[Translate to English:] Bronzestatue von Friedrich Schiller vor dem Uni-Gebäude der Universität Jena
© Jan-Peter Kasper (Universität Jena)

The European Universities Alliance EC2U

How the University of Jena communicates its activities
Reading time: 7 min.

Friedrich Schiller University Jena has been a member of the European Campus of City-Universities (EC2U), a multicultural and multilingual alliance of seven universities from various parts of the European Union, since 2020. EC2U’s aim is to create a European campus that brings together university communities, the citizens and various interest groups through joint activities. To achieve this, the alliance and the University of Jena are focusing on a coordinated communications strategy.

Aufnahme von Professor Dr. Walter Rosenthal, Präsident der Universität Jena im Lichthof eines Uni-Gebäudes. Im Hintergrund sieht man Bibliotheksregale durch bodentiefe Fenster.
© Jens Meyer/Universität Jena

«The University of Jena has relied on international collaborations in research and teaching for a long time, but EC2U gives us fresh impetus, as it were, and raises our internationalisation efforts to a new level. […] We want to address important topics of the future, for example health and sustainability, multilingualism and, of particular importance to me, the internationalisation of teacher training programmes.» 

Professor Dr. Walter Rosenthal, President of the University of Jena

An analysis and its consequences

The University of Jena – like the other six partner universities in the European Campus of City-Universities alliance – was and still is very aware that the challenges are considerable. After all, EC2U is a project in which seven established, locally and globally committed, research-strong universities cooperate with 30 partner institutions such as student organisations, cities, local authorities and chambers of commerce. In total, the alliance unites some 160,000 students, 20,000 employees from administration, teaching and research as well as 1.6 million citizens in seven cities and just as many countries across the continent.

«In terms of communication between the universities and with partner institutions and citizens in general, we approached the task with a SWOT analysis,» explains Dr Claudia Hillinger, long-standing head of International Office at the University of Jena and EC2U project manager in Jena. «So working with colleagues in Coimbra, Iaşi, Pavia, Poitiers, Salamanca and Turku, we did a systematic analysis of our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and risks and, on the basis of this, in the next stage identified the objectives and content of the cross-alliance communications strategy.» Hillinger adds that this strategy was then validated by the communications officers at the partner universities, the Executive Committee of the EC2U Alliance and the European Commission. It has been implemented since 2021.

Goals, content and their realisation

The overall strategy and the essentially identical communications strategies of the individual partner universities – they have «the same key messages, the same target groups, in some cases the same activities and identical, if not the same channels,» explains Kerstin Zippel from International Office – pursue three overarching goals. The first is to select appropriate channels, methods and tools to guarantee access to the target groups. The second involves consistently increasing awareness of the EC2U Alliance, and the third is to encourage active participation in EC2U activities.

A distinction is made between internal and external communications in the strategies and also at the University of Jena. «Internal communications are about target groups at the university, so our students, employees, teaching staff and researchers,» explains Zippel. «We reach these groups mainly through existing channels, but also through specially created media, such as websites, videos and podcasts, as well as print media, like flyers and brochures.» External communications, on the other hand, target citizens. We reach them through press releases, depending on the event through posters in the city, and through the channels of the associated project partners of the city of Jena and Jena Business Development. «We also try to involve Jena residents in the EC2U forums hosted alternately by each partner city, as well as in what we refer to as think tanks,» adds Claudia Hillinger. «In this format, we tackle topics that are currently important and relevant, such as sustainability and liveable cities.»

Implementation of the various measures is organised with the Jena EC2U coordination team headed by Claudia Hillinger, various areas of International Office and their communications officers, specifically the «Study Abroad» section, and the university communications department. The measures are also supplemented by the national support programme «European University Networks (EUN) – National Initiative», which is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and supported by DAAD. This programme supports the «Foster.European.Competences and Talents» (FECT) project, which in turn implements communications and awareness-raising measures for the university alliance. These include a newsletter for Jena University students which is published twice a semester and contains information about EC2U activities and calls for proposals for forums, summer schools or workshops.

Gepflasterter Innenhof mit Collegium Jenense, die Gründungsstätte der Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena.
Collegium Jenense, the site where Friedrich Schiller University Jena was founded 
© Jan-Peter Kasper

In the winter semester 2022/2023, 17,539 students were enrolled at the University of Jena. Of the University’s total student population, 56 percent were women and 15 percent of international origin, coming from 120 different nations.

