GREECE: Virtual University sails on

No fewer than 17 universities from 14 different countries, including two from Greece, participated earlier this month in the Euro-Mediterranean University's convention Unity and Diversity of the European Identities to mark the first anniversary of the virtual university's foundation.

The convention in Thessaloniki was addressed by EMUNI President Professor Joseph Mifsud, and representatives from the education and foreign affairs ministries of the Slovenian government. Proceedings were transmitted in real time simultaneously via teleconferencing and the use of web cameras to the participating universities through EMUNI's web site.

The wider Mediterranean basin is an area of diverse cultures, populations and social systems comprising a rich canvas of people, ideas and knowledge - and an active and dynamic multi-cultural research environment that the creation of EMUNI will help to study.

The virtual university was inaugurated in June last year with its headquarters in Slovenia. In November, 114 universities from 32 countries took part in the first general assembly during which the articles of association were agreed and approved, and the president and senate committee were elected.

Through the university, people of the region will be able to examine their identity, language and culture within a long history of interaction with close, distant and different countries.

The Euro-Mediterranean University is an international higher education institution and one of six projects of the Mediterranean Union. Its mission is to provide improved quality higher education with study and research programmes, enhanced international status and, through cultural diversity, to establish an environment that will have a stimulating effect on connecting different nations and cultures in an academic sphere.

Contributions to the convention came from various participants who discussed multiple identities in the region, identity as a product of interactions with others, shared and different values, cultural unity, bridging the gap between cultures, intercultural education and its contribution to the cultural unity, and university-enterprise dialogues.

University students were present to discuss their projects relating to subjects such as the environment, natural disasters, culture and society, socio-economic development, legal and educational topics as well as communications and peaceful coexistence within the region. Senior lecturers from each university took part in the discussions.

Two universities from Greece, the University of the Aegean and the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, participated as well as two each from Italy and Lebanon. Other universities from Algeria, Egypt, France, Israel, Morocco, Palestine, Portugal, Romania, Tunisia, Turkey and Slovenia, headquarters of the Euro-Mediterranean University, also took part.

"EMUNI aims to create an academic environment open to society with the cooperation and contribution of researchers from the universities of the specific geographical region," Giannis Mylopoulos, a civil engineering professor at the Aristotle University and scientific adviser to the conference, told University World News.

Mylopoulos said EMUNI's aim was the creation of a network of universities to promote educational research, mobility of students and lecturers between participating countries, and the application of funds and programmes from the European Commission.

"A long-term aim of the university is to create a common masters degree which will be recognised in all the participating countries," he said.

Although EMUNI is a virtual university, a number of frequent conventions, summer schools and seminars are organised in various parts of the world so that lecturers and students can meet and discuss their work. One is taking place at the Aristotle University's summer camp in August at Kalandra in Chalkidiki.

Apart from daily lectures, seminars and conferences on the identity of the cultures, immigration, and linguistic communication with the participation of well-known speakers and academics, students will also be able to enjoy the natural beauties of one of the most popular holiday regions of Greece close to historical-religious area of Mount Athos.

The EMUNI Foundation was established last August and has already been recognised and supported by prominent individuals and important Slovenian and foreign companies who have promised finance and support for the development of relevant postgraduate programmes. Kuwait presented a cheque for EUR1 million at the inauguration of the university.

EMUNI intends to make grants or loans to students, encourage partnerships and through this help companies strengthen their organisation and network Kuwait in a form of a cheque for EUR 1 million (US$1.4 million) at the inauguration of the University.