The concept of Children’s Universities represents the most radical opening towards the general public that universities can undertake. By addressing girls and boys from the earliest age possible, universities counteract a falling interest in science and research among the young and help to overcome stereotyped notions – and thereby try to widen participation all across diverse classes of population.
The European Commission acknowledged this as an “innovative and excellent approach”. It has now assigned five well-established Children’s Universities in Basel, Bratislava, Strasbourg, Tübingen and Vienna to create a European network and to introduce the Children’s University approach to other European countries.
Going far beyond isolated pilot projects, Children’s Universities have become a reliable and popular element of extra-curricular science communication. More than 100 universities in Europe organise science events for the young on a regular basis. They offer children and young people a chance to get in touch with academic science and research – to some of them for the very fist time. In view of an ongoing expansion of the Children’s Universities approach, the need for exchange of experiences is rising and networking among organisers is more and more in demand, especially beyond boundaries of language and nation.
EUCUNET (European Children’s Universities Network) will pursue an inventory of existing activities in the field of Children’s Universities all over Europe. An interactive web portal and international symposia will stimulate the transfer of know-how and the exchange of existing expertise. Mentoring partnerships will allow for targeted cooperation between well established organisers and those who are raring to start activities. Furthermore, standards and guidelines for planning and organising such science events will be developed as well as the basics for sustainable impact analysis procedures.
EUCUNET is funded under the Seventh Framework Programme for research and technological development (FP7), Science in Society, for the next two years. The consortium is formed by organisations which played a leading role in the initiation of Children’s Universities in their respective countries and thereby serve as reference models: Kinderbüro der Universität Wien (AT), Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen (DE), Universität Basel (CH), Université Louis Pasteur Strasbourg (FR), Max Reinhardt Foundation - Arena Theater Bratislava (SK) as well as “unsere neue couch” (DE) which covers the technical parts of the project.
The Children’s University of Tübingen was founded in 2002 as the first of its kind. It is a cooperation project of the University of Tübingen with the newspaper „Schwäbisches Tagblatt“. In 2005 it was awarded the Descartes Prize for Science Communication of the European Community.
Michael Seifert | alfa
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