1 WESTERN BALKANS PLATFORM ON EDUCATION AND TRAINING REGIONAL CONFERENCE ON: ERASMUS+ AND COOPERATION OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE WESTERN BALKANS ATHENS, JAN 2014 REPORT I. Background and Objectives Following the launching of Erasmus+, European Commission s new education, training, youth and sport programme, the Western Balkans Platform on Education and Training organised a two-day conference in Athens, Greece in order to outline the opportunities for cooperation with the Western Balkans under Erasmus+. The 250 stakeholders who attended the conference on January represented higher education, school and youth sectors. The aim of the conference was to provide participants with practical information on capacity-building projects and mobility at the higher education level, electronic twinning of schools in primary and secondary school level, and support to youth activities, available to the Western Balkan countries in Erasmus+. In addition, the participants from the region had an opportunity to present their previous experiences in EU projects (Tempus and Erasmus Mundus). II. Day 1 Higher Education stakeholders Session 1 The conference started with the welcome address by Mr Dimitris Kourkoulas, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Greece, and Mr Aris Peroulakis, Head of Sector, European Commission Representation in Greece, followed by the keynote speech by Mr Jan Truszczyński, Director-General for Education and Culture, European Commission and the chair of the Western Balkans Platform on Education and Training. In the keynote speech Mr Jan Truszczyński outlined socio-economic and educational challenges European societies are facing and recent policy initiatives by the European Commission Rethinking Education, Opening up Education and European higher education in the world, all of which aim to tackle these challenges and improve the quality of European Education. Underlining that improving education is a corner stone of the Europe 2020 strategy, he specified three particularly relevant areas for investment and reforms in education: Quality: - Improving transversal skills (technical, entrepreneurial, linguistic, etc.) - Facilitate transition from education to work - Develop entrepreneurial approaches in leadership, teacher development and curriculum delivery - Improve the provision of lifelong learning opportunities, support and guidance, particularly for the unemployed - Develop the competences of teaching staff - Have quality assurance measures in place
2 Funding: How can governments and institutions fund the modernisation of education and training systems despite severe budget constraints? - To invest wisely in education and in the performance of education and training systems - Open national debates on how to fund reforms efficiently - Sector Skills Councils, competence development funds, or partnerships between employers and higher education institutions are some examples proposed in Rethinking Education Accessibility: How can education and training systems enhance open and flexible learning? - To encourage the creation of flexible options such as high quality distance learning, interactive learning and blended learning - To widen access and engagement through Open Education (explained in Opening up Education Communication) Cooperation with the Western Balkans The Western Balkans Platform on Education and Training was established in 2012, with two top priorities identified: higher education and teacher training. The relevance of higher education at a global level is growing year after year, as well as the opportunities for learning mobility studying abroad for a period of time. The goal set by 2020, is that at least 20% of graduates in the European Higher Education Area should have enjoyed a study or training period abroad. To achieve that, universities need to have comprehensive strategies that go beyond mobility and encompass many other types of academic cooperation such as joint degrees, support for capacity building, joint research projects and distance learning programmes. EC communication European higher education in the world reviews what Higher Education Institutions and the EU can do to strengthen internationalisation policies (e.g. scholarship programmes, information and promotion measures, recognition procedures, better international student services, international alliances and partnerships, internationalisation at home, the use of MOOCs). Erasmus+ is to deliver more and better by building on the success of previous programmes which are now under the same framework. Erasmus+ offers more opportunities for cooperation, internationalisation and modernisation of HE institutions and systems. In conclusion, he underlined the importance of learning mobility and academic cooperation, and the benefit they bring to students, young people and HEIs. He also highlighted the importance of the Info Conference and similar events for taking stock of the work done, learning about new opportunities and EC s work. Mr Peter Polajnar (DG Enlargement) presented the state of play in the EU enlargement process and then sketched out some of the ideas on how education fits in the accession process, in particular in its economic conditionality. He started by saying that the enlargement countries of the Western Balkans are Union's closest partners when it comes to possibilities to