The Project aims to develop and implement meaningful, transparent and far-reaching national and institutional strategies, policies and measures that will ensure a long-term systematic and strategic approach to the internationalisation of Serbian HE and research, facilitate international relations across Serbian universities and raise the quality and scope of international partnerships established within EHEA and ERA.
Several key factors account for the Project’s relevance, importance and urgency. Within current national legislative, there is an apparent and problematic lack of internationalisation strategies designed to set priorities, goals and measurable targets able to steer the process of internationalisation of HE in a realistic way. Also absent are national standards, benchmarks and policies dealing with specific aspects of internationalisation that are becoming increasingly urgent for the Serbian academic community (e.g. establishment of joint and double degrees with foreign partners; participation in international mobility programs; participation in large-scale international research collaborations; recruitment of international scholars; recognition of foreign degrees).
The overall Serbian Strategy of Educational Development by 2020 (adopted in 2012) considers internationalisation as one of the top priorities of higher education reforms. It recognizes that success is possible only through collective efforts of those involved in the process, primarily the State and the HEIs, and calls for immediate actions.
The aspiring goals of this Strategy (which promotes convergence with key EU strategies in the field of education and training) can only be met if there are concrete national and institutional measures able to advance the international competitiveness, attractiveness and quality of Serbian HE and research and put into use the full potential of Serbian HEIs in international partnerships and networks. The Projects brings together authorities in charge of HE and research, HE institutions, student associations and employers to jointly develop and implement strategies, policies and measures that will overcome existing obstacles and shortcomings clearly identified in the Serbian Strategy of Educational Development: insufficient international exposure of the Serbian higher education system; extremely small number of joint degree programs with foreign partners; low volume of incoming and outgoing student and staff mobility; lack of strategic orientation in the internationalisation of HE and research; inadequate financial and administrative conditions for the realization of large-scale mobility; limited scope of international projects (particularly international research collaborations), insufficient awareness of competences graduates need to be employable on the global labour market. The Project addresses all these challenges, intending to solve them through joint action and commitment of national HE stakeholders and the transfer of know-how, expertise and best practices from the EU partners. It recognizes that much has already been done in the field of international relations primarily through previous Community support projects and intends to make full use of acquired domestic expertise and initiatives.
However, it aspires to bring forth a qualitative leap in the perception as well as implementation of the process of internationalisation within the Serbian HE system. In this stage, internationalisation is no longer seen as a process handled predominantly by international committees and offices, or confined to internationalisation specialists. Instead, international affairs are taken up in all arenas of decision-making and administration, and, as such, touch upon all areas of HE provision. This fact alone requires a new strategic approach to reform processes, both by national and institutional authorities. The Law on Higher Education (2005) acknowledged that HE reforms were not likely to be effective unless there was a gradual change in the mode of university governance. It therefore created a framework for the process of university integration, supporting a number of integrative functions. International cooperation and mobility were, from a legislative point of view, perceived as a responsibility of the university. The Project intends to keep strengthening the university integrative function by developing coherent institutional policies steering international relations and enhancing institutional capacities that provide optimum conditions for the growing participation in international projects. It envisages the adoption of separate university strategies of internationalisation and academic mobility that reflect particular features of Serbian HEIs and at the same time achieve common national goals. The concept of functional integration that describes all internal processes, structures and procedures enhancing (through internal consensus) the effective use of resources of the university as a whole is taken up by the Project in creating the necessary synergy between HE stakeholders and among members of the Serbian academic community.
Through partnering with a large international enterprise in Serbia, the Project emphasizes the link between employability and internationalisation, aiming to raise awareness among students, scholars and employers in Serbia of competences graduates need to acquire to be competitive in the domestic and global labour markets. The concept of employability has been an integral part of the Bologna Process from its onset, together with the idea of an unhindered flow of students and scholars. The Project therefore intends to bring the issue of knowledge and skills enhancing employability of Serbian graduates to the fore of the new internationalisation agenda for the Serbian higher education system - both through organized seminars and through its activities on the development of the National Strategy of Academic Mobility and Recognition of Degrees.
