First UniNet Conference in Oradea, June 2023

The formal establishment of the NPLD-UniNet Network of universities and research institutions active in the fields of national minorities, multilingualism, minority languages, language rights, language policy and language education took place during the First UniNet Conference hosted by Partium Christian University in the period 13-14 June 2023 at Oradea – Nagyvárad (Romania).

The Conference has been attended by representatives of the following UniNet partners: Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol, Prifysgol Aberystwyth, Mercator Research Centre, NHL Stenden, Province of Fryslân, Stockholm University, Soziolinguistika Klusterra, University of Udine, Partium Christian University.

In their welcoming addresses, József Pálfi, Rector of Partium Christian University and Sietske Poepjes, former Chair of the Network to Promote Linguistic Diversity (NPLD), Regional Minister of the Province of Fryslân and initiator of the UniNet project emphasised the importance of the event as an important step forward in building up a network of cooperation between the partner institutions. The Rector of the host institution thanked all partners for joining this initiative and in particular the Province of Fryslân and the NPLD for their generous moral and financial support.

The programme of the first day of the conference was dedicated to scientific presentations and discussions organized in four thematic sessions: higher education and multilingualism; translanguaging and its effect on minority languages; languages attitudes and language use; multilingualism and bilingualism, cognitive benefits of bilingualism. The topics discussed offered to participants the opportunity to mutually become familiar with priority research areas and recent research results obtained in each other’s institutions, thus preparing the ground for identifying shared fields of scientific interest.

Photo by Evelyn Csendes

The programme of the second day of the conference focused on developing cooperation between the partner institutions. In this regard, the following potential areas of partnership have been extensively discussed: students and staff exchange; curriculum and teaching programme development; and research cooperation.

The involved UniNet partners agreed to start a process of mutual consultations, identifying opportunities of bilateral and multilateral cooperation and applying for Erasmus+ funds and/or Taith funds for student and staff exchange and cultural activities in the years to come. In this regard, the following have been agreed:

  1. In October 2023 there will be two Partner meetings to be held at two different institutions. The locations of the meetings, the precise schedule and the participating institutions are yet to be decided. The aim of the meetings is to identify further concrete opportunities of cooperation and to further discuss the implementation of the lines of action already agreed.
  2. University Partners shall contact the Erasmus+ offices of their own institutions/departments, in order to prepare the signing of bilateral Erasmus+ cooperation agreements between partner institutions via de electronic Erasmus+ communication system.
  3. Partners will initiate a blended intensive Erasmus+ exchange programme in Spring 2024. A minimum of 15 BA and/or MA students of three different partner universities will need to be involved from three different countries to visit Partium Christian University for one week. Students will be provided with blended intensive programmes developed relating to multilingualism and cultural diversity.
  4. Partners agreed to apply for an Erasmus training programme to be held in June 2024 in Wales or Fryslan.The proposed activity shall be organized in a form of a training workshop, in order to enable Partners to meet and discuss the current stage as well as the next steps of cooperation. Participants from institutions which hold an Erasmus+ Charter shall apply for funding via their own institutional Erasmus+ offices, while participants from research institutions shall be invited as experts.
  5. Partners will start a process of collective thinking and preparation to apply for a multilateral inter-institutional cooperation to be covered by Erasmus Cooperation Partnership Programme aimed at the development of international teaching modules in the participating institutions in the field of cultural and linguistic diversity. The more precise topic and guidelines for the project proposal shall we developed at a later stage, on the bases of periodic consultations between the Partners.
  6. Partners will investigate Erasmus+ placement mobility activities and the possibilities offered by Taith, in order to identify opportunities to develop a pilot exchange programme for university students from different language regions in a broader non-language oriented field.
  7. Partners started the process of identifying shared topics of research interest and agreed to continue working together for developing and implementing joint research projects in the years to come. In this regard, financing opportunities for the cooperative research project(s) to be developed will also need to be identified and pursued.

Signing the UniNet Memorandum of Understanding
14 June 2023, Oradea, Romania

At the conclusion of the Conference, a Memorandum of Understanding to support the UniNet project (Our languages in academic Europe) has been signed by Partium Christian University, represented by Gábor Flóra, Counsellor to the Rector, representative of Partium Christian University in the NPLD and by Province of Fryslân, represented by Sietske Poepjes, Regional Minister for the Frisian language and culture and initiator of the UniNet.