participate in Union's programmes. He acknowledged a progress in the cooperation in education between the EU and the Western Balkans countries since the Thessaloniki summit in Noting that it is crucial for enlargement policy to keep going on and maintaining the momentum, he underlined the importance of Croatia s accession as a proof that reforms pay off towards membership and as a pulling force for other countries in the region to follow suit. Then he briefly turned to the status of each WB country: Serbia - entering the accession negotiations which involve screening meeting to evaluate progress some areas are less challenging but some will take a lot of time and effort for the country to make the necessary progress. Kosovo* - the only country in the region without a contractual relation with the EU, is negotiating on SAA. Montenegro so far has advanced most in the accession process; it has made a lot of progress but the areas of judiciary and the rule of law remain its challenges; Albania still no candidate status, may be granted the candidate status in June if more progress is made; the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has quite sufficiently prepared to open negotiations progress in the EU path should be an incentive for reforms in other areas: political and inter-ethnic stability; the name dispute remains an obstacle;
3 Bosnia and Herzegovina - country's progress to the EU is blocked by the non-respect for a Council of Europe judgment. Moreover, there are many other areas in which unresolved inter-entity relations block further reforms needed for EU integration. Linking economy and education, Mr Polajnar said that the possibility to participate in EU programmes is a key part of the enlargement policy as EU programmes build networks of practitioners, policymakers and ideas thus creating great potential to improve national policies but also to become more competitive through internationalisation and opening up of education systems. On this road, the Western Balkan Platform on Education and Training has been the main tool of policy dialogue since Apart from the two main priorities in education (HE and teacher training), Mr Polajnar invited WB policymakers to consider deeper engagement in vocational education. He concluded by saying that education and its internalisation aspects are very high on the Commission agenda for the Western Balkans. They are key for the future of young people and key for economic development. Ms Helene Skikos (DG EAC) outlined the main goals set for education and training in Europe by 2020, and compared them with the situation in the WB concerning PISA testing, adult education and training, and qualifications. Then she presented the WB-PET and its role as an EU strategy for candidate countries and potential candidates in WB. Organised by EAC with support of ELARG, WB-PET serves to identify priorities in education and training, and common issues for regional cooperation. Ms Skikos gave an overview of past and planned activities supported by WB-PET (3 rd Ministerial meeting in May 2014, regional conference on Tempus best project in the last quarter of 2014, study on HE and labour market, 2014/15). The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Croatia can participate fully in Erasmus+ (as Programme Countries, with National Agencies), while other WB countries participate partially as Partner Countries by concluding an Agreement with EC. The three Key Actions in Erasmus+ are: KA1 (learning mobility): mobility of students and staff; international volunteering and youth exchanges; mobility of youth workers, KA2: capacity building with mobility (as beneficiaries), KA3: support to policy dialogue. Most of the budget is allocated to learning mobility of individuals (63%) and to supporting innovation and good practice (25%). More details available here. *** Session 2: External Dimension of Erasmus+: Capacity Building and Cooperation in Higher Education Erasmus+: Jean Monnet projects Mr Harald Hartung (DG EAC) presented the opportunities for WB countries under the JM programme. JM is part of Erasmus+ but as a separate programme. It aims to stimulate teaching and research on the EU, to promote excellence in European integration studies in HE and to foster dialogue between academics and decision makers. Activities supported by JM include the following: - Teaching and research chairs, modules and centres of excellence (European integration studies, research on EU subjects, human and documentary resources on EU studies) - Policy debate with academic world and exchanges (networks and projects that foster the exchange of knowledge and expertise, enhance cooperation and create knowledge exchange platforms) - Institutions and association activities (enhancing teacher and training activities on EU subject areas, analyse and disseminate EU facts and knowledge, publicise EU facts, etc.) - Operating grants to specified institutions In the period with the budget of around EUR300 million, the expected output is: 1,000 teaching activities reaching 2,000,000 students; 500 Projects, 20 networks, 100 associations producing new methodologies, tools and events over 7 years. In the WB countries the following subject areas were addressed by the selected projects: EU economic studies (45%); EU interdisciplinary studies (27%); EU and Comparative regionalism studies (18%); EU legal studies (9%).
