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21 July 2020 | in Forum

An interview with FISU Education Committee Chair Dr. Verena Burk

With just over three weeks to go for the 2020 FISU World Forum, all eyes are on the preparations for this first ever digital edition. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year's edition be the first online one and it will be held from 12-14 August 2020. Having to change all operational plans in the space of a few months could not have been easy, as a virtual event had to be planned from scratch.

However, there have also been some advantages in having to adopt the digital format, FISU Education Committee Chair Dr. Verena Burk tells us in this interview, ahead of one of FISU's biggest educational events. Excerpts from the interview: 


FISU Senior Executive Committee Member and FISU's Chair of the Education and Communication Committees, Verena Burk is a steady presence at the FISU Forum seminar and plenary sessions FISU: What has been the biggest challenge in reorganising the 2020 FISU World Forum into an online, digital format?


Burk: The FISU World Forum has for years been characterised by interactive forms of teaching and learning, project work, discussions, joint sports activities and social events. It was therefore the biggest challenge to ensure this inter-personal interaction despite the digital organisation.


We have planned keynote speeches and panel discussions with interesting guests, but also interactive workshops, joint online sports activities, a virtual expo and much more, to ensure that this special character of the FISU World Forum can be experienced digitally in 2020. And we have scheduled the FISU World Forum so that students and officials from National University Sports Federations (NUSFs) from around the world can participate.


What has been the biggest learning or positive outcome in having to plan this project so differently?


The organisation of a digital forum naturally also has its advantages. The number of participants from each NUSF is no longer limited, as it was the case with the previous FISU World Forums, with two students and two officials. In addition, some of our members have limited budgets and sometimes had to choose between events. Here, every member of the FISU Family will have a chance to attend the FISU World Forum online. We can therefore reach a larger audience within the FISU membership with this educational offer. In the FISU Education Committee, we also hope to gain important experience with regard to digital educational offers in order to be able to offer innovative educational events in the coming years or to supplement local educational events with digital elements.


How was the cooperation with the Hungarian University Sports Federation as well as the University of Physical Education of Budapest, in reorganising on a relatively short timeline?


We have had a very close, trusting and constructive cooperation with the Hungarian University Sports Association and the University of Physical Education in Budapest, from the planning stage to the current implementation.


FISU and the Education Committee are very grateful to the local organising committee for the fact that we are able to offer our member associations such an attractive educational event during the worldwide COVID-19 crisis. Our Hungarian colleagues have extensive experience in event organisation, from which we are now benefiting, especially in the short-term switch to a digital format.


What is the plan for this year’s student project, which usually takes place simultaneously during the Forum?


This year again, students will have the opportunity to design new projects on a selected topic and implement them in practice at international, national or local levels. They will receive inputs and tips from experts on how to develop and run a project. On August 14th, the student groups will present their projects at the plenary and a 5-member jury will select the winner. We hope for the participation of many students because through this project, students can improve their project management skills, and work and network in international teams on a project.


FISU Education Committee Chair Verena Burk passing the flag on from previous Forum host Krasnoyarsk to future host BudapestWhat do you believe is the purpose, or the objective, of the FISU World Forum?


The FISU World Forum is a platform that offers discussion and exchange of views and opinions at international level for students and officials of the National University Sports Federations. Together with representatives of the FISU Family and interesting guests, good practices and ideas are exchanged and developed.


It is important for the Education Committee members and FISU to also hear the voice of the students, who do not participate as athletes in FISU competitions, but who are involved in university sports in different roles at local, regional and national level and have numerous experiences. It is also often the first contact these students have with FISU and the international University Sports Movement. The FISU World Forum is therefore a discussion forum, a kind of seismograph for current trends and developments in university sport as well as a think tank for new ideas and topics.


What do you expect to be the most interesting or exciting part of the 2020 FISU World Forum programme?


This question is not easy to answer! We have a varied programme. Some participants will find the keynote speeches and panel discussions very attractive, while others will find discussions on FISU projects such as the International Day of University Sport or Healthy Campus or the virtual tour of the host city Budapest, very interesting. We hope that this year's digital FISU World Forum is able to meet the interests and expectations of all participants and that everyone who participates in it will be able to gain new insights for themselves and their local, regional and national university sport.