Experiences and existing challenges

«Our experience with the communications strategy has been very positive so far. It’s a flexible strategy that is adapted and validated annually in line with the needs of the target groups and new communications tools and ideas,» explains Kerstin Zippel. At the start of the project, we worked a lot with flyers, she says. But this has become much less common in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and also for the sake of sustainability. The focus is now on online advertising through newsletters and Instagram, for example. «One positive trend is that short-term mobilities, for example to forums, summer schools or other events, have increased significantly among both students and staff.»

Nevertheless, stresses Kerstin Zippel, we should not forget that EC2U – like any other European Universities alliance – is a large, interdisciplinary and intercultural project that involves different players and addresses all kinds of target groups. And for each of these groups, different types of communication and channels have to be used. For example, communications materials cannot simply be published in English – the alliance’s lingua franca – at the partner universities. The materials have to be coordinated and adapted both linguistically and culturally. This is particularly the case when the target group is the general public.

Another problem is the fact that because of the distances between participants’ locations, most work meetings take place remotely. Despite their fundamental advantages – making meetings possible in the first place – Kerstin Zippel stresses that this type of communication is not conducive in the long term to team-building or to the creation of an alliance. Fortunately, there are also in-person meetings, such as the EC2U forums, the sixth of which took place in Jena at the end of May 2023 with over 300 participants. In addition to internal EC2U working group meetings, they also host public events and allow students, employees and citizens to engage in personal discussions at all levels. For example, guests are invited to get involved in the Public Citizen Science session on «How Digitization Showcases the Cultural Heritage of Cities» or take part in the numerous events organised in cooperation with the university’s health management team, such as the «Healthy Campus» summer school.

Porträtfoto von Kerstin Zippel

Kerstin Zippel

Kerstin Zippel
International Cooperation Manager at the University of Jena

EC2U – European Campus of City-Universities


  • Université de Poitiers (France)

Partner institutions​

  • Turun Yliopisto (Finland)
  • ​Universidad de Salamanca (Spain)
  • ​Universidade de Coimbra (Portugal)
  • ​Università di Pavia (Italy)
  • ​Universität Jena (Germany)
  • ​Universitatea Iaşi (Rumania)

Associated partners in Jena​

  • ​City of Jena
  • ​Jena Business Development
  • ​Erasmus Student Network Jena
  • ​European Information Centre in the Thuringian State Chancellery


  • 2020–2023 (pilot phase)
  • ​2023–2027 (second regular call for proposals)


A long-term project

«It is a process that is accompanied by structural change,» states Claudia Hillinger. The European Universities alliances are a new, very complex form of cooperation which has never existed before on this scale, or with this reach, content or variety of measures. Not all institutions within a university are equally involved in the project. «It will take time before more and more university members discover, understand, appreciate and ultimately participate in the project.»

The University of Jena is tackling this task not least with the help of the FECT support project. This project includes a campaign to inform members of the University of Jena about the potential benefits of participating in the consortium and actively inviting them to join. It also offers staff development and advanced training courses, measures to raise awareness of the European idea in the form of its own training programmes with specific modules (digital, analogue and as mobilities in the alliance) to develop intercultural skills and multilingualism programmes, proactively involving administrative staff, in particular, in the network. This training concept is structurally integrated into the human resources development strategy and linked to courses offered by the Language Centre and Intercultural Business Communication programme. It thereby sustainably supports the alliance, its processes and the trans-European university’s profile development.

«Despite all the tasks and challenges we still face, I believe we are on the right track,» says Claudia Hillinger. «Since the start of EC2U 2020, and specifically since we implemented the communications strategy, we have made great progress towards achieving our declared goal: namely, to develop an open and innovative space allowing seamless mobility among the universities and cities, thus overcoming clichéd views of regional and national identities.»

EC2U is now a multicultural alliance of seven European partners. […] Based on this alliance, we are developing new degree programmes and research projects, networking campuses and therefore creating added value in addition to the activities of the individual universities.
Dr Claudia Hillinger
Porträtfoto von Dr. Claudia Hillinger

Dr Claudia Hillinger

Dr Claudia Hillinger
Head of International Office at the University of Jena and EC2U project manager in Jena

Online citizen participation

Events & News from all seven EC2U locations at a glance

Jena’s European Campus of City-Universities online

Further information

DAAD (European University Networks EUN – national initiative) 

NA DAAD (European Universities (available in German only))

European Commission (European Universities initiative)

Yvonne Schnocks
EU03 – Partnerships and Cooperation Projects
Marcus Klein