QUALITY OF PARTNERSHIP
The 16 partners of the Consortium represent different stakeholders in the process of internationalisation of higher education and research: HE authorities, universities, students and employers.
On the receiving end of the transfer of know-how from the EU partners, Serbian HEIs include 5 state universities and 1 private university encompassing the majority of the national academic and research community (and a student population of almost 200,000) able to achieve a far-reaching impact on the system-level and institutional-level reforms. All Serbian universities in the Consortium support internationalisation, actively participate in projects and networks, and have an adequate human resource potential to carry out the Project’s activities and realize its outcomes.
Soon after Serbia joined the Bologna Process (2003), the University of Novi Sad, Project applicant, was recognized by institutional review teams from abroad as being one of the most reform-minded and innovative university in Serbia that appreciated the benefits of internationalisation. After years of stagnation and against the background of internal mindsets of insularity, UNS has been intensively engaged in international programmes Serbia was becoming eligible for. In doing so, it has become growingly aware of the requirements of different stages of internationalisation. A true commitment to the process of internationalisation with an adequate level of internal competences and skills has encouraged UNS to take the lead in advancing this aspect of HE reforms.
The National Council of HE and the National Council of Scientific and Technological Development have a mandate to develop accreditation standards, national strategies for internationalisation of HE and research as well as action plans for the realization of these strategies. As such, their members are well-positioned to ensure that the new frameworks address the current needs of the system from the point of view of internationalisation. The Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development regards internationalisation as one of the top priorities of HE reforms (Serbian Strategy of Educational Development by 2020). The Project lends concrete support, resources and joint commitment needed for this overall framework to become successful. The Ministry is in a position to ensure that newly developed internationalisation strategies are formally adopted and implemented and to strengthen the visibility and openness of HE and research.
The Petroleum Industry of Serbia (NIS) is selected as a representative of employers. It is one of the biggest oil companies in South East Europe (employing around 9,000 people) with a strategic orientation of promoting responsible relations towards society. The Company has relevant experience in the field of project management and talent development (from a big employer’s point of view) that will be utilized in WP3 and is in a position to design and organize seminars on graduates’ employability. This partner has not benefited under the TEMPUS IV call. The Project adds a new aspect to the relationship between the company and HEIs established through various models of internships, student scholarships, specialization of employees and the realization of research projects.
Another partner that has not benefited under the TEMPUS IV call is BalkanIDEA (ESN) that will provide the student input and perspective. This is highly relevant for Project’s objectives, especially the facilitation of student mobility (recognition of study periods; academic and administrative support procedures for international students; recognition of foreign degrees; new information services for domestic students wishing to study abroad).
The EU partners selected for the transfer of know-how are University of Ghent (Belgium), University of Graz (Austria), University of Alicante (Spain) and University of Pecs (Hungary). These partners are in the position to provide expertise both in relation to their own national legislatives on internationalisation and with regards to policies and measures advancing internationalisation at their institutions.
Universities of Ghent and Graz have been long-term partners to Serbian HEIs within the highest quality Erasmus Mundus Action 2 networks. These universities will provide expertise in modes and models of internationalisation, development of internationalisation strategies at national and institutional levels, organization of joint and double degrees; support for international students and scholars, measures in building institutional capacities for international projects, etc. University of Pecs highlights the regional cooperation aspect of internationalisation. It also has a long-lasting tradition of cooperation with Serbian universities, primarily on a bilateral level. It will provide its expertise on the internationalisation policies being developed and introduced in a country which has had a shorter period of participation in EU programmes for education and training and is dealing with issues and challenges that are close to Serbian HEIs’ perception of the next phase of internationalisation. The University of Alicante will play a major role in providing its expertise in the international projects’ management. Having a long-track record in coordinating EU funded projects under FP and other frameworks, it will provide tailor-made trainings for Serbian HE partners in the management aspects of international projects and encourage academic, research and administrative staff from Serbia to apply and effectively participate in large-scale collaborations.
WUS Austria, as an association which furthers the development of HE in accordance with international and European standards, and also a partner well-acquainted with the situation in the Western Balkans HE sector, is in a good position to evaluate and assess the progress on national and institutional strategies; standards and action plans as the Project's intended outcomes within WP4.