4 Erasmus+: Capacity building projects (former Tempus projects) Mr Philippe Ruffio (EACEA) gave an overview of the capacity building projects under Erasmus+. They are to a large extent the continuation of the Tempus programme. Mr Ruffio outlined the main elements of continuity and main changes in the transition from Tempus to capacity building, with some practical advice on what makes a good project, what to avoid and how projects are evaluated. While the main objectives and priorities, bottom-up approach, and types of projects continue, the main changes relate to the expansion of programme and partner countries (from 28 to 34 and from 27 to 150, respectively) and to a Special Mobility Component, which will allow mobility for the purposes of studying, doing traineeship and for lecturing or giving training. In the last section, Mr Ruffio outlined elements that make a good project: - Relevance & adequacy (to the needs) - Objectives & project design - Preparation phase - Cost-effectiveness of the budget - Clarity of information presented in the project - Involvement of students and nonacademic stakeholders - Institutional buy-in (esp. top level management) - Project management structure and tools - Decision mechanisms/division of tasks - Transparency of information - Local coordination - Permanent relations with NTOs NE+Os and local authorities - Strategy fir sustainability and dissemination of results Impact of Tempus project: South East European Project for the Advancement of Language Studies, Prof Marija Knezevic (University of Montenegro) Prof Marija Knezevic presented the SEEPALS project, implemented in by the University of Montenegro together with other 13 WB and EU partners. The aim of the project was to modernise and harmonise teaching and learning. Some of the SEEPALS activities included: Meetings, conferences, workshops Publishing books Short studies abroad Internal and external evaluations Modernization of the existing and Upgrading teaching methodology creation of new curricula and Uploading teaching material syllabi Creation of joint electronic data Testing the curricula and syllabi at base 2 summer schools Purchase of equipment The project resulted in strengthened cooperation and friendship, and its sustainability is reflected in using equipment to teach online and it was applied in 2 more joint projects. *** Session 3 Mobility, Cooperation and Scholarships in Higher Education This session focused on mobility actions and the possibilities offered to master and PhD students as well as scholars at HEIs. Erasmus+: Degree Mobility and Joint Degrees: Institutional and Individual Participation in Joint Master Courses, Mr Anastasios Tsirakidis (EACEA) Joint Masters Degrees (JMD) are awarded for: - Management of consortia and the implementation of JMD (at least 3 consecutive intakes) with a grant of EUR 2-3 million - Covering the costs of invited scholars/guest lecturers
5 - Student scholarships (covering tuition, travel and living costs, health and accident insurance) The new elements in JMD include: an increased budget for 7 years (around EUR 1billion for scholarship holders and 350 JMDs); higher student scholarship amounts; more focus on socio-economic environment, employability of graduates and sustainability of JMDs; more focus on excellence of JMD strengthened selection and monitoring procedure; a reviewed funding cycle with a Quality Review process at mid-term. Upcoming activities 2014/2015 & 2015/16: - 27 March 2014: deadline for 1 st JMD call for proposals - 1 st /2 nd quarter of 2014: award of scholarships/fellowships to on-going EMMCs/EMJDs - End of 2 nd quarter 2014: selection decision for new JMDs (indicatively 9 projects, EUR 17.3 million) - Academic year 2014/15: preparatory activities of new JMDs, projects start between 1 August and 21 October 2014; on-going EMMCs/EMJDs carry out their activities - Academic year 2015/16: 1 st intake for new JMDs Main JMD award criteria are relevance, quality of design and implementation, quality of project team and cooperation arrangements, impact and dissemination Example of good practice: Astromundus, Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Course, Prof Dragana Ilic (University of Belgrade) Implemented by 5 partners, this programme has as its main objective to provide top-ranked students with an excellent background in Astrophysics, but also to introduce students with modern astrophysical research and to apply modern techniques. Students are awarded a Joint Master Degree and Diploma Supplement. The programme has had 58 students from 35 different countries within 4 intakes. 