The Student-led Forum impresses for the preparation and commitment of its young participants

Photo with students.

What happens when over 40 students from European universities come together to discuss urgent social challenges in uncertain times? More than 40 students from nine European universities participated in the Arqus student-led forum 2022, where students led discussions and workshops about the grand societal changes of our time.

The student-led forum is an initiative within Arqus Action Line 7 - European Engaged Citizen, led by the University of Bergen (UiB). A major goal of the forum as a concept is to empower and engage students to develop their organisational, pedagogical, research and transferrable skills.

Students and academic staff came together at the University of Padua, in connection with the Arqus Annual Conference, during the first week of April. The group worked intensely together for two whole days, bringing with them different perspectives from their respective countries, universities, and disciplines. One of the aims was to shed light on the role of students in times of conflict, a topic distressingly current these days with the ongoing war in Ukraine.

Young people are truly engaged

Six students from the University of Bergen took part. Maria Elena Atencia Rodriguez from Spain is currently on an exchange stay at UiB, and is taking the course Arqus221 at UiB. Attending the student-led forum is an option for UiB students taking the course. This way, Atencia Rodriguez is getting double international experience by choosing this course as an exchange student. She expressed that the forum proved her wrong in some of her presumptions about younger people: “I was impressed about how much young people know about current issues. They are really well informed and have strong opinions”. She says that she sometimes in the past has experienced that young people position themselves away from matters such as politics, economics, sustainability and so on, and have taken on a more passive role in regard to the construction of society. “The idea that I had was proven to be totally wrong here in the forum. I'm really glad to see that students have a voice and that the universities truly support this”, Atencia Rodriguez said.

We are Already Doing Something

In total, more than 40 students from all the Arqus universities participated in the forum, as well as a group of academics. The main programme was dedicated to students' presentations of results from pre-assigned projects, as well as workshops and debates on topics such as diversity, the role of universities in the face of the Ukraine war, and interdisciplinary collaboration.

Students presenting their final conclusions claimed to have benefitted greatly from attending this active study format. One student put it like this: “So how can we deal with the ongoing crisis? In a way we are already doing something, our projects are very practical and concrete and directly relevant for each city” (student from the group work summary).

The benefits of working across disciplines were also stressed, with emphasis on how students and academia also need to be able to talk to people outside higher education who do not have the privilege of this access.

New Student Event in Granada

Maria Elena Atencia Rodriguez will also participate in another international event through the Arqus Alliance. The University of Granada will host the Arqus Granada School 2022 (postponed from February) from 2nd to 6th May. Many of the same students attending the student-led forum will meet again to work together on different grand societal challenges. “It was really interesting to meet people from different places and backgrounds, learning that we all have a lot of similarities”, Atencia Rodriguez said conclusively.

News prepared by Anniken Gjesdahl, Adviser, Division of Student and Academic Affairs.