YUFE Townhall

YUFE is one of the first seventeen alliances selected by the European Commission in 2019 to develop a unique model of a European University. The fourteen YUFE partners aim to contribute to a more competitive, innovative and united Europe through structural cooperation in education, research, innovation and engagement with local communities.

One of the main goals of the cooperation between staff, students, citizens, businesses, government and policy makers is to address local and European challenges to achieve solutions that have global relevance. Moreover, they work together to develop and promote joint educational programmes, services of added value for the YUFE local communities and to enhance the mobility of students and staff across the Alliance. Together, the YUFE partners are creating an inclusive higher education landscape without borders that is in line with current developments in society and the labour market.

The YUFE Townhall is a 2.5-day umbrella event involving all of YUFE’s programmes and activities bringing together the entire YUFE community. Its focus will be on European Higher Education and its links to wider society. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event will now mainly take place virtually, which will actually make it more inclusive, accessible and sustainable with wider engagement across the whole of Europe.

Three of the YUFE Townhall sessions will be open to the public. The first open session, the “Opening Ceremony”, gives an overview of what has been achieved by YUFE in it’s first year. The second open session, “What can European Universities do for you?”, asks a variety of stakeholders, including the European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, the DG of the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture, and the CEO of a triple-helix campus, what European Universities can contribute to society, with a focus on regional employability following the quadruple helix model. The quadruple helix model brings together science, policy, industry, and society. The third open session is a working session organised and hosted by the YUFE Student Forum.


All times in the programme are in Central European Time (CET).

Day 1 – Monday, 7 December 2020

14:00 – 15:00

Opening Ceremony

Open session

Moderated by Jan Hupkens, Senior Policy Advisor Internationalisation, Maastricht University

Welcome Speech by Chair & Vice-Chair of YUFE Strategy Board

Presentation on YUFE and achievements to date

Q&A with questions from virtual audience

15:00 – 18:00

YUFE Strategy Board Meeting

Closed session

Day 2 – Tuesday, 8 December 2020

11:00 – 12:30

What can European Universities do for you?

A discussion on the impact of EUIs on employability and regional socio-economic development

Open session

Moderated by Jan Hupkens, Senior Policy Advisor Internationalisation, Maastricht University


Panel discussion and Q&A with questions from virtual audience

13:30 – 17:00

Work Package Open Hours: results, lessons and ideas from year 1

Closed sessions

18:00 –

Training and Working Sessions of the YUFE Student Forum

Open session 

Register here

Day 3 – Wednesday, 9 December 2020

09:00 – 17:00

Work Package Open Hours: results, lessons and ideas from year 1

Closed sessions


Professor Martin Paul has been President of Maastricht University (UM) since 2011. After obtaining a medical degree and a doctorate from Heidelberg University, he has held several academic positions in Germany, the United States and the Netherlands.

In addition to his distinguished career as a researcher (with more than 300 publications) in the fields of medicine and pharmacology as well as an educator, Professor Paul has become active in academic management. He has been Dean of the Medical Faculty of the Freie Universität and Vice President of the Charité Medical Center In Berlin. Furthermore, he has served as Dean of the Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences at UM and as Vice President of Maastricht University Medical Centre+, where he holds a chair in Clinical Pharmacology.

Professor Paul has worked actively to professionalise academic leadership on the international level. In this context, he has served as Chair of DEAN, a European network of deans and as a board member of the Association of Academic Health Centers International (AAHCI). He is an elected member of the Netherlands Academy for Technology and Innovation and of the Austrian Science Council.

Furthermore, Professor Paul has been elected as Chair of the YUFE (Young Universities for the Future of Europe) alliance in 2019, which has been the top ranked proposal in the recent European Commission call to create true European universities. In addition, he serves on several advisory and supervisory boards in the Netherlands, Europe and beyond.

Jessica Winter is the 24 year old President of the YUFE Student Forum. She studies Integrated European Studies at the University of Bremen, Germany. Within the YUFE Introduction Offer she has studied at Maastricht University, Netherlands and Nicolaus Copernicus University of Torun, Poland too. She started her journey at YUFE in August 2019 and is a student member of the YUFE Student Forum as well as the YUFE Project Management Board. She participates and co-creates in the YUFE-wide coregroup of the Work Package 1 Management / Virtual Campus and in the subgroup Induction Offer of the Work Package 3 Student Journey. As president of the Student Forum she also is the co-chair of the YUFE Strategy Board.
Image copyright Matej Meza / University of Bremen.

Dr Daniela Trani is the Director of the YUFE Alliance.

Dr Trani was one of the main developers of the YUFE ERASMUS+ pilot proposal selected by the European Commission as one of the first 17 pilot European Universities Initiatives in June 2019. Previously, she worked as Senior Advisor for International Research Policy at the department of Academic Affairs of Maastricht University.

She holds an MSc degree in Physics (cum laude, 2003) from the University of Naples Federico II, Italy, and a PhD in Thoracic Oncology and Applied Biotechnology (2007) from the Second University of Naples, Italy. She worked as NASA/NSBRI postdoctoral fellow in the field of space radiation biology at Georgetown University (2008-2011) and then as senior researcher at the Department of Radiotherapy at Maastricht University (2011-2014).

Jan Hupkens is working as a senior policy advisor internationalisation at Maastricht University (UM) since 2017.

Following his studies in International Relations and European Studies at the Central European University in Budapest and the College of Europe in Bruges, Jan held various entry- and mid-level positions at international organisations in Africa, Europe and the Middle-East.

A strong advocate of education as a catalyzer for social change, Jan has been of the main developers of the YUFE ERASMUS+ pilot proposal selected by the European Commission as one of the first 17 pilot European Universities Initiatives in June 2019.

