Coimbra Group Annual Conference focused on the relationship between research and education


The Coimbra Group Annual Conference and General Assembly, held in early June, brought together a large number of representatives from European universities in Turku. The theme of the event was: "Research and Education - Most Impactful Together" and focused on the synergies between research and education. 

Founded in 1985, the Coimbra Group is an association of interdisciplinary European universities, comprising 40 universities from 22 countries. The association aims to promote internationalisation, academic cooperation, excellence in education and research, and service to society. The association also actively influences European research and education policy. 

The annual conference, which began on 4 June and ended on 7 June, was hosted by long-standing members of the Coimbra Group association, the University of Turku and Åbo Akademi University. This year's conference attracted a record number of enthusiastic participants – around 300 representatives from the 40 universities across Europe. The relationship between research and education was discussed in various working group meetings and sessions during the conference, and at the public conference, which took place in Logomo. 

The posters displayed during the conference showcased the work and objectives of the Coimbra Group working groups. The working groups are a key part of the association's activities.

Speakers emphasised the societal importance of research and education 

The conference, which started on Tuesday, 4 June, began with meetings of the Coimbra Group's executive board, rectors and working groups. There were also joint sessions focusing on AI, science communication, and the decolonisation of universities, as well as a reception at the Turku City Hall. 

The session on the decolonisation of universities was of great interest to many conference guests.
The welcome reception event was held at the City Hall.

The public conference at Logomo on Thursday, 6 June, featured a wide range of expert presentations and discussions on the conference theme. In their shared opening presentation, Rector of the University of Turku Jukka Kola and Rector of Åbo Akademi University Mikael Lindfelt emphasised the central role of universities in strengthening societal sustainability, competitiveness and security in Europe and globally. The Rectors also highlighted the importance of academic freedom and the role of science as a universal force that transcends national borders. 

Rectors Jukka Kola and Mikael Lindfelt opened the public part of the Conference at Logomo.

Iliana Ivanova, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Education and Youth, addressed the conference audience via a video message. In her speech, Commissioner Ivanova underlined the importance of research, education and innovation for a strong and competitive Europe.

Jani Erola, Professor of Sociology and Director of the research flagship INVEST, who gave the conference’s keynote speech, focused on the relationship and interaction between research and education. Erola expressed that the relationship between research and education should be actively improved, as educational programmes that are strongly linked to research and high-quality teaching are a key part of the societal role and impact of universities. Erola's speech was followed by Toomas Asser, Rector of the University of Tartu, who shared his experiences and views on the relationship between research and education. 

In his speech, Jani Erola, Professor of Sociology at the University of Turku, emphasised the importance of educational programmes that are linked to high-quality research and teaching.

Global challenges call for multidisciplinary education and research cooperation

The panel discussion Research and Education at the core of the knowledge factory , which was held after the presentations, also focused on the synergies between research and education. The discussions were moderated by Vice Rector of the University of Turku Piia Björn. During the discussion, panellists Bengt Kristensson Uggla (Åbo Akademi University), Roberto Di Pietra (University of Siena), Giovanni Molari (University of Bologna) and Tine Delva (European Commission) emphasised the need to strengthen multidisciplinary approaches in education and research to be better able to meet global challenges. In addition to individual and institutional competition, the panellists called for effective cooperation and decisions that support administrative structures and flexibility to enable universities to engage in interdisciplinary research and education. 

Piia Björn, Vice Rector of the University of Turku (pictured left) moderated a panel discussion focusing on synergies between education and research.

In the afternoon, the conference audience attended a session on European university alliances, which focused on the ways the alliances support synergies between research and education. The role of various cooperation, mobility and degree programmes, as well as challenge-based learning methods, research-based learning and innovative pedagogy were among the topics brought up by the representatives of the alliances.

The public conference also included the European final of the 3 Minute Thesis competition for doctoral researchers. The finalists were Princess Cabotaje (Uppsala University), Rachel Hare (University of Bristol) and Silvia Lasnik (University of Graz). The task of the competing doctoral researchers was to present their research topic and its significance to the audience and the jury in as interesting a way as possible in three minutes. The winner of the close competition was Silvia Lasnik, whose research focuses on the tendency to prioritise native English-speaking teachers in language teaching.  

The exciting 3 Minute Thesis competition was won by Silvia Lasnik (pictured right).

Thursday's conference day culminated in a dinner and an after dinner party at the Ruissalo Marina. 

Ruissalo Marina provided a festive setting for the Conference dinner.

Varied social programme topped off the successful conference 

The conference week ended on Friday, 7 June, with the Coimbra Group General Assembly, after which participants were able to attend a session on communities of practice in higher education. The rest of the evening was filled with refreshing social activities, such as guided visits to the Turku Cathedral and the Paimio Sanatorium and outdoor activities in Kurjenrahka National Park. On Saturday, participants had the opportunity to board the passenger steamship s/s Ukkopekka to the nearby town of Naantali. 

Ilari Sääksjärvi, Professor of Biodiversity Research at the University of Turku, and Gunilla Widén, Vice Rector of Åbo Akademi, spoke at a session on communities of practice in higher education.

The intensive conference week was praised by participants for its topical and varied programme. The event organisers were also pleased with the success of the conference week. In his speech on Friday, Rector Jukka Kola thanked the entire Coimbra Group association for their active cooperation and for the diverse and open way in which the theme of the conference had been addressed during the week. Rector Kola urged members of the association to remain open-minded and courageous in the defence of academic freedom in the future. 

Jukka Kola, Rector of the University of Turku and Ludovic Thilly, Chair of the Coimbra Group, were pleased with the outcome of the Annual Conference.
The conference attracted around 300 participants from 40 universities across Europe.

Photos: Antero Lynne

Created 13.06.2024 | Updated 17.06.2024