PROJECT’S CONTENT AND METHODOLOGY
The Project will take into account all the achievements of current and previous projects related to international relations and rely, throughout its activities, on the acquired expertise and examples of good practice already available in Serbia. Therefore, the main premise of the Project is to addresses the ongoing process of internationalisation of Serbian HE and research acknowledging different stages of its development. In the last decade, internationalisation has moved from establishing international relations offices and a basic level of international affairs, to the introduction of mechanisms and tools for the implementation of Bologna-related reforms, towards a smoother preparation and implementation of various EU programmes Serbia became eligible for. In this new stage, internationalisation, perceived more and more as a natural element of all university’s core activities, requires national and institutional frameworks that will enable its strategic development.
There are three main pillars of internationalisation elaborated within the three development work packages (WP1, WP2 and WP3). The first one deals with the national legislative that needs to be put in place in order to steer internationalisation on the level of the entire system and position Serbian HE and research within the EHEA and ERA in a complementary and accountable way. The second one connects national legislative to the development and adoption of university strategies and policies at each Serbian HEI that are supposed to embed internationalisation in specific university environments in line with commonly agreed national goals. The third one focuses on building university capacities for participation in large-scale international collaborations (project management) and the enhancement of Serbian students’ competences relevant for domestic and global labour markets.
WP1: Lead by University of Ghent, Belgium
Even though the apparent absence of HE internationalisation strategies, policies and standards at the level of State is both a clear starting point and an indication of the Project’s relevance, two significant documents will be produced in the initial phase:
- In-depth analysis and assessment report of the current national framework underpinning internationalisation in Serbia (conducted by the University of Novi Sad on the basis of inputs from all Serbian partners);
- A detailed comparative study on existing national legislatives for internationalisation of HE and research in EU partner countries (Belgium, Austria, Hungary and Spain) and Serbia, with clear references to the appropriate EU strategies (conducted by the University of Ghent and supported by the University of Niš and other Serbian HEIs)
Each Serbian university will actively contribute to the creation of these two documents, making sure they tackle all the areas of interest to the Project. EU partners will provide a wider perspective on their own national frameworks steering internationalisation and their links with strategies and policies on the EU level. The results of the analysis and the comparative study will serve as the basis for the transfer of adequate know-how and expertise from the EU partners during the study visit to the University of Ghent attended by the representatives of all Serbian HEIs and HE authorities. The content and design of this study visit will be directly related to the key challenges identified in these two documents. Moreover, the findings will get relevant HE stakeholders in Serbia well acquainted with the current strengths and weaknesses, needs and gaps, obstacles and opportunities of internationalization in Serbian higher education and research.
The active role of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development, the National Council of Higher Education and the National Council of Scientific and Technological Development (working in synergy with HEIs) is intended to ensure the smooth development and implementation of the National Strategy of Internationalisation of Higher Education and Research, National Strategy of Academic Mobility and Recognition of Degrees and the Accreditation standards for joint and double degrees alongside national benchmarks for incoming mobility and unique information services on available funding schemes for outgoing mobility. The two National Councils have mandates to develop and propose educational strategies and standards, while the Ministry will deal with the procedures of their formal adoption and implementation. All processes leading to the new national legislative (discussions, meetings, forums) will be based on the consensus-seeking approach among HE authorities and HEIs and monitored by the project coordinator and internal evaluators.
WP2: Lead by University of Niš, Serbia From the very start, each Serbian HEI involved in the Project will establish working groups for strategic development of internationalisation in education and research that will conduct regular sessions to follow the progress on new university strategies on internationalisation and mobility and the development of guidelines on academic recognition of study periods spent abroad. The working groups will involve academics, administrative staff and students (BINS-ESN). Academic and administrative staff from all Serbian universities will benefit from the study visits to the EU partners, University of Graz and University of Pecs, as well as to a non-university partner institution, WUS Austria. These visits will be designed to transfer best practices in introducing various models of internationalisation of HE, organization of joint and double degrees, support for international staff and students, as well as procedures and principles of academic and degree recognition that can serve as benchmarks for Serbian HEIs. The visits will be tailor-made in terms of content and working methodologies to suit different perspectives on internationalisation: management, academic, research, administrative and student.
