International networking in Austria

Teksti | Outi Loikkanen

Events like the international week organized by the University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria in Linz show how important international collaboration is. These events bring together lecturers and students from different countries and fields, enhancing academic experiences, building professional relationships, and promoting mutual understanding and cooperation. By participating in Erasmus+ and similar programs, higher education institutions like Laurea can continue to innovate, improve their educational offerings, and prepare students and staff for the modern world’s complexities.

International world café in Austria where people from different countries introduced typical food from their countries
International networking in Linz Austria, photo by Outi Loikkanen

Erasmus + offers opportunities for international experience

Erasmus+ is the European Union’s funding program for education, youth, and sports, supporting European cooperation. The program’s activities aimed at higher education institutions promote the internationalization and quality of higher education. In addition to student mobility, the program supports the mobility of university teachers and other staff both within Europe and to countries outside Europe. With the support of the Erasmus+ program, higher education staff can go abroad to teach or receive training. Foreign stays last from two days to two weeks. Teacher exchange has been part of the program since 1997. A key aspect is teaching at a foreign higher education institution: during the period, there is a minimum teaching obligation of 8 hours per week. Participation in teacher exchanges is open to staff other than teaching personnel, and representatives of foreign companies, for example, can also be invited to teach. (Opetushallitus 2021.)

Internationalization and multiculturalism have always been part of Laurea’s principles (Laurea 2018) and the staff is encouraged to utilize the Erasmus+ program to gain international experience.

The power of multidisciplinary collaboration

Europe’s labor markets are changing rapidly due to technological development and economic restructuring. Flexible learning formats and opportunities are needed at all stages of life and across various disciplines and sectors. This need creates a significant opportunity for higher education institutions to develop innovative curricula, study programs, and alternative learning pathways. To improve quality and address the digital and green transitions and key socio-economic challenges, new multidisciplinary thinking and collaboration are required. (European Council 2021.)

Multidisciplinary collaboration involves combining insights, methods, and expertise from multiple disciplines to tackle complex problems. By encouraging lecturers and students from diverse backgrounds to work together, higher education institutes can spark innovation and create comprehensive solutions. For instance, addressing socio-economic challenges requires input from economists and social scientists, while IT professionals can develop digital solutions. Each discipline offers unique perspectives and tools that, when combined, lead to more efficient and sustainable outcomes.
In education, multidisciplinary collaboration also enriches the learning experience. Students exposed to diverse fields gain a broader understanding of complex issues, develop critical thinking skills, and become more adaptable professionals. Such an educational environment fosters creativity, as students learn to approach problems from multiple angles and are better equipped to navigate the modern world’s complexities.

The University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria hosted an international week in June 2024. Although the event was focused on the social sciences, two IT lecturers from Laurea UAS also participated to expand their multidisciplinary network. They aimed to teach service design methods, which can be applied to social science services as well. The University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria offers a wide multidisciplinary range of choices for its 6,000 students, with over 70 degree programs across four campuses (FHH Oberosterreich 2024) so they are a versatile partner to collaborate with.

International networks are important

International collaboration enables higher education institutes to pool resources, share knowledge, and leverage diverse perspectives to address global issues. International partnerships also enrich academic research and education. For students, exposure to different cultures and educational systems fosters global citizenship and development of the intercultural competence. (De Hei, Tabacaru, Sjoer, Rippe, Walenkamp, 2020.) Collaborative research projects can also access a broader range of data, expertise, and funding opportunities, leading to more impactful outcomes.

There is evidence that personally knowing people has a strong impact on bridging silos and improving collaboration. Once people get to know each other and their capabilities and interests, people will connect more easily. Informal networking opportunities such as joint dinner and events might sound unprofessional, but they work. Also, joint training programs or conferences that bring together people that do not interact otherwise, are important. (Fox 2010; De Waal, Weaver, Day, van der Heijden 2019.)

The international week in Linz emphasized getting to know each other. The week started with a cultural trip to salt mines and the town of St. Wolfgang, creating a relaxed atmosphere for networking. This made it easier to build relationships during the seminars and workshops that followed. A joint dinner midweek provided another opportunity to connect with colleagues from Armenia and Turkey, who might not have met otherwise. Many lecturers had also brought students with them to join the international week in Linz. This made the experience even more useful to everyone, as international students and lecturers collaborated in the workshops and views from different countries were brought up. It was nice to notice that despite various cultures and backgrounds, it was possible to create solutions together.

The University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria collaborates with more than 300 partner universities worldwide (FHH Oberosterreich 2024), and the international week included participants from 12 countries. These gatherings not only enhance the academic experience but also build bridges between countries and organizations, fostering mutual understanding and cooperation.


International and multidisciplinary collaboration is crucial for higher education institutions aiming to address the modern world’s complex challenges. By fostering global partnerships, these institutions can enhance the quality and impact of their research and education. Such collaborations drive innovation and societal progress and prepare students and staff to become adaptable, globally minded individuals capable of navigating an increasingly interconnected world. As the challenges we face become more complex and interconnected, so too must our approach to solving them—through the power of collaboration.



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