University of Arctic (UArctic)—20 Years of Cooperation in Education, Research, and Knowledge Sharing

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The University of the Arctic (UArctic) is a network of over 230 universities, colleges, research institutes, and other organizations concerned with education and research in and about the North. UArctic builds and strengthens collective resources and infrastructures that enable member institutions to better serve their constituents and their regions. Through cooperation in education, research, and outreach UArctic enhances human capacity in the North, promotes viable communities and sustainable economies, and forges global partnerships.

Figure 1. Introductory slide, "Who We Are," courtesy of the UArctic General Presentation Slideshow.Figure 1. Introductory slide, "Who We Are," courtesy of the UArctic General Presentation Slideshow.

Created by the Arctic Council through the Iqaluit Declaration in 1998 (Download PDF-354 KB), and launched 20 years ago in 2001, UArctic is committed to upholding its principles of sustainable development as well as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. UArctic is constituted as an international association based in Finland. UArctic works in close partnership with other Arctic organizations such as the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC), the International Arctic Social Sciences Association (IASSA), and the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists (APECS), and is an observer to the Arctic Council.

Figure 2. UArctic Thematic Networks slide, courtesy of the UArctic General Presentation Slideshow.Figure 2. UArctic Thematic Networks slide, courtesy of the UArctic General Presentation Slideshow.

UArctic supports the cooperation and collaboration among its members via Thematic Networks and UArctic Institutes. The thematically focused networks address topical Arctic issues and problems, creating joint education and research, and sharing the knowledge. Currently, there are 66 Thematic Networks and UArctic Institutes, with some also led from countries outside the eight Arctic States. Seven new Thematic Networks were endorsed after an annual call in the last assembly of UArctic meeting in May 2021. The seven new Thematic Networks are:

  • Thematic Network on Arctic Indigenous Film, hosted by International Sámi Film Institute ISFI, Norway
  • Thematic Network on Arctic Space Hub, hosted by Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory, University of Oulu, Finland
  • Thematic Network on Arctic Urban Planning and Design, hosted by The Arctic University of Norway, Norway (UiT)
  • Thematic Network on Bioregional Planning for Resilient Rural Communities, hosted by University of New England, United States of America
  • Thematic Network on Circular Economy, hosted by Lapland University of Applied Sciences, Finland
  • Thematic Network on Children in the Arctic, hosted by Ilisimatusarfik / University of Greenland, Greenland
  • Thematic Network on Critical Arctic Studies, hosted by Arctic Centre, University of Lapland, Finland
    Find out more about UArctic, the Circumpolar North, and current issues facing the region through video interviews with UArctic leaders, Thematic Network Leads, members, and key partners. View Video Interviews

Thematic Networks form a backbone to activities conducted in UArctic and this year marks the 10th Anniversary of the Arctic Yearbook, an annual Arctic peer-reviewed volume of scholarly articles created and edited by the Thematic Network on Geopolitics and Security. The Arctic Yearbook is one example of many publications, books, and edited volumes co-authored by various Thematic Networks.
Thematic Networks and UArctic Institutes are independent and different in many ways, in their size, diversity, geographical region, focus and aims. Some networks focus on Indigenous languages or teacher education, building the resilience and capacity of communities. Some focus on pure physical climate sciences, and some work and do exhibitions on arts and design. Networks also collaborate with each other, participate in Arctic Council working groups and projects, and engage with the whole UArctic community.
One great example of engaging with youth and Arctic community is the Thematic Network on Arctic Arts and Design’s UArctic Photo Competition: Arctic Polarities. The first competition was open in 2020 and currently the competition is open for contributions to Arctic Polarities 2022.

Figure 3. The winning photo, "Whale" in the Arctic Polarities 2021 competition in the staff category by Thomas Chung. Figure 3. The winning photo, "Whale" in the Arctic Polarities 2021 competition in the staff category by Thomas Chung.

UArctic promotes and works for equal educational opportunities for everyone in the North. One of the first activities started in the early years of UArctic is the Bachelor level Circumpolar Studies courses aimed to increase the awareness of the Arctic as a whole. Today the courses can still be taken, also as a classroom course in some of the UArctic member organizations. Parallel to Circumpolar Studies, a mobility program north2north was initiated, offering exchange to students from one UArctic member university to another. COVID-19 cannot be forgotten in this context as physical mobility has not been possible during the past year. To overcome the related challenges, new ways of mobility have been planned, particularly as virtual mobility. COVID-19 was challenging of course to all networking activities; however, the online meetings and webinars have proved to be an equal and cost-efficient way to meet partners more frequently and to organize online education.

Figure 4. Informational slide, "north2north," courtesy of the UArctic General Presentation Slideshow.Figure 4. Informational slide, "north2north," courtesy of the UArctic General Presentation Slideshow.

UArctic Congress 2020 had also to be first postponed from October 2020 to May 2021 and later on changed to an online Congress. It still attracted almost 600 registered participants who followed 40 online parallel sessions and plenaries. Connectivity is still an issue in many rural Arctic communities and until internet connections are secured for everyone seeking education, or accessing health care, etc., the Arctic is not an equal place to all. The UArctic Congress 2021 Declaration states:

“Online meetings provide more equal access to everyone to attend the meetings and conferences—if broadband internet connectivity is available. Connectivity and accessibility, in the broad sense, have thus become even more important key needs for northern communities. Online connectivity must improve to allow equal participation by northerners in meetings, conferences, and other activities important to livelihoods and sustainability.”

The UArctic Thematic Network on Arctic Telecommunications and Networking is looking for solutions to overcome the challenge of connectivity. In collaboration with Thematic Networks, the work towards sustainable futures and resilience for better education and building the future leaders is a high priority. UArctic aims in a joint effort in partnership with other Arctic organizations to build an Arctic as home, which can adapt to challenges faced by climate change and globalization in a sustainable way.

Figure 5. To learn more about UArctic slide, courtesy of the UArctic General Presentation Slideshow.Figure 5. To learn more about UArctic slide, courtesy of the UArctic General Presentation Slideshow.

The UArctic General Presentation Slideshow is available on the UArctic website.

For further information or questions, please contact Kirsi Latola - Vice-President Networks (Kirsi.Latola [at] oulu.fi) or the UArctic International Secretary (secretariat [at] uarctic.org).