Cooperation is at the roots of CIVICA, says Stefano Caselli, Dean for International Affairs at Bocconi University and member of CIVICA's Steering Committee. In this interview, he tells us how he sees the European Universities initiative as a brave and game-changing project, and why he hopes an open and inclusive CIVICA alliance will foster good European and global citizens who will benefit the whole of society. He also gives some insights into the current projects of the master’s level work package (WP4), led by Bocconi.
As the Dean for International Affairs at Bocconi University, what role do you think international cooperation can play in the European educational landscape?
Cooperation is synonymous to being a European institution. I cannot imagine Europe, and I cannot imagine a European higher-education institution, without an open and creative attitude towards cooperation. This is the DNA of the European Union - namely to have built a political entity starting from different backgrounds and legacies. Universities fully reflect themselves in this and they actively work to make the European Union a social entity where students and future generations can identify themselves as European citizens.
International mobility, exchanges, joint programmes and double degrees are the keywords of our active cooperation to multiply options and opportunities for our students to circulate in an open educational ‘playground’. The Erasmus programme was born in Europe and many other innovations stimulated by the European Commission are currently in progress. And European Universities are the labs that foster innovation and make a contribution to their societies.
What motivated the members of the CIVICA alliance to come together and what is the added value of our European University?
All the members of CIVICA had the same conviction some years ago to join forces to launch a new initiative: to be a pioneer and to further strengthen their common DNA of cooperation and multilateralism. The European Universities initiative was something brave and new, and all CIVICA members decided to respond to the challenge and explore something new and fascinating to demonstrate more than ever that cooperation matters a lot.
And today, CIVICA exists and hopefully will last forever. Our desire and ambition are that our first move as a pioneer will represent an example and CIVICA could set a high-level standard for the whole educational arena.
Bocconi is coordinating the work package on offers at master's level (WP4). What are some of the planned activities?
To coordinate WP4 is exciting, challenging, and it involves a lot of responsibility. It is a great honour for us to work with such great colleagues (and, if I may, friends) on many relevant tasks embraced by this working group.
First of all, to cooperate on courses is a very impactful activity for CIVICA: step by step, we are identifying and launching joint courses, each conducted by two CIVICA members and offered to all the students of the alliance. It is a strong signal that CIVICA is active in promoting educational paths for our talents.
But even more significant is the Europeanship multi-campus course project: a one-semester experience through which students will benefit from the engagement of all partners and challenge themselves to deal with the topics of globalisation, environment, digitalisation and democracy, with a final capstone project. I would like to thank Enrico Letta from Sciences Po and Carlo Altomonte from Bocconi for the brave idea and for coordinating this global citizenship journey we will offer to students.
Furthermore, an online catalogue of courses will be accessible to students, as well as the experience of “Policy Labs” that has already been successfully launched at Sciences Po. I believe it is an exciting agenda for all of us and it will offer a lot of opportunities for our students and our communities.
As member of CIVICA's Steering Committee, where do you see the alliance in ten years from now?
I see CIVICA and the European Universities as a game changer. I see CIVICA as a great example and key player in the global educational arena. In a certain sense, cooperation is at the roots of CIVICA and our alliance is a natural evolution of what CIVICA members did in terms of international cooperation in the last decades.
But the present and the future of CIVICA are much more than a natural evolution. They mean multiplying energies and views, combining the strengths and brands of great European institutions willing to create a larger platform where students, faculty, staff as well as various stakeholders can all have something to gain.
I believe the format of the European Universities can become EU’s distinctive way to support its best universities to compete worldwide and to have a strong voice in the global market for talents and in research.
What do you think are some of CIVICA's challenges in the next years, and how can the alliance overcome them?
We are living in challenging times. The concepts of a global world without any barriers and of opportunities without any limits are being challenged and cannot be taken for granted. We have to work more to reinforce and improve the concept of a global world that we want for the next generation.
COVID-19, trade wars, visa restrictions are all very concrete issues higher education institutions have to tackle to enhance the educational paths of their students. The answers to these challenges have to be based on two different layers. On the one hand, the curricula of our students have to improve more to strengthen the sense of global citizenship. Joining forces to create common CIVICA courses focused on the topics of democracy, sustainability, data-driven society and climate change are concrete examples to highlight how a strong alliance can contribute to this goal. On the other hand, CIVICA wants to be open, inclusive and is keen on listening to the needs of our societies to work for the next generation, as clearly indicated by the European Commission.
What is your message to the CIVICA students and PhD researchers at the start of the academic year?
We are starting a very unique year and now much more than ever we have to commit all our best energies to demonstrate that education and research matter. My recommendation, moving from younger undergraduate students through to the more senior PhD students, is that you do not walk alone and you do not have to walk by yourself. Your commitment to improve yourselves, to be more educated and to maybe become researchers in the near future is of course your own investment. But you have to keep in mind two things. First, your journey is possible because of the support of institutions spending their passion and energy, and working together. Second, your education will have an impact on society. Your talent is a benefit for yourselves but it is also a benefit for the environment all around you.
Remember that if you become good European and global citizens, you are making a strong contribution to changing the world.
Interview conducted by Tomaso Eridani (Bocconi University)
Photo credit: Bocconi University