Studying together from Finland to Portugal

Apply once, and study at 7 European universities – that is Unite!

Internationality is very important at TU Darmstadt! It is therefore not surprising that the university has joined forces with six other European partner universities to form the Unite! network at the end of 2019. In this article, #studentsofTUdarmstadt and Unite! representatives talk about the advantages Unite! can offer in student life.

Published: 27th September 2021

M.Sc. Mechanical Engineering

I like the concept of Unite! If a lecture is not offered at my own university, I can attend it virtually at a partner university and thus expand my learning opportunities!

Portrait Tom
Picture: TUDSaT e.V

The trans-European campus brings students together

Studying together, across national borders, is simply the most fun. That's exactly what Unite! wants to simplify:

Prof. Dr. Tanja Brühl,
President TU Darmstadt and President of Unite!

In Unite! we want to offer our students a truly European study experience. This means that in the future there will not only be Erasmus exchange opportunities, but many new virtual, hybrid or short-term mobility opportunities."

Portrait Prod. Dr. Tanja Brühl
Picture: Katrin Binner

But let's start at the beginning: Unite! stands for University Network for Innovation, Technology and Engineering and has been coordinated by TU Darmstadt since its founding in November 2019. TU Darmstadt has been working closely with its network partners in a spirit of trust for almost 30 years – all of them have been members of the Cluster network of twelve leading European technical universities since 1990.

As a very young network, Unite! makes trans-European studying just a bit easier. In addition to TU Darmstadt, the network includes Aalto University (Finland), the Royal Institute of Technology (Sweden), the National Polytechnic Institute of Grenoble (France), the Polytechnic Institute of Turin (Italy), Polytechnic University of Catalonia (Spain) and the University of Lisbon (Portugal). Together, these seven partner institutions have about 170,000 students and work together tightly on more than 80 EU projects. In the last five years, more than 2,000 students used the network for exchange. Okay, that sounds cool to you, but what does Unite! do for your studies?

Unite! is Europe in action

For the students, Unite! provides great opportunities for their studies and later professional life: Through interdisciplinary and intercultural education, you will be well prepared for the future requirements of the international job market and the solution of global challenges. For Thomas Macher from the Unite! team, that would have been “a dream” back in college:

Dr. Thomas Macher,
Deputy Key Liaison Officer TU Darmstadt

During my own days as a student studying abroad at other European universities was associated with great difficulties. Studying at multiple universities was especially difficult. Unite! now makes it possible to do just that: to be a student of the TU, but also to participate physically and/or virtually in courses at one (or more) of the six universities in the network. For me, something like that would have been a dream back then!

Portrait Thomas
Picture: Thomas Macher

Unite! has set itself the task of strengthening e-learning and linking it with innovative pedagogy, developing and implementing new teaching concepts, expanding the range of international bilateral and multilateral study programmes, and increasing the mobility of students and employees. Look for yourselves and check out the Unite! Metacampus: Here you can register with your TU mail address and view the course offerings of Unite! and all partner universities.

Vision of a transeuropean campus

The goal of Unite! is the trans-European campus! There is a joint virtual campus of the seven Unite! partner universities, the “Metacampus”. The courses offered by Unite! partner universities will be increasingly combined here. Some courses will be developed for Unite!, but the Metacampus is also a platform where partner universities can offer their courses to students of the other partner universities.

Click here to go to the Unite! Campus

Unite! makes the exchange between the seven partner universities even easier for the students and the recognition of modules runs without any problems. Sounds great, doesn't it? You are free to choose when and where you want to study and also have a say in which teaching and learning formats – many of which already exist virtually – you take advantage of. With Unite! you can easily study one semester in Lisbon, the next one in Stockholm, and maybe add a stay in Aalto? And thanks to the super network, it all works out without any bureaucratic hurdles. What a great opportunity, isn't it?

For Jana Freihöfer from the Unite! team, that and more is what makes the network special:

Dr. Jana Freihöfer,
Key Liaison Officer of TU at Unite!

For me, Unite! is Europe in action. Here we have the opportunity not only to research together with strong and committed partners, to teach and to offer our students a range of courses from seven leading universities, but also to network on many levels and to develop joint structures and programmes. What makes this special is that we have known the Unite! Partners for many years and have already worked together successfully. This is the basis of our common vision to create a trans-European campus.

Portrait Jana Freihöfer
Picture: TU Darmstadt

The network sees itself as a project that is shaped by all participants. Students in particular should have and use the opportunity to develop and contribute ideas: Which formats do you find exciting, which topics have priority for you, how can you bring your own ideas into teaching and contribute to cultural exchange? In addition to the summer schools already offered by the Unite! partners, there are also idea competitions and calls for short fellowships.

ready, set, go! INSPIRED is at the ready

INSPIRED is a multi-week course under the Unite! umbrella in which students from Unite! partner universities and beyond collaborate on an interdisciplinary project. In 2021, the goal was to work together to design an extraterrestrial greenhouse that would be brought to Mars to supplement the diet of the space crew!


