BRUSSELS – Besides continuing its long-term collaboration with partners active in the higher education field, the European Students’ Union (ESU) developed specific partnerships for several projects this year funded by the European Commission. These projects cover policy areas that are of great interest to ESU and its members.
ESU continued its involvement in the project on Enhancing Access through a Focus on Equity (Equnet) that has been running for more than two years. The project aims to increase access to higher education in Europe for all groups of society, particularly those coming from non-traditional forms of education, and to bring together practitioners, experts and policy makers working to create an organisational framework for intensive networking. ESU has been actively involved in all the phases of the project and organised one of its conferences held in November 2011 in Sofia, Bulgaria.
As an active member of the Bologna Follow-Up Group, especially in the Working Group on Social Dimension of higher education, ESU was one of the architects of the idea behind establishing a Peer-Learning Initiative for the Social Dimension materialised in the PL4SD project. The PL4SD maps the existing measures taken inside the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) and facilitates peer learning between countries. Therefore, the PL4SD project will develop a new standard for the systemising measures targeted at improving the social dimension by collecting data and providing it online for discussions and evaluation. The four partners involved in this three year project started working on it in October.
ESU also agreed to contribute to the “Students guidance at university for inclusion – STAY IN” project focused on improving educational guidance and inclusion of disadvantaged social groups. It will develop an integrated guidance and counselling system for universities in this respect with the goal of lowering drop-out rates and increasing the participation of adults, students from disadvantaged backgrounds and those that are considered being at risk, in tertiary education. The project started in October and ESU will work on its implementation for two years in collaboration with its partners coordinated by Macerata University.
Uniting Europe through digital empowerment UniteIT is another partnership project ESU’s involved in. It sees the concept of social inclusion reflecting the essentials of the current information era, in which issues such as identity, language, social participation, community, and civil society are the core. It aims at bridging the digital gap in Europe where thirty percent of people are excluded from the information society online. Providing equal opportunities in the digital area allows citizens to freely and fully express themselves. Participants of the UniteIT project exchange practices, share resources and visions on digital competence for inclusion and raise awareness about the topic. ESU is one of nine members of the consortium coordinated by the Foundation for Development of Democratic Rights – DEMNET
The prime objective of the project on Improving the Efficiency of Student Services (IMPRESS) is to establish new management structures in four leading classical universities in Ukraine by creating fully operating and modern Student Support Service Centres. The project coordinator, Northumbria University, supported by partner universities from Spain and the Czech Republic, will share and transfer best practices for providing students’ services to four Ukrainian universities: Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, Donetsk National University, Lviv Ivan Franko National University and Kharkiv National University. ESU joined the project this year that is expected to conclude in three years.
Another similar project is named Building Capacity for University Management in the ENPI South Region (BUCUM), focusing on Governance Reform involving ten universities in Libya, Morocco, Egypt and Lebanon satisfying the regional priority of the ‘University Management and Student Services’. The wider objective of the project is to demonstrate that good management practices can build sustainable cooperation between nations in higher education by addressing the challenges facing the management of global universities in the 21st Century. The coordinator is Cardiff Metropolitan University, UK. ESU will implement the project together with its fourteen partners over the next three years.
Another area of great interest to ESU is the quality assurance in higher education and as a consequence, the organisation has been involved in two projects with a focus on that topic this year:
Sharing Practice in Enhancing and Assuring Quality – SPEAQ
The aim of this project is to connect the three key circles, namely teachers, students and quality managers, in order to share and enhance the practice for quality assurance of higher education. The project started in October 2011 and will be finalised in 2013. Southampton University is leading the consortium formed by nine universities from the UK, Austria, Denmark, Finland, Spain, Portugal, Romania, Hungary, Italy, and then ESU.
The main role for ESU is to support the engagement of students and provide advises on quality issues as they are related to students´ experiences. This includes informing stakeholders on the progress of ESU’s project on Quest for Quality for Students (QUEST). ESU already concluded one of its main activities in the project by collecting data from students´ focus groups facilitated by members of ESU’s experts’ pool. The general report on this activity is already being prepared.
Development of Quality Assurance in Higher education in Moldova (QUAEM)
QUAEM sets out to develop a national quality assurance strategy for Moldova, in cooperation with higher education institutions, quality assurance agencies and students’ representatives. The strategy shall be developed within three years and shall take into account the particularities of the higher education system in Moldova while at the same time ensuring compatibility with European standards and guidelines for quality assurance (ESG). The project is being coordinated by Leipzig University, Germany, in collaboration with twelve other partners of which eight are from Moldova. ESU will enhance the Moldavian students’ knowledge by providing a training session on quality assurance and raising awareness of students and university staff on quality from the students´ perspective.
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The European Students’ Union, headquartered in Brussels, is the umbrella organisation of 47 national unions of students from 39 European countries. ESU represents and promotes the educational, social, economical and cultural interests of students at the European level. Through its member unions, ESU represents over 11 million students in Europe. To find out more about ESU, follow us on Twitter @ESUtwt, check out or Facebook page or visit www.esu-online.org. ESU celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2012.