International university cooperation network

DEVELOPMENT Shortly before the turn of the millennium, when the financial and labour markets of the European Union were created and the inclusion of several countries in Central and Eastern Europe was under discussion, the question of harmonising the European higher education system also arose. The Sorbonne Joint Declaration (signed by the Education Ministers of France, Italy, United Kingdom and Germany in Paris in May 1998), the Bologna Declaration (signed in June 1999) and the Prague Communiqué (signed by more than 30 European states in 2001) are examples of the will to establish a common European area for higher education.

Along with the political discussion regarding eastward EU expansion – which actually took place a few years later – it seemed only natural, that institutes of higher education in potential EU member states in Central and Eastern Europe should make use of their academic autonomy and join this process. On the initiative of Professor Marius Klytta of the Mittelhessen University of Applied Sciences, cooperation was intensified between a number of universities in Central and Eastern Europe, which previously had only worked together on the basis of bilateral partnership agreements. This led to the development of an international university cooperation network, which was founded in 2000 under the name:

“Cooperation of Universities in Central and Eastern Europe” (CUCEE)

The founder members were: Mittelhessen University of Applied Sciences (at that time called University of Applied Sciences Giessen-Friedberg ; Germany), University of Zielona Góra (Poland), Tallinn University of Technology (Estonia) and Lviv Polytechnic National University (Ukraine).

COOPERATION AND AIMS The most important areas of cooperation today are: international study courses (e.g. Integrated Study Abroad), research projects, jointly organised congress on “Compatibility in Power Electronics” and multilateral intercultural projects. The research projects have led to many joint publications. The logistical coordination of all the projects is dealt with by a workshop which meets twice a year, once in May and once in November.

Integrated Study Abroad The study course is bilingual and takes place partly in the student’s own country and partly at the partner university abroad. At the end, a thesis has to be submitted to each university. The contents of the courses have been aligned and the respective performance assessments are mutually recognised. This makes it possible for students to complete the joint programme in full and be awarded a degree by both universities!

The overall aim is to educate a new type of engineer who has not only specialist knowledge, but also language skills and intercultural competence, enabling him/her to operate internationally (“European engineers”). These graduates can fulfil an important role in coordinating international activities within Europe. The CUCEE universities can meanwhile look back on many years of experience: during this time the chosen form of study has proved extremely effective. Firstly, the individual students have produced above-average theses following their time abroad. Secondly, they have had no difficulty in finding a suitable position irrespective of the actual situation on the labour market. The graduates’ highly developed language skills and extensive international experience are criteria which companies are especially interested in. Many of those who have participated in the study programme decide to begin a doctorate and continue with a scientific career. Up to now (winter term 2013/14) more than 80 students have completed the special study programme at CUCEE universities!

Scientific cooperation In the last ten years scientific cooperation among the CUCEE partners has covered a wide selection of important research topics in different fields, such as electrical engineering and information technology. These special projects culminated in many valuable publications (between 6 and 8 per year), particularly in the form of papers presented at various international conferences, e.g. “European Conference on Power Electronics and Applications – EPE”, “Unconventional Electromechanical and Electrical Systems – UEES”, “IEEE International Symposium on Industrial Electronics - ISIE”, “Problems of Current Electrotechnics – PCE”, “Electrical Power Quality and Utilisation – EPQU”, “Compatibility in Power Electronics – CPE”.

Of special interest is the multilateral research project based on topics relating to electromagnetic compatibility, in which all CUCEE partners are participating. Much of this work is being done bilaterally, i.e. jointly by two universities. The CUCEE universities have benefited significantly from such projects: new areas of research have been opened up, laboratory equipment has been upgraded, and numerous doctorates have been initiated. Moreover, such scientific cooperation can serve to enhance the quality of teaching.

International conference CPE Based on one of the CUCEE research projects, the partners organised a conference to discuss topics concerning electromagnetic compatibility (EMC), which took place in Słubice (Polen) in 1999. Since that time, it has been held every two years in different European cities. Meanwhile, this conference (“Compatibility in Power Electronics – CPE”) is regarded as the most important forum in its field.

Cultural events A university is more than just an institution for learning and research. The CUCEE partners also organise joint intercultural events, in particular concerts, in which the respective music and dance groups participate. The first concert took place in Giessen in November 2003 under the name “Music in Europe”. Others followed: Giessen (November 2005), Lviv (May 2006), Zielona Góra (June 2006) and Tallinn (September 2011). The next concert is planned for May 2014 in Vilnius (Lithuania).

ACTUAL SITUATION AND PERSPECTIVES OF CUCEE In 2004 ten new members, including Poland and the Baltic States, joined the European Union. At the same time, contact with Ukraine and Belarus increased steadily. These developments clearly show the importance of the cooperation efforts within the CUCEE network in the past, present and future. What are the chances for further development within the CUCEE network?
One main feature are the student exchanges, either in the form of international study programmes (e.g. Integrated Study Abroad) or supported by EU grants. A further important aspect is the joint research projects, with constant updates regarding the topics and the presentation of results at international conferences.

Other forms of cooperation between the individual universities include:
• extending the range of departments, study courses and staff
• intensifying contacts at student level (internships abroad, excursions, intercultural encounters)
• creating an institutional framework for guest lectures and joint supervision of PhD students
• promoting multilateral intercultural projects
• extending the network to include additional universities in Central and Eastern Europe

All universities within the CUCEE network have shown a steadily growing interest in internationalising their activities. It is important that this trend continues in future. The different forms of cooperation have clearly brought the participating universities closer together. The achievements to date ideally support the aim of establishing a common European area for higher education. Indeed, the CUCEE network, which initially started its own cooperation movement, has practically reached this goal independently of the Bologna process!

How important is such cooperation?
The easternmost edge of the European Union currently comprises Poland and the Baltic States. A glance at the map, however, shows that Eastern Europe will never be complete in geopolitical terms until Ukraine and Belarus are included. This second “eastern enlargement”, which is possible after the democratic transformation of the two countries mentioned above, will benefit the European Union not only in territorial, but also in demographic and, consequently, economic terms. It is a logical step, historically and geographically, and will help the EU to meet the challenges of the global market (in commercial and cultural terms) more effectively.

Present members of the CUCEE network are:
• Mittelhessen University of Applied Sciences (Germany)
• University of Zielona Góra (Poland)
• Silesian University of Technology (Poland)
• Lviv Polytechnic National University (Ukraine)
• Tallinn University of Technology (Estonia)
• Vilnius Gediminas Technical University (Lithuania)

The CUCEE is open to new Central and Eastern European partners who are prepared to accept the working methods and aims of the network and to make their own contribution in this respect.