INSPIRED stands for International Project Week for Interdisciplinary Research-Oriented Digital Learning. Three departments of TU Darmstadt organize INSPIRED: Biology, Materials Science and Mechanical Engineering.

INSPIRED offers students the opportunity to experience Unite! live. The event format combines interdisciplinary teaching and learning in international teams, blended learning through an e-learning phase at the beginning and the later three-week stay in Darmstadt with teamwork. Blended learning or integrated learning combines the advantages of e-learning and face-to-face events.

Due to the pandemic, the students from e.g. Finland, France, Italy or Portugal unfortunately could not come to Darmstadt. But those responsible found an interim solution for the participants: INSPIRED became completely virtual in 2020 and 2021. A total of 50 students from nine universities completed the team phase in 2021. In addition TU Darmstadt, the students came from the USA, Brazil, Singapore, Japan and, of course, from the Unite! partner universities.

From the University of Lisbon in Portugal, for example, Laura participated:

M.Sc. Food and Science Engineering

My task, as a biologist, was to select the plants to take to Mars. What nutrients do we need? It also involved genetic engineering.

Portrait Laura
Picture: Maria

At INSPIRED 2021, students worked together in interdisciplinary teams to develop a greenhouse and a spacecraft to take a crew to Mars and also feed them there. Students from more than 20 disciplines were represented, including Biology, Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Physics, or Energy Science. All had to work together to come up with solutions. Mentors and specialists supported the teams.

Laura studies at the University of Lisbon and participated in a Unite! course for the first time. “It was an incredible experience to participate in INSPIRED,” reports the Portuguese student. However, working with students from many different countries was also a challenge, she says. On the one hand, the language, but also the different time zones, and then, of course, the time pressure to complete the whole project in just three weeks. “We often worked overtime! But it was worth it,” Laura says about her work in the “Space Fries” team.

Extraterrestrial Greenhouse by Team 4 „Space Fries“
Extraterrestrial Greenhouse by Team 4 „Space Fries“

What's special about her team's greenhouse? “That we have a window! Against all the odds of space! It was very controversial because of the radiation. But we found a solution,” Laura reports proudly.

Tom was also part of INSPIRED in 2021:

M.Sc. Mechanical Engineering

At first, we thought we could do it with solar panels. In the end, we realized: we can only do this with a nuclear reactor!

Portrait Tom
Picture: TUDSaT e.V
How many plants does the crew need? How much energy do the plants need in the form of water and light?
How many plants does the crew need? How much energy do the plants need in the form of water and light?

In the team phase, this was the greatest challenge with the greatest learning effect: not only developing a unique solution, in Tom's case the Spacecraft, but also coordinating his own work with the solutions of the other teams. “The biologists had to take care of the number and type of plants, and we had to calculate the energy needed depending on that. Consequently, making sure there was enough energy for light and water treatment! At first, we thought we would do this with solar panels. In the end, we realized that we could only do it with a nuclear reactor!”

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The success of INSPIRED 2020 – at the time, students designed an interstellar “Farmacy” – spurred the development of a similar course offer at the Unite! partner university Lisbon: ULisses. Students collaborate internationally and interdisciplinarily here. In 2021, the challenge was “Oceans without plastic.”

Tom highly recommends participating in formats like INSPIRED and ULisses. “More international experience in your studies is always welcome. The advantage is that it's easier to work together in international teams later on,” says Tom. After graduation, he can very well imagine working abroad or for an internationally positioned company.

So, are you interested in Unite! Would you like to find out more? No problem, check out the Unite! website of TU Darmstadt or the European website.

Portrait Tom
Picture: TUDSaT e.V


My name is Tom and I have already completed my bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering at TU Darmstadt. Now I'm in my Master and plan to spend my next semester at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. When I return to Darmstadt, I would like to change to the Aerospace M.Sc, as I am very interested in space travel! Of course, I found INSPIRED super exciting for that reason as well. In summer I will already write my master thesis. Maybe we will see each other on campus!

Portrait Laura
Picture: Maria


Hello, I am Laura and I am from Portugal. I study the Master of Science “Food and Science Engineering” at the University of Lisbon. Participating in INSPIRED was an incredibly great experience. I can very well imagine studying at TU Darmstadt through Unite! I even took a German course already! So, maybe we'll see each other in Darmstadt or Lisbon – preferably virtually and physically on site.