A short presentation of the General Assembly by Laurine Margaux Tiran, Junior Project Officer at the ENHANCE Alliance
As an alliance of ten European universities, ENHANCE brings together around 293,000 students and 63,000 employees, including researchers and administrative and academic staff. Since it is not feasible for our entire university communities to directly take part in the decision-making processes of the ENHANCE Alliance, the adequate representation of all statutory groups remains an important matter.
Among the governance bodies of the ENHANCE Alliance, the General Assembly is the one assuring the most representation for the various statutory groups: students, early-stage researchers, professors, and administrative staff. Each member university sends one representative for each statutory group. The General Assembly creates an inter-university space for exchange and ensures that the statutory groups are represented at one of the highest levels of the ENHANCE Alliance.
In the constitutive texts of the ENHANCE Alliance, the General Assembly is described and defined as a group of representatives which can make recommendations to the Board of Directors. It is the only governance body of which the meetings are open to public guests such as Associated Partners.
General Assembly meetings
The General Assembly of the ENHANCE Alliance is led by a Chair and a Co-Chair, who are in charge of leading the meetings. Karl Palmas, professor from Chalmers University of Technology, and Monica Riva, professor from Politecnico di Milano, were appointed as Chair and Co-Chair of the General Assembly during its first online meeting in April 2021.
Even though the first meetings took place in the midst of the most intense phase of the COVID pandemic, the General Assembly used its first digital meetings to focus on important topics such as community building. The representatives introduced the ENHANCE Alliance into their own community – the students, the administrative staff, the professors as well as early-stage researchers, as well with other alliances. In order to learn from each other, representatives from the university alliance Una Europa were invited to a General Assembly meeting in 2021. During the same year, the General Assembly also appointed the members of the ENHANCE Strategy Committee and discussed their own aspirations for the future of their work.
2022 was the first opportunity for the General Assembly to meet in person in Milan. Hosted by Politecnico di Milano, this first in-person meeting was an opportunity for all the members to finally see each other and discuss and present the work of their own group. The follow-up meetings were dedicated to the strategic scope of the second ENHANCE proposal. The General Assembly was invited to give feedback on matters ranging from the proposed future governance structure to the planned ENHANCE educational offers, and co-creation processes.
In April 2023, the General Assembly met again in person, this time at TU Berlin. This meeting was an opportunity to focus once again on community building, but this time with a focus on the community and composition of the General Assembly itself. In the form of a workshop organised in break-out groups, the representatives were invited to reflect on the very identity and structure of the General Assembly and explore how they wanted to organise themselves in the future of the project. The main outcome of this reflection was the desire to strengthen the role of the General Assembly in two key areas – as ambassadors for the ENHANCE Alliance with a clear community-building role, and with an advisory role whereby members can provide feedback on key content-related developments, such as joint educational offers. In the next General Assembly meeting in September 2023, members will formalise the outcomes of this workshop in a revised chapter of the ENHANCE Charter of Rules and Procedures, to establish their new mission for the future of ENHANCE.
Redefining the General Assembly: a new role in the making for the next project phase
The desire to adjust the role of the General Assembly and strengthen the two pillars outlined above will be a first key task in the next project phase. Establishing the General Assembly as a sort of sounding board dedicated to giving advice and feedback on the ENHANCE activities was a common idea among the participants of the discussion. As representatives from different statutory groups, the members of the General Assembly have the opportunity to give insights from different perspectives, all of which are essential to the success of ENHANCE offers. They also can give a “feasibility check” at different levels, but even more important, they can ensure the actions and activities put in place actually answer the needs of their colleagues.
The discussion about the general role of the General Assembly but also about more specific details, like improving communication with others and between themselves or better onboarding strategies, needs to be taken a step further and to have an impact on the future of the ENHANCE Alliance. With this evolution and a continuity established among its members, the General Assembly will now be able to fulfil its position as a crucial governance body of the ENHANCE Alliance and a vital contributor to the development of its activities.