Eleven students from member institutions both within and beyond the Arctic states participated in what became four days of fruitful discussion and engaging debates. We, the students, represented member institutions in Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Japan, and the UK, and more generally, the experience of being UArctic students.
The Students' Forum has become an annual event since its inception in 2010, and aims to bring students' views to the topic of discussion. This year, the two Forums addressed the question of "Challenges of Arctic Research".
While the senior university leaders discussed and developed their Declaration, we did the same. On the last day, our Declaration was presented to the rectors in order to allow recommendations to be taken into account before the finalisation of priorities for the coming year.
Much like the rectors, we wished to emphasise that one of the major challenges in relation to Arctic research is increasing multidisciplinarity. This is important in all research, of course, but in a rapidly changing region high on the political agenda, it is very clear.
The second point we wished to stress was the importance of collaboration across not just disciplines, but also across institutions, borders, and states. This includes traditional student and researcher mobility initiatives, but also increasing sharing of information, knowledge, and experience.
The UArctic network has been key to this kind of cooperation, and yet we still felt like there was scope to bring this further for students and young researchers. Not least, the Students’ Forum itself provided an excellent opportunity for the eleven of us to network between ourselves. For example, as a political geography PhD student in the UK, I can certainly say that I do not often get to discuss the Arctic with Japanese civil engineering students or Russian law students.
Inspired by our educational days at Umeå University, where we also got to hear from some of the local researchers, one of the main recommendations we put forward was an expanded Student Symposium. The idea behind this would be for undergraduate students to learn from postgraduates about the study and research experiences elsewhere in (or about) the Circumpolar North.
As the newly started UArctic Student Ambassador project is developing, these currently 14 students would be well-equipped to organise an event in conjunction with the Forums. Not least, it would be an opportunity to promote the opportunities of Arctic study mobility that the UArctic network has so successfully initiated.
The whole Students’ Declaration with the additional recommendations will be published on the UArctic website soon, and we hope that some of our suggestions may be possible to implement in the future. Either way, the process of working on a document with students from across the world on something we are all passionate about – Arctic research – was a great experience. We learnt from the presentations and speeches there, but more importantly, we learnt from each other. The Students’ Forum, in other words, was a chance for us students to speak with our shared voice about the challenges faced in Arctic research.
Ingrid A. Medby, Durham University