2 last intakes were gender balanced with 50% of female students. Graduates' employment rate is more than 80% (mostly on PhD). The first two intakes resulted in 28 theses (out of which 3 were defended in Belgrade). The main challenges were related to administrative procedures, different educational systems and different legal regulations among partners; Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions: Opportunities for Joint European Doctorates and Fellowships Helene Skikos (DG EAC) With the budget of EUR billion, the Marie Skłodowska-Curie programme has 4 Main actions: innovative Training Networks: early-stage researchers; individual Fellowships: experienced researchers undertaking mobility (international or inter-sector); RISE: research and innovation staff exchange; COFUND: co-funding of regional, national and international programmes Main activities 2014/2015: - Deadline: 9 April Budget: EUR million (EUR30 million For EJD) - Next call to be published on 2 September 2014, deadline: 13 January Budget: EUR370 million (EUR28 million for EJD) Funding levels and main features have not changed. The changes include: the name change (MCA are now MSCA); the programme is now part of Horizon 2020; the simplified implementation; the broader participation of businesses/industry. Western Balkans in MCA: EUR million obtained by WB organisations, while 256 WB nationals were funded. *** Session 4: Short-term Mobility for staff and students in Higher Education
6 Erasmus+ Credit mobility projects: conditions, practical arrangements Helene Skikos DG EAC Mrs Skikos explained the conditions for participation within the Erasmus+ credit mobility strand for WB countries. There are new opportunities for the WB countries as short-term mobility was introduced by opening the Erasmus programme internationally (replacing Erasmus Mundus Action 2). There is a specific budget for WB countries. The cooperation shall be based on inter-institutional agreements with at least one programme country involved. Applications are submitted to National Agencies. The participating HEIs must follow the principles of Erasmus Charter for Higher Education (ECHE). Individuals cannot apply on their own but through their HEIs. There are three levels of participation for the WB: 1. As Beneficiaries in the external strand. 2. Partial participation via a signed Agreement in the networks and platforms. 3. Full participation as programme countries after establishment of National Agency. Erasmus+: Credit Mobility and role of institutions Katerina Galanaki Greek Erasmus Ambassador Student credit mobility involves all levels of HE and all disciplines, for the purposes of studies or traineeships (the latter is not open to partner countries in the first 2 years). The role of institutions is to apply for sending/receiving mobility; to follow the principles of the Erasmus Charter for Higher Education (specified in the inter-institutional agreement). The ECHE Fundamental Principles are: ensure full recognition of degrees, ensure Diploma Supplement, charge no fees in the case of credit mobility. Testimonial from 3,000,000th Greek Erasmus Student: Ms Sophia-Emmanouela Theodorou, the 3,000,000 th Greek Erasmus student presented her experiences in the exchange and the benefits such experiences bring. III. Day 2 - School and youth stakeholders Part I Session 1: Schools and teachers School stakeholders are brand new participants to the programme and the forms of their participation are still under discussion, but in order to inform them timely and encourage them to prepare for upcoming opportunities, the first part of Day 2 was dedicated to presenting policy framework and practical examples of how schools in WB and EU can cooperate. After the keynote speech by Mr Truszczyński and the presentation of the enlargement strategy by Mr Polajnar, participants were given and overview and practical information on etwinning projects (virtual/online cooperation between schools) as well as two examples of good projects from the region. etwinning Opportunities for Cooperation Among Schools and Teachers Eugenio Riviere, DG EAC etwinning is the online community of schools in Europe that enables teachers and pupils to meet, interact, learn from each other, share resources and practice; It is not just an online platform or a collection of fancy pilot projects. Aims of etwinning: to connect schools, teachers and pupils in Europe; to help mainstream the use of IT for innovation at schools; make schools more interesting and relevant for pupils, and to contribute to professional development of teachers.
