FORTHEM Alliance Extends JYU’s International Networks

Text: Oskari Vesterinen, Coordinator for FORTHEM Lab Actions

Even though the past six months have been glum for international academic mobility and cooperation, the University of Jyväskylä has been improving its international profile on a new front by participating in the FORTHEM Alliance. FORTHEM provides many international opportunities for the students and staff of JYU even in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.

The FORTHEM Alliance is a network of seven European universities [1] that seeks to enhance academic cooperation among its members through increased student and staff mobility, common courses, learning structures and materials, internship opportunities for students, and multidisciplinary expert networks called FORTHEM Labs. The Alliance also works with a number of external stakeholders from business life and the third sector to achieve these goals. FORTHEM is one of the 17 European Universities Alliances that were established in 2019. Further 24 similar alliances were given funding in 2020 by the European Commission.

The Alliance’s missions – Mobility, Outreach and Labs – all provide interesting opportunities for students and staff for European cooperation:

Mobility mission provides students and staff short- and long-term mobility between Alliance universities, from weeklong intensive courses to long-term study and research exchanges. Mobility mission also includes virtual and online courses and seminars. An already implemented course was a joint JYU-hosted workshop for language teachers and researchers held in early June. One of the goals of the Mobility mission is to establish a common Digital Academy that will provide students with common courses, learning materials, and possibly even entire degree programs. The on-going coronavirus pandemic means that so far, online solutions have played an unexpectedly large role in the mission, but plans for physical mobility are also being developed behind the scenes for more normal times.

Outreach mission reaches for the wider society outside academia and engages schools, companies, NGOs and other stakeholders that have common interests with the Alliance. Students and staff can benefit from this mission through internship opportunities in other European countries or civic engagement projects, for example. These projects and internships can net students ECTS credits, and they can provide students and staff members with useful contacts and networks for future cooperation.

FORTHEM Challenge meeting in Dijon brought together people from the Alliance universities in January. © Daria Plantak

Labs mission is based on expert teams (i.e. labs) comprised of students, researchers and university-external stakeholders. There are altogether seven Labs, each organized around topical themes. Labs work on research-based solutions for the challenges of the themes that the partners considered the most relevant. All students and staff members of the JYU are encouraged to participate in the Labs if they are interested. One Lab in particular is interesting to the Language Campus: Multilingualism in School and Higher Education Lab, which, as its name suggests, focuses on the role of multilingualism and -culturalism in different educational settings. The Lab’s alliance-level kick-off event took place in spring 2020, and it is now in the phase of planning several outputs. These outputs include a course on multilingual learning environments, a summer school on working with multilingual learners, and an upcoming citizen science project, among other things.

FORTHEM has plenty of ambitious goals, but these goals can be fully realized only if the university community partakes with the development of the Alliance. We are confident that this can be done, and we have already seen promising signs about enthusiasm over the Labs and student interest in mobility and study exchanges. We encourage any student or staff member interested in FORTHEM’s various activities to find out more about different ways to participate, either by checking the Alliance’s website here or the JYU’s FORTHEM page here. You can also ask for more information from the JYU’s FORTHEM office at

[1] The other participating universities are the University of Latvia, University of Opole, Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, University of Burgundy, University of Valencia and the University of Palermo.