Charles University and delegates from the University of St Andrews had a chance to catch up this week in Prague, to reflect on past successes within their partnership agreement and build on further cooperation in the future. Representatives from both schools met at the foyer of the rectorate and historic Carolinum to open an exhibition about St Andrews before sitting down to a day of presentations and looking ahead.
St Andrews – according to two rankings - has been the number one university in the UK two years straight, and CU was thrilled to welcome delegates on Tuesday marking their continuing partnership. Attendees included Jan Kuklík, Charles University’s Vice-Rector for Academic Appointments and Jaromír Soukup from the International Relations office at CU, while delegates from St. Andrews included several members of the school principal’s office including Professor Ineke de Moortel, who gave an opening lecture on sustainability.
St Andrews has set itself the ambitious goal of being net carbon zero by 2035, notably ten years ahead of the target set by the UK government. Professor de Moortel’s presentation was inspiring in the many angles it delved into the issue and the way universities can lead on problems like climate change and make a measurable and real impact. The lecture was streamed online and can be viewed in its entirety at the bottom of this page.
The programme continued with presentations by researchers from both schools, highlighting joint-projects already underway and opportunities for even broader cooperation. Both institutions have been very pleased with the direction of the partnership and the potential being tapped. CU’s Jaromír Soukup said the in-person meeting was another opportunity to deepen ties and to plan ahead:
“One thing in evidence is just how many projects have already brought academics from both schools together. Moving forward, we want to extend cooperation and mobility not only to researchers and students but also to administrative staff and members from our different faculties.”
Forum: St Andrews is a smaller and slightly younger university – okay not much younger 1413 compared to 1348 - but it is seems very focused and is clearly forward-thinking on issues like sustainability…
“It is and that is one reason our rector, Milena Králíčková, asked that sustainability be highlighted and discussed in depth by their team. St Andrews is at the forefront among British universities on climate change and the challenges we face. We both are old schools with historic buildings but we are both building progressive new campuses where sustainability is [easier to implement say than some of the older historic sites].
Of course, that is not the only important topic – there are many that come to the forefront. Our strategic partnership is about sharing best practice. We learn from each other and provide each other with know-how. Each side has something to offer. One example is the use of AI and new technologies in the humanities, there is just so much potential… We are thankful to work together with them on such topics.”
CU’s Forum magazine also spoke to two members of the St Andrews team, Ester Ruskuc (Vice-Principal Strategy) and Samantha Lister (Director of the Global Office).
Samantha Lister: “One thing that really came across is that there is huge alignment between our universities and that came through in a lot of the presentations this morning. I think there is great potential across research and education but also in leadership on key global challenges like sustainability. The thinking is very similar, we get along great with the CU team. And, of course, the schools both have long histories but are also looking forward and that has infused a lot of our cooperation. There’s a lot to be optimistic about.”
Ester Ruskuc: “Ancient universities like St Andrews and Charles University, with a similar ethos in education and research, encounter similar challenges and opportunities. One of the projects presented today on the wellbeing of students in the university experience by our colleague Dr Paula Miles [from the School of Psychology and Neuroscience] suggested that our academic bodies have similar needs to progress. By sharing best practice, data, as well as different approaches, we speed up the process and cooperation in turn also boosts credibility.”
Samantha Lister: “Any partnership has to be based on reciprocity and that is particularly strong in this relationship. We each bring different strengths to the table. We are also happy to be here and to raise the profile of St Andrews and the partnership within the academic community. Of course, building personal relationships is critical. Today was also an opportunity to be creative. We have done a lot on education and research but where do we go next? In the future, will it more research-oriented, more education-oriented, or both?”
Ester Ruskuc: “For me it is three things: we are celebrating success, aspects of partnership that have already ‘blossomed’ and are now being taken to the next level. Two, we are also looking at how to support emergent collaborations, and last, we are finding out where we can introduce mechanisms to support more collaboration. Because collaborations only work if there is a smart organic activity from the ground up, together with institutional or management frameworks put in place.”
You can find additional coverage of the event by the University of St Andrews here
More information about the strategic partnership