7 etwinning projects receive tools, advice, support and recognition rather than EU funding; there are different levels of support (European Central Support Service: European Schoolnet, national: National Support Service, regional and local: etwinning ambassadors, regional correspondents ) So far, there are more than 230,000 registered teachers, more than 30,000 projects involving 75,000 teachers. Benefits for teachers: new teaching methods and project ideas, getting support and advice, gaining recognition, meeting colleagues and being part of an international community, etc. Session 2: etwinning: Practical Information The etwinning Platform: Claire Morvan, European Schoolnet etwinning is a trusted site where teachers can connect, collaborate, share, discover new ideas and resources at the European level. It provides info on upcoming events, news from the community, resources based on the online profile of the member, etc. It supports professional development of teachers through learning events & webinars. Examples: etwinning Annual Conference (500+ teachers) or European workshops (5 in 2013). Online Teacher Communities - support services to schools and projects Irini Pateraki, National Support Service Greece Ms Irene Pateraki gave an example of an online community of practice Creative Classroom Group, how it works and how it can stay active. Some of the strategies used are: expert input, online publications, learning events with active members as facilitators, campaigns and online parties. Online CoPs help exchange practice, ideas, experiences. Good practice from the Western Balkans: etwinning Project for First Graders, Natasa LJubic Klemce, Teacher, Croatia The international etwinning project called My First ICT Hello! is designed for very young pupils (7-8 year-olds) who are just starting to learn English and how to use ICT at the same time. The aims of the project: to practise English as a foreign language in order to be able to communicate in real-life situations, to practise ICT and to make friends and learn about school life in other countries. Pedagogical objectives: pedagogical innovation and creativity, cooperation between school partners, creative use of ICT, sustainability and transferability etwinning Project, Irina Ivanova, Teacher, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia Ms Ivanova, an IT teacher, gave an overview of over 25 projects she has done as part of etwinning. Her etwinning projects are part of regular school activities within the subject called IT projects at 7 th and 8 th grades (primary school) and pupils can also participate in the IT club, where they work only on etwinning projects. The benefits of etwinning projects are: they provide different sources of knowledge, interaction; they are diverse and multi-disciplinary; their content is linked to real-life experiences; students are encouraged to investigate themselves, they are motivated; they support cross-cultural understanding; they can accommodate different learning styles. Remarks: Participants were highly interested in the topic although the fact that they cannot participate immediately did cause some disillusionment among the participants from the partner countries (i.e. all except Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia).
8 Part II youth stakeholders The second part of Day 2 was dedicated to youth stakeholders, most of whom were already active in EU projects through the Youth in Action programme. Regardless of the structural changes that Erasmus+ entails, young people from the region will have the same opportunities to participate as they did under Youth in Action (YiA). After Session 1 and the overall cooperation framework and enlargement strategy presented, Mr Pascal Lejeune from the Youth Unit in DG EAC gave an overview of the changes under Erasmus+, reassuring youth representatives that the changes will not affect their participation in the programme. Session 2 consisted of the presentation of Erasmus+ and opportunities for youth, and of some examples of good practice. The budget for youth is 10% of overall budget. Main activities for youth and youth workers in Erasmus+: Key Action 1: - youth mobility (youth exchanges, EVS, structured courses - TC, contact-making events, study visits, etc., job shadowing in a youth organisation) - mobility projects by national/regional public bodies or organisation active in Corporate Social Responsibility - EVS events Key Action 2: Cooperation and innovation for good practices - Strategic partnerships (organisations form partner countries can participate if they prove the added value they bring) - Capacity building - foster cooperation and exchanges in the field of youth between Programme Countries and Partner Countries from different regions of the world (cooperation between organisations from different sectors, youth workers mobility, raising capacity of youth councils, platforms, etc.) Key action 3: support to policy reform - Support to OMC - Support to Structured Dialogue in the field of youth - Support to European youth organisations Opportunities for individuals in figures: 2 million HE students will study and train abroad; young people to volunteer abroad and take part in youth exchanges; lecturers, trainers, teachers, staff and youth workers to teach/train abroad. Beyond the set agenda, youth representatives spontaneously agreed with Mr Lejeune to present shortly some of the activities and projects of their organisations, which was very well received by the audience and panellists alike. Presenters were youth leaders from Albania, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia. During the conference, four young Greek arts students were following the discussions and noting down their impressions by drawing and painting. Some of the impressions they shared with the audience referred to the mutual influence and learning between teachers and students, the weight of education, wisdom and learning, sometimes even chaos and confusion but also the benefit of exchange programmes such as Erasmus. The conference was web-streamed so that interested individuals who did not attend had the opportunity to follow it and pose comments and questions. The video will be available on the webpage of the Western Balkans Platform on Education and Training, together with the presentations at: