After three years, the first stage of the SEA-EU European Coastal Universities Alliance came to an end. On the 22nd of June, representatives of all the member universities including - Rector of the University of Gdańsk prof. dr hab. Piotr Stepnowski, project coordinator prof. Fidel Echieverra, Rector of the University of Split prof. Dragan Ljutić PhD and Rector of the University of Cadiz prof. Francisco Piniella met in Cadiz to discuss the progress to date and the next stage of the project. 

'We want to celebrate the end of the first phase of SEA-EU not only with the people involved in our project but also with others who have taken the same path as us, i.e. members of other European University Alliances and everyone who cares about improving the quality of education in Europe,' - started the SEA-EU Day prof. Francisco Piniella.

- 'We are summarising the first phase of our activities in an amazing atmosphere. We look to the future full of hope and enthusiasm. We are expanding our alliance with several new partners who are full of new ideas. I am convinced that SEA-EU 2.0 will be even more effective,' - said prof. Piotr Stepnowski.  

After a short welcome, a film was presented in which dr Aleksandra Brodecka Goluch, the scientific leader of the SEA-EU cruise, summed up the expedition. - 'We spent 27 days at sea sailing along the west coast of Europe. The weather was favourable, so during the whole cruise, we managed to complete about 80% of the assumed research,' - said the scientist from the University of Gdańsk.

One of the aims of the meeting was, to sum up, the activities of the alliance so far. The first part of the SEA-EU achievements entitled 'Building Bridges' concerned various projects improving internal and external communication. 

Antonio Javier González from UCA talked about SEA-EU partners outside the project. Data on internships abroad organised by the alliance was presented by Leandra Vranjes, Vice-Rector of the University of Split, and Marine Legall-Ely, Vice-Rector of the University of Brest, spoke about the pandemic challenges in increasing mobility between research centres.

'The construction of a joint Research Potential Database is one of the most important elements of our cooperation. We want to strengthen our cooperation at the research level. The initiative is supposed to help scientists find potential partners from other SEA-EU universities for grants or projects,' - said UG Vice-Rector for International Cooperation dr hab. Anna Jurkowska Zeilder, prof. UG. Currently, more than 370 research groups and over 60 infrastructure items are registered on the platform. 

Next, the meeting participants presented achievements related to innovation in education and research. Aldo Drago from the University of Malta talked about the first SEA-EU course entitled 'Marine Data Literacy Course'. Three joint programmes at Bachelor, Master and PhD levels were presented by Laura Howard from the University of Cadiz. 

In the final section on diversity and engagement achievements, participants presented various initiatives dedicated to students. Gianni Ciappara talked about his experience as a volunteer at the University of Brest. Videos from the conference on 'service learning' in Split and the La Solidaire de Brest run were also presented.

Then SEA-EU coordinator prof. Fidel Echieverra welcomed representatives of three new partners to the alliance. Elvira Buonocore from the University of Naples presented the current state of her more than 100-year-old university. The Vice-Rector from the University of Algarve, Alexandra Teodosia, stressed that the accession of her centre to the alliance will contribute to a greener planet, especially when it comes to the oceans. Levi Garsetch Nesbakk from Norway's NORD University pointed out that partnership in SEA-EU is also linked to better meeting sustainable development goals. 

Finally, representatives of other similar projects shared their experiences with SEA-EU representatives. Magdalena Sikorska, the coordinator of the EUNICE alliance, distinguished three types of alliances of European universities - those connected by a common concept (e.g. access to the sea or interest in space), type (artistic or film universities), and those not connected by one big feature. 

Antoine Doucet, vice-president of the EU-CONEXUS alliance, talked about his project, which followed a similar path to SEA-EU, i.e. the six original universities were joined by three new ones.  

Rónán Ó Muirthile told us that in his FILMEU alliance all universities found it easier to communicate because they spoke the same language - the language of film.

'Our alliance is aimed at students. We want to be egalitarian, open and inclusive. Currently, ten universities and four organisations are participating in our project. We have 500 students benefiting from the programmes we have developed and 300 have already graduated. We are constantly trying to gather feedback from both staff and participants in these initiatives in order to have an ongoing dialogue,' - said Daniela Trani, Director of the YUFE Alliance.

'It is very important for us to hear about the experiences of other alliances. Thank you all for this conversation,' - concluded the meeting prof. Fidel Echieverra.

Marcel Jakubowski