A workshop organized at University of Novi Sad, Serbia will focus further on two key topics that require special attention: means of academic and administrative support for international students and scholars and steps to be taken in the organization of joint and double degrees with foreign partners. The workshop will provide expertise of academics and associates from University of Graz and University of Ghent as well as good examples from Serbian universities in the form of case studies (e.g. integrated university approach – State University of Novi Pazar).
This work package will be based on the concept of the university integrative function, which seeks to find solutions able to benefit all fields, sectors and actors of the university as a whole. HEIs governmental bodies (Senates and Councils) will be in charge of adopting university strategies once a consensus has been reached across the appropriate academic communities. This concept has already been used with a lot of success in creating multidisciplinary project teams, handling comprehensive Erasmus Mundus Action 2 mobility projects and uniting various faculties in the realization of university missions.
WP3: Lead by University of Novi Sad, Serbia
Enhancement of university capacities for participating in large-scale international collaborations envisages the organization of training visits of research and administrative staff from Serbian HEIs to the EU partner universities, University of Alicante and University of Ghent. The training content will encompass all aspects of project management from the university level (identification of appropriate international funds; dissemination of international collaboration opportunities; provision of advice and support in the application process; administrative and financial management of international projects; reporting to international bodies). The National Council for Scientific and Technological Development will work together with the universities on the development of the Action Plan for Serbia’s participation in the European Research Area, which will be in line with the Serbian Strategy for Scientific and Technological Development. An important precondition of this action will be an analysis of potential obstacles and general conditions for the recruitment of foreign PhD students, teachers and researchers at Serbian universities. Issues that will be tackled here are also the challenges faced by Serbian PhD students and researchers working abroad and measures to be taken to reduce the brain-drain and increase the employability of young researchers.
In order to raise awareness of the links between internationalisation and employability, the Project envisages three annual seminars on the employers’ views on competences needed for graduates’ entry into the labour market from the point of view of internationalisation in HE. The seminars will be organized by the international company NIS (member of the Consortium) and open to the Serbian student and academic community. The organization of seminars will be assisted by the university career offices, which have detailed info on students seeking employment and wishing to advance their skills and knowledge.
WP4: Lead by WUA Austria
Quality monitoring and controlling are continuous Project activities, starting with the first day of Project implementation. The Project quality plan will include regular internal quality reports on activity progress and deliverables, TEMPUS monitoring feedback, mid-term and final reports to summarize the overall quality of the action. In accordance with the best practice, records on activities, reports on meetings and auditing reports will be elaborated and formed as complete records; the documents will be maintained by the coordinator and accessible to EU authorities and National Tempus Offices for monitoring and control. Furthermore, quality evaluation of delivered trainings will be performed by all direct beneficiaries at the end of each study visit.
The coordinator will make sure that quality assurance boards and committees at Serbian HEIs actively participate in the Project by offering their expertise in the internal quality management of the Project actions. This will go, hand in hand, with punctual and responsible coordination of envisaged activities by Project coordination teams (contact persons and International Relations Offices), TEMPUS monitoring visits, WUS evaluation reports, peer review reports by the EU partners and HEIs working group sessions dedicated to the aspect of quality of new national and institutional policies being developed.
Project Dissemination (WP5) will be lead by the University of Novi Sad and Singidunum University and Project Exploitation and Sustainability (WP6) by University of Belgrade. The activities shall encompass regular dissemination and utilization of project results. This will be performed from the very beginning of the Project through the following key activities: creation of an interactive website presentation of the Project intentions and results to disseminate the project results to the whole academic community and stakeholders; the internet-based forum used for the purpose of discussion on specific topics; permanent dissemination of the results to all partner universities and institutions during the Project's lifetime through Internet Public Information System and printed materials and brochures.
Any conflict that might arise during the Project will be resolved in a friendly manner through adequate institutional bodies. Any delays or misunderstandings regarding Project activities will be discussed and resolved at Consortium meetings through generally reached consensus. Since the partners in the Consortium were selected on the basis of established mutual trust, the Project is based on the premise of the continuation of the fruitful and successful collaboration.
DISSEMINATION AND SUSTAINABILITY
Planned dissemination and exploitation activities play a key role in making sure that the Project's outcomes achieve their intended long-term impact across the entire system of Serbian higher education and research. They will be led by the largest university in Serbia, University of Belgrade.
The strategies created at the national and university level will be broadly publicized and acknowledged in the phase of drafting, and continually utilized after formal adoption, by appropriate HE stakeholders (HE national and institutional authorities, scholars, students, employers and public at large). The outcomes of the Project are intended to serve, beyond the Project’s lifetime, all those who already participate or plan to participate in any form of international HE collaboration (joint and double degrees, research projects, mobility schemes, multilateral networks, etc) by providing clear, reliable and common rules, standards, benchmarks and goals. The active and far-reaching use these new policies will be the best indication of the Project’s sustainability.
The campaign for raising awareness of internationalisation strategies and policies being developed by the State and HEIs will involve the opening and two dissemination conferences together with regular media appearances and information on adequate social networks. This will go, hand in hand, with the campaign for promoting Serbian HE and research within EHEA and ERA through promotional activities in the country and abroad (e.g. university fairs). Every step of the Project’s development will be followed by up-to-date information on the newly created website. This website will be dedicated to the process of internationalisation of Serbian HE and research both during and after the formal activities. Printed materials (project leaflets and brochures alongside adopted strategies, standards, policies and guidelines) will be disseminated among participants of the Project’s conferences, workshops, seminars, forums, study visits and promotional events as well as during other occasions at HEIs that can contribute to a wider dissemination of results. Seminars on graduates’ employability through internationalisation will be broadly publicized and open to the Serbian student population with the help of university career centers. They will raise awareness of the advantages of spending a study/research/training period abroad for the graduates' employability and the acknowledgement of these competences among employers.
New practices for internal monitoring of the level and quality of the use of national and institutional policies for internationalisation will be introduced by the Project’s working groups at each Serbian HEI. They will be designed to determine the consistency and transparency of their use and to raise awareness across all university sectors of the new strategic approach to internationalisation.
Since the enhancement of institutional capacities for participation in international collaborations is one of the important specific goals of the Project, HEIs are supposed to develop a larger scope and quality of international projects and strategic partnerships as well as reinforced support systems for mobility of students, teachers and researchers in both directions. The growing number of successful large-scale international projects, bilateral and multilateral agreements and joint initiatives (study programs, summer schools, journal articles), as well as the increasing number of incoming and outgoing students and scholars, will serve as an indication of successful exploitation of the intended activities both during and after the Project’s lifetime.
BUDGET AND COST EFFECTIVENESS
Work and budget plan are designed in accordance with the principles of cost effectiveness, and financial resources are assigned to activities in a way to enable defined outcomes at minimum costs. Planned budget headings for each partner comply to actual workload foreseen for staff costs (number of working days, ISCO categories), mobility required for knowledge transfer and dissemination, the equipment relevant for implementation of development WPs and future exploitation of project results, and printing to support awareness raising among academics and other target groups. Leadership of work packages and tasks is distributed among partners based on their expertise in the respected fields.
Budget allocation amongst partners is balanced: Serbian universities share approximately same budget (70.000-82.000EUR), while EU universities’ budget extends from 13.000-42.000 EUR depending on their planned engagement, mobility and different ISCO categories. The coordinator has higher costs in each budget heading as a result of project and budget coordination (including items like equipment items to be used by the whole Consortium, design of the website and financial auditing).
To decrease the number of mobility flows and support project coordination, dissemination conferences will be organized together with Consortium meetings (therefore no additional travel costs are assigned to MNGT). Also, for the purpose of networking the video-conferencing and existing ICT support will be used.
Partners will cover 10% co-financing from their own resources, mainly in budget headings of staff, equipment and travel costs.
The project will follow good practice of financial management: refund of only actual, project-related and documented expenses, staff costs payment upon tasks completion and reallocation of budget in case one of partners fails to deliver planned output.