CIVICA’s first multicampus course is an exercise in teamwork on EU policy challenges

More than 130 master’s students from the eight-member European university alliance took part.

Europe faces challenging times ­– from the COVID-19 pandemic to climate change to economic recovery – and students across the CIVICA university alliance just spent three months analysing EU policy responses to these in their first multicampus course, “The Future of Europe".

The course on "Europeanship" is one of the flagship initiatives of CIVICA, an alliance of eight leading European higher education institutions in the social sciences. Designed and taught jointly by a team of professors, the course was held online simultaneously across the eight campuses and combined with local activities. Students examined EU policymaking in areas such as globalisation, climate change and digital transformation, and then teamed up to propose solutions to a specific policy problem.

“This first experiment of a truly European multicampus course has gone very well – from all points of view, including the organisational one, which wasn’t simple,” says Carlo Altomonte, Professor of Economics of European Integration at Bocconi University and coordinator of the course. “This unique course brought together top expertise from the alliance. We can say it mirrors the EU’s motto “United in diversity”: when we all work together across Europe, we can achieve a high-quality result.”

The course kicked off in early September with a lecture by Pierre Moscovici, former European Commissioner and affiliated professor at Sciences Po, on the current crises facing the EU. Over the next three months, activities unfolded along four thematic modules: Globalisation and economic shocks; Environment, Sustainability and the EU Green Deal; Digitalisation and Innovation; Democracy, Governance and Populism in the EU. 

Baudouin Dacoux, a master’s student at Sciences Po, said the course’s thematic diversity brought many advantages. “As an ongoing issue at the European level, the democracy and populism topic gave us empirical grounding on which to debate (and engage) practically. Meanwhile, the issue of digitalisation forced us to (re)consider our relationship to the notion of democracy, giving us interesting insights on how to engage – and govern – in the new digital era,” he says. “On the other hand, the issue of climate change was probably one of the most heated debates we had during the semester.”

The final evaluation of the course is based on a group capstone project developed by teams of four to six students from at least two campuses. Each project had to address in detail a concrete policy challenge the EU faces. In the final two plenary sessions, the student teams presented their draft proposals and received input from professors Altomonte and Moscovici. Final projects were submitted by 15 December, and in January, the three best projects will be awarded a prize in cooperation with the Achille and Giulia Boroli Chair in European Studies at Bocconi University.

“The discussions around the preliminary drafts highlighted some potentially very interesting policy proposals, covering topics from migration to the environment,” says Altomonte. “In the lively class debates, we saw different perceptions and approaches, but also many shared values. These projects allow students to concretely understand policymaking and have a truly intercultural exchange.”

Laura Olivero, an MSc student at Bocconi University, is part of a group project investigating the regulation of media and social media, the liability of content sharing platforms and the role of truth versus free speech in a democracy. “I worked with peers from the Hertie School, Sciences Po and the Stockholm School of Economics, and found very enriching discussing with students with different backgrounds,” she says. “I chose the course because it is not so common to focus on topics that are currently of global concern.”

In another project, students from Bocconi University, the Hertie School, LSE and SSE examine whether the EU’s goal to be carbon neutral by 2050 is ambitious enough. Their aim is to put forward concrete measures that could be implemented. “The course enriched me with new perspectives and enabled me to analyse EU challenges through a kaleidoscope – and the capstone project further enhanced the multicultural aspect and facilitated a rich exchange of ideas,” says Mara Balasa, master’s student at SSE and CIVICA ambassador, who is part of this project.

LSE master’s student Mara Ghilan also said connecting with students and faculty from other campuses was a key benefit of the course. “I enjoyed the feeling of connectivity that the CIVICA multicampus course fosters, it is a truly European experience. For example, our capstone project group brought together four students from four institutions, interviewing experts from each of our home universities in order to formulate relevant and innovative policy recommendations.”

Livia Milana, an exchange master’s student at the Hertie School, said that studying in the diverse and international context of the multicampus course helped her develop competencies for her future. “I found this really helpful in terms of improving one’s capacity to analyse policy issues in a comprehensive way.”

What Livia Milana has to say about the CIVICA course:

Why did you choose the CIVICA multicampus course The Future of Europe?

I choose the CIVICA multicampus course The Future of Europe for different reasons. I am deeply interested in European policies and governance, which is the focus of my master’s degree, so I saw this course as an opportunity to further develop my knowledge in this sense. I found exciting the idea of working as a team with other students coming from several universities across Europe, with different backgrounds and who are used to different studying and teaching methods. I believe that studying in a diverse and international context can always be extremely enriching.

How has the transnational character of the course enriched your academic experience?

The transnational nature of the course The Future of Europe is one of the reasons why I chose it. I had the chance to meet young people studying in various countries and focusing on distinct academic fields. Working on the Capstone Project with my colleagues, I am learning how different study paths and cultural backgrounds can lead one to propose different solutions to the same problem. I find this really helpful in terms of improving one’s capacity to analyse policy issues in a comprehensive way.


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