteit Nederland, the Open University UK, the Open University of Jyväskylä (associated), Anadolu University (Turkey), the Open University of Cyprus, and Hellenic Open University. The network includes more than 1.5 million students and is the first pan-European association of open universities. The term “open” refers to the model of digital/blended learning for a diverse student body, in the sense of creating equal opportunities (“widening participation”). The results of the call are expected in June 2020.
The application and further opportunities for collaboration were discussed in a network meeting with the UOC and the Open University of Jyväskylä at the end of February in Jyväskylä, Finland. “In addition to the EUI application, we are planning measures to support our staff, including a job shadowing initiative and a teaching unit on international cooperations as part of our eTeaching certificate,” reported Prof. Uwe Elsholz, Vice-President for Continuing Education, Knowledge Transfer and International Affairs. “We are intensifying our cooperation with the UOC and the Open University of Jyväskylä,” added Dr. Ingrid Thaler, coordinator of the International Office. “In particular, these universities are ideal partners for international teaching projects in the context of the Funding Program for Innovative Teaching. The International Office is happy to facilitate contact.”
Scholars at Risk
Whether through war or political pressure, research and scholarship are threatened in many countries. The Scholars at Risk (SAR) network has worked to protect scholars who are threatened or persecuted in their home countries since its founding in 1999. Since October 2019, the FernUniversität in Hagen is a member of the network of over 500 academic and research institutions in 41 countries.
With its membership in the organization, the FernUniversität expresses its support for the fundamental value of academic freedom and its solidarity with at-risk scholars worldwide. Its membership offers the FernUniversität a variety of ways to get involved, ranging from participation in relevant conferences and workshops to lecture series to hosting scholars who are in danger or who have fled persecution.
As a member of SAR the FernUniversität is automatically a part of the organization’s German section. The main contact institution for the section is the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Bonn. Among the assistance that SAR provides is mediating placements for endangered scholars at host institutions as well as threat assessments for the Philipp Schwartz Initiative. Via this initiative, higher education and research institutions in Germany receive the means to host at-risk researchers for 24 months with a fully-funded fellowship.
Drawing on the FernUniversität's unique strengths as a distance-learning university, plans are also in the works to establish opportunities for remote affiliations at the FernUniversität, which would allow members of the FernUniversität to provide connections and assistance from a distance to at-risk colleagues who for various reasons are not able to travel.
The International Office advises, supports and connects those at the FernUniversität who want to take action to help at-risk scholars and can also provide assistance and information regarding applications to funding organizations which financially support guest stays by affected scholars at German higher education institutions.
External Funding Options
Phone: +49 2331 987 2478
Funding Program for Innovative Teaching
The FernUniversität's internal Funding Program for Innovative Teaching was developed as part of the University Development Plan 2020 to promote forward-looking approaches to teaching and learning.
The funding program has already had three successfull calls for proposals since 2016, which focused on the strategic development areas of internationalization, digitalization, and the structure of study programs. With a total funding volume of 2 million euro to date, numerous projects have been successfully initiated and carried out.
In order to create new space for innovation, in 2020, there will be two more calls which are open to projects on any topic.The deadline for the first call is May 15, and the second is October 15.
The FernUniversität in Hagen considers international digital teaching and learning, in the form of virtual mobility, to be a cornerstone of its academic positioning. As a supplement or alternative to physical mobility, students at the FernUniversität have the opportunity to experience international university life and collaborate with students from other countries through virtual mobility. For students whose personal or professional situations do not allow for physical stay abroad, virtual mobility represents an opportunity to broaden their perspectives in a virtual setting.
Since 2016, nine international digital/blended teaching projects have been established in a variety of degree programs at the FernUniversität in Hagen, seven of which have been generously supported by the internal Funding Program for Innovative Teaching.
On the basis of these projects, the FernUniversität's International Office has compiled a set of guidelines to provide information and support for teaching staff interested in setting up a joint digital or blended learning unit with international partners. For more information about and support with international teaching collaborations at the FernUniversität, please do not hesitate to contact the International Office.
The FernUniversität’s annual International Day is an important forum for internal exchange about the progress of internationalization activities in teaching and learning, research, training the next generation of scholars and knowledge transfer at the FernUniversität. The most recent International Day in December 2019 demonstrated the diversity of approaches to internationalization at the FernUniversität.
The presentations at the event included overviews of the diverse international projects and activities at each of the FernUniversität's five faculties, information about opportunities for FernUniversität staff to gain international experience through programs such as Erasmus+ Staff Weeks and job shadowing, and an introduction to the International Office's newly-published guidelines for international digital teaching projects, which draw on the experiences of FernUniversität teaching staff to provide support for new teaching projects and partnerships.
A topic of special interest was the FernUniversität's recent entry into the global network Scholars at Risk, an association of over 500 academic and research institutions in 41 countries which provides support and solidarity to scholars whose academic freedom is threatened in their home countries. As a special international guest, the Turkish researcher Elif Sandal Önal reported on the situation of scholars who are critical of the government in her homeland. Önal herself currently lives in Bielefeld, Germany. The Turkish government confiscated her passport after she signed the Academics for Peace petition along with hundreds of other scholars in 2016.
Details and dates for the FernUniversität's 2020 International Day will be made available soon.
Erasmus+ Staff Week
The FernUniversität regularly hosts Erasmus+ Staff Weeks, which connect staff from higher education institutions across Europe to discuss current topics in higher education.
Please note that in light of the current situation relating to the coronavirus (COVID-19), the FernUniversität has decided in the interest of the health and safety of our participants to postpone all events on campus for this year, including the Erasmus+ Staff Week. We are currently in the process of determining an alternate date for 2021, and will provide more information as soon as this has been finalized. We hope that despite this change you still have the interest and time to participate in our Staff Week in Hagen next year.
The FernUniversität's 2018 Staff Week focused on the topic of Designing and Developing Learning in Distance Education and included exchange on best practices in distance education and presentations on the future of distance learning.