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UPV/EHU Summer Courses emerge stronger from the pandemic

<p> <strong>The 40th edition of the UPV/EHU Summer Courses is back up to the number of students pre-pandemic and has opened up to a more international audience.</strong></p>

The beginning of the 40th Summer Courses coincided with the fourth wave of the pandemic, and it was in July and August, in the middle of the fifth wave, that our activity reached a peak. In this context student numbers almost equal to those pre-pandemic were achieved. Pending the count from some courses still being held this week and in the first week of October, the courses are expected to end with 12,704 people having taken part, compared to the 13,412 in the 2019 edition.

This year's edition took place without any health issues thanks to the measures put in place and the backing of management, speakers and students on the different courses, who we would like to thank for their cooperation. This experience has in fact served to return to face-to-face classes while at the same time consolidating our live online options, thanks to which students from many different countries have joined in. Nearly 1,000 people enrolled from Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and Colombia, while within Europe most of the enrolments came from Germany, Italy and France. The online courses have reached out to students in all continents, including Australia.

"Relearning",  as our 2021 slogan said, has been the background music to the Summer Courses, one that has enabled us to return to the pace we set before the pandemic. This year's edition has revolved around the 7 social challenges set. We have seen that these challenges respond effectively to current realities and to the dilemmas posed by our immediate post-pandemic future. In any case, it should be pointed out that many of the ideas and proposals set forth in this Summer Courses are transversal in nature.

The Donostia Sustainability Forum (DSF) included the 33 courses run that dealt with sustainability. Environmental, social and economic sustainability. The courses run set out to provide answers to the main questions in this area: are SMEs the missing link in business transformation? Are we getting it all right in the struggle against climate change? Are we forgetting the role of stockbreeding? How fast can renewable energies grow for green hydrogen not to be merely residual? In the middle of the summer the final, damning report of the IPCC came out, and it was suggested that it is not good to generate "ecoanxiety", because it paralyses us, but "We have to act fast, because every degree counts," according to Maria José Sanz, director of the Basque Center for Climate Change.

In this second pandemic summer, professor of public health Antoni Trilla warned us at the academic opening of the Summer Courses that "This is not over." In the course of the different parts of the programme that centred on the pandemic we heard that society, at least half of the population, has or has had feelings of insecurity and anxiety. Gipuzkoa Provincial Authority pointed out the health, social and economic crises. The technical director of UTCCB, the Barcelona Crisis Unit, attempting to build resilience, warned us that, "We can't say that we'll carry on as if nothing had happened here," because we have psychological scars that have to heal. The Gipuzkoa College of Nursing said we should "stop to think", because we may not have learnt anything with a view to the next pandemic.

Digitalisation strategy represents the second challenge in the European Union's recovery plans, which were discussed at length and in depth this summer. Digitalisation has been one of the most widely-used words when talking about crises in the climate, education, justice, local commerce, mobility and governance (another of our challenges). While Europe set up the "Conference on the Future of Europe" aimed at the public in an attempt to neutralise the widespread indifference to its institutions, highlighting the principle of subsidiarity and approachable administrations, the Summer Courses analysed the experience of community public governance in Errenteria; community life and values in rural areas were examined in Zerain; Ararteko organised a review of the phenomenon of the lack of transparency in public administration and highlighted society's negative perceptions of the different tiers of government during the pandemic. Online relations with the authorities in general have been an added handicap for older people, but also for the general public, as the design of most services is "full of technical pitfalls".

The ageing of the population continues to demand our attention. Long-term care, the meaning and importance of ageing, a society that places care centre stage (Emakunde), the necessary change in centres for the elderly (previously pensioners' clubs) and the obvious weaknesses in the design of environments for ageing were all explained in a course organised by the Matia foundation. All these aspects were debated this summer.

The Summer Courses have shown how the digital transformation of education which began some years ago has speeded up over the last two years. The educational world is also related to teaching outside the classroom or teaching in natural settings, without neglecting equality and good treatment at school from the earliest years. This year the decision of the French Constitutional Council on the Molac bill was discussed, and the dual training and education in values in high-performance vocational training that have been so hotly debated in the Basque Country were also discussed further.

In our commitment to gender equality, this year saw a Summer Course dealing with the raw reality of prostitution, its lies and its realities. Another course put the spotlight on legislative changes on gender violence, where a group of magistrates expressed their impotence in recurring cases and the obstacles posed in many cases of the self-limited determination of victims to put their aggressors in prison. We also dealt with the issue of women and children who are victims of violence on the social networks, which has spread exponentially during the pandemic.

This year we took a grand tour of Basque culture. We began the Summer Courses with an introductory trip to the Costa Rocosa ("Rocky Coast") and the latest sculpture by Cristina Iglesias “Hondalea” to kick off the 1st Eduardo Chillida School. After a long trip along the northern Camino de Santiago (St. James' Way), we travelled back in time to old Vasconia at the time of Juan Sebastián Elkano, who set off in search of spices and ended up sailing round the world.

This year's edition stood out for its treatment of Basque culture. The season started with a very popular Summer Course on the limits of the Basque language in ancient Vasconia, and included another two courses with a high impact, about the Molac bill on language immersion in French schools, which featured Breton member of parliament Paul Molac himself, and his proposal to reform the French constitution, and a second on the work of Karmele Jaio in which the author herself discussed the keys to her literature with students on the course.

Architect Franziska Marie Ullman, a pioneer in architecture and gender, marine biologist and oceanographer Carlos Duarte; president and secretary of the World Society of Victimology; Carlos Briones of the Astrobiology Centre at the CSIC: María Ángeles Durán; professor of ethics Adela Cortina; Txetxu Ausín, expert in ethics and artificial intelligence issues; creator of the currently fashionable concept of “ecoanxiety” Andreu Escrivà; or expert in nutrition and author of the book “¿Qué Comes?” ["What are you Eating?"] Miguel Ángel Martinez are just some of the personalities that have enriched the Summer Courses with their wisdom.

12,704 people involved in the 2021 Summer Courses have attended one of more of the 192 activities organised. 44 were run in Basque, while in geographical terms - though nearly all also offered the option of taking part live online - 104 took place in Gipuzkoa province, 20 in Bizkaia, 5 in Araba, 2 in Navarra and 2 in Iparralde (the French Basque Country). 18 courses were offered live online only, and 41 are long-term online courses. In addition, 13 free activities open to the general public were run, and were highly popular.

This week the last courses are taking place, in Elizondo and Ordizia. The Foundation remains true to its mission to provide long-term online courses and the all-year-round programme run within the framework of the Donostia Sustainability Forum. And the machinery is already in motion to prepare a new edition in 2022: on 2nd November the period begins for receiving proposals for next year's Summer Courses.

None of this would be possible without the unconditional support given by the institutions that make up the Summer Course Organising Committee: the BBVA foundation, Donostia/San Sebastián city council, Gipuzkoa provincial authority and the Basque government. And of course thanks are due to the directors and speakers on the courses, the bodies that collaborate to make each activity possible and our students, loyal to their annual date.  And to the media, which helped the reflections and learnings of the Summer Courses to be heard beyond our own classrooms.