Research

New forms of international mobility

The Covid-19 pandemic has forced UPPA to adapt existing student mobility schemes, but also to invent very promising ones.

 

In 2019, more than 250 students from the University of Pau and Pays de l’Adour benefited from the Erasmus+ program to study in a European Union country. At the same time, 102 European students decided to enroll at UPPA. The number of foreign students coming from a university outside the European Union was even higher. The closing of the borders in 2020 has unfortunately brought Erasmus student mobility to a sudden halt. As with the European exchange program, cross-border mobility, international double degrees and travel within the framework of inter-university cooperation agreements, a number of programs have been postponed or modified. On the other hand, thanks to a structured educational plan, the number of degree-granting mobility programs within the framework of international master’s programs has increased significantly despite the health crisis. What if this extraordinary situation was an opportunity to reinvent international mobility?

 

Towards virtual mobility

“In higher education, emphasizes Laure Coudret-Laut, head of the Erasmus+ France program, 70% of students have experienced hybrid mobility,” i.e., an experience that mixes physical mobility and digital classes, whether taken on site in the host country or remotely in the country of origin. UPPA has already taken a lead in this area. In November 2019, the university obtained the “European Universities” label, a flagship initiative of the European Union aimed at building a European area of higher education, research and innovation.

To do this, UPPA has joined forces with five other universities – in France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Romania – in an alliance called UNITA. Focusing on cultural heritage, renewable energies and the circular economy, UNITA is creating a connected inter-university campus that allows students to live in a multilingual environment and to build flexible curricula within the six universities, both face-to-face and at a distance. Experiments have already been launched, such as the first call for “virtual mobility” through a catalog of courses given at a distance, allowing recognition of skills and knowledge acquired in the form of ECTS credits. Within the framework of UNITA, at a 5-hour a week pace, two Romanian students, for example, are taking Master’s courses in computer science at UPPA from home this year.

“Virtual mobility opens up new horizons,” says their professor Ernesto Exposito, who is also UPPA’s vice-president in charge of International Relations. It’s more economical for students, more ecological, and it can help develop real physical mobility in the future. Virtual mobility can be an excellent complement, especially when combined with short-term physical mobility.” It is also a way to create personalized programs. “Virtual mobility gives students the opportunity to take classes in several universities at the same time or to spend a semester at UPPA, a second one in Zaragoza, a third one in Turin...”, says Emilie Desconet, UNITA project manager in Pau.

 

Thematic schools

UPPA also plans to develop a new model for short mobility inspired by the concept of summer school. “The concept is to offer students the opportunity to attend intensive programs lasting a few days throughout the year, called ‘thematic schools’, which will earn ECTS credits,” explains Émilie Desconet. UPPA has already planned to host several thematic schools starting next autumn. One of them, “Culture, knowledge and European representation”, will last five days and will involve the universities of the UNITA network. Other thematic schools could be organized outside UNITA for longer periods. Finally, Ernesto Exposito notes, “the health crisis has forced us to question ourselves, to unite and to build together a world that is more connected, more accessible, more respectful of the planet, and that favours personalized mobility in the interest of students.”

 

International Relations Department (DRI)

Tel. 05 59 40 70 54
relations.internationales @ univ-pau.fr