Jan’s research interests include European integration and EU relations with the Western Balkans and the Middle-East. Jan is a part-time PhD candidate in European integration at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences of Maastricht University (UM).

Mariya Gabriel is the European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth. Under her leadership, the new Horizon Europe, Erasmus+, and the cultural strand of Creative Europe programmes (2021-2027) will be defined and implemented.

Between 2017 and 2019, Mariya Gabriel was European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society. She proposed the new Digital Europe programme, worked on an EU Strategy for AI, online disinformation, cybersecurity and launched the EuroHPC strategy. She has extensively engaged with external EU partners to enhance digital cooperation, in particular with the Western Balkans and Africa.

She was elected a Member of the European Parliament in 2009, 2014 and 2019. Mariya Gabriel is First Vice-President of the European People’s Party (EPP), and, since 2012, VicePresident of EPP Women.

Commissioner Gabriel is a board member of the United Nations youth programme Generation Unlimited (GenU). She is ranked among the 50 most influential women in Europe in the field of cybersecurity by the leading European cybersecurity magazine SC Media UK (2019).

Mariya Gabriel is also known for her involvement in the fight for gender equality. Among others, she received the prestigious Italian prize “Golden Apple”. In the European Parliament, she was twice awarded “MEP of the year” – in 2016 for the category “Development”, and in 2013 for the category “Gender Equality”. In November 2020, Commissioner Gabriel received the Annual Award of the Vienna Economic Forum “Partner of the Year 2020”

Atte Jääskeläinen is Director General of Higher Education and Research Policy at the Ministry of Education and Culture of Finnish Government. Before joining the ministry he was Professor of Practice and Chairman of Advisory Board at LUT University, Finland and is still Visiting Senior Fellow at LSE, since 2017. He was also CEO of his wholly owned consultancy and was active in the fields of strategic management and digital strategies for European public service media. He has also been Visiting Fellow at Reuters Institute, University of Oxford, 2017-2018. He was Director of News and Current Affairs at Finnish Broadcasting Company 2007- 2017 and Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of Finnish News Agency STT 2004-2006. Atte is LLM of European law from University of Helsinki (trained on the bench).

Dr Astrid Boeijen is CEO of the Brightlands Smart Services Campus, a triple helix innovation campus in the field of data science and AI in Heerlen, in the South of the Netherlands. The Brightlands Smarts Services Campus was founded in 2016 by Maastricht University, the Province of Limburg and pension provider APG. It boasts an ecosystem of over 80 companies, startups, governments and knowledge institutions, of which 30 on-site.

Dr Boeijen made the transit to the Brightlands Smarts Services Campus in 2020; in the five years before, she was member of the Board of Directors of Statistics Netherlands, where she was responsible for Data Services, Research and Innovation and led a 600 employee strong division. In addition, she was director of the Heerlen branch of Statistics Netherlands. In her years at Statistics Netherlands, she was responsible for among others the realization of a nationwide system of Urban and Provincial Data Centers and for the foundation of the Center for Big Data Statistics of Statistics Netherlands.

Before Statistics Netherlands, dr Boeijen worked at Maastricht University, among others as Director Academic Affairs and Director of the Students Services Center. Dr Boeijen studied Chemistry at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam (cum laude) and holds a PhD in Combinatorial Chemistry (Utrecht University, 2000).

Menno Bart is a Public Affairs Manager at the Adecco Group. As such, he is responsible for managing the Group’s relationship with global and European policy makers, and for representing the Group in institutional settings covering topics like the future of work, (youth) employability and skills.

Menno is a Board Member of the World Employment Confederation, the industry federation representing the HR services industry. In addition, he is closely involved with employment and social policy topics working via BusinessEurope, the International Organisation of Employers, and Business at OECD. Menno also acts as Co-Chair of the GFMD’s Ad Hoc Working Group on the impact of Covid-19 on Migrants, Migration and Development.

Previously, Menno worked as a lobbyist in Brussels for the World Employment Confederation, and as a consultant for Russchen Consultants. Menno is a former diplomat for the Dutch government in Prague and in Arube. Menno is currently based at the Adecco Group’s headquarters in Zurich.

Nina Kolaković is a member of the YUFE WP8 Dissemination group and a member of the working group in charge of dissemination and communication at the University of Rijeka, Croatia. She earned her Master’s Degree in English Language and Literature and Croatian Language and Literature (magna cum laude) at the University of Rijeka, where she is currently employed as an Assistant Expert in the Rector’s Office, and also working as the Acting Head of the International Relations Office.

In March 2013, as a high school student, she visited the European Parliament in Strasbourg where she received the Euroscola Certificate in recognition of the commitment to the European Union development during the Euroscola day.

She was the member of the Project Management and Logistics Board of the HERItage conference, organised by the University of Rijeka, under the auspices of the Ministry of Science and Education of the Republic of Croatia and the European Commission, as part of the Croatian Presidency of the Council of the European Union during the first half of 2020.

With a strong interest in languages and translation, Nina has translated several books in the field of children’s socio-emotional and intellectual development, including topics such as parent-child relationship, relational competencies, aware parenting, NLP, mindfulness, the importance of grit, and many more.

Sonia Synak is a member of  the YUFE Student Forum. She joined the YUFE Alliance in July 2020. As a student member, she is a part of Work Package 6, YUFE in the Cities, and works on bringing YUFE closer to the local community. Before she started her adventure with YUFE she was the Exchange Ability Project Coordinator in Erasmus Student Network in Torun. There she got her first experience in international exchange. She is currently studying law at Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun. Sonia is interested in  human rights protection, international labour law and international judiciary.