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Overview of ESU’s partnership projects in 2013

BRUSSELS – Based on the demonstrated expertise and experience that the European Students’ Union (ESU) has gained from EU funded projects, the organisation has been involved in several on-going projects as a partner.

ESU contributed to the overall implementation and finalisation of the Enhancing Access through a Focus on Equity (Equnet) project that had been running for three years. The project has achieved its aims to promote better 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 to create an organisational framework for intensive networking.

In continuation of Equnet and with the participation of its core partners, a new project was launched in October 2013, called Identifying Effective Approaches to Enhancing the Social Dimension of Higher Education (IDEAS). ESU and the other partners will create a database enlisting initiatives (programmes/policies/projects) that enhance equity in access, participation and completion of higher education across Europe. They will also analyse the data to look for evidences of causal links between the initiatives and improvements in equity for their target groups. The hope is that this research managed to increase the understanding of the environmental, social and political factors that pave the way for success. Finally, successful examples will be identified and disseminated widely to promote good practices throughout Europe.

The PL4SD project has been running for about a year. The project maps the existing measures taken inside the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) and facilitates peer learning among countries. The PL4SD project will develop a new standard for the systemising measures targeted at improving the social dimension by collecting data and making it accessible online for discussions and evaluations. ESU’s project on Peer Assessment of Student Centred Learning is born out of the first findings of the PL4SD research.
ESU continued its involvement in the “Students guidance at university for inclusion – STAY IN” project, focusing on improving educational guidance and inclusion of disadvantaged social groups. By October this year, the project has to develop an integrated guidance and counselling system for universities 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 is coordinated by Macerata University, Italy.

As a partner in the UniteIT project (Uniting Europe through digital empowerment), ESU exchanges practices, shares resources and visions on digital competence for inclusion and raising awareness about the topic. The first annual project conference was held in October 2013 in Malta together with the Telecentre-Europe Summit.

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 operational and modern student support service centres in four Ukrainian universities: Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, Donetsk National University, Lviv Ivan Franko National University and Kharkiv National University. ESU’s contribution to implementing the project’s aims in the first year have been highly appreciated and recognised by Ukrainian authorities. ESU’s role as a partner for internal quality assurance will increase with its experience from the QUEST project and a recommendation from the national Tempus office.

Another project with a similar scope, called Building Capacity for University Management in the ENPI South Region (BUCUM), focuses on governance reforms involving ten universities in Libya, Morocco, Egypt and Lebanon to fulfil the regional priorities of the ‘University Management and Student Services’. Not much progress was achieved in 2013 due to the complicated and fragile political situation in the region. The Cardiff Metropolitan University, UK, is the coordinator of the project and is taking the necessary steps to adapt the action plan for this year.

Quality assurance in higher education has been one of the key areas addressed by ESU in the past years. ESU finished its work on the SPEAQ project (Sharing Practice in Enhancing and Assuring Quality) and is continuing its involvement in the Quality Assurance in Higher education in Moldova (QUAEM) project.

QUAEM aims to develop a national quality assurance strategy for Moldova, in cooperation with higher education institutions, quality assurance agencies and students’ representatives. The project is being coordinated by Leipzig University, Germany, in collaboration with twelve other partners of which eight are from Moldova. ESU has been working on the task to 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. The trainings have been provided by student-experts from the QUEST QA Students Experts’ Pool.

The SPEAQ project, on the other hand, connected teachers, students and quality managers in order to enhance quality assurance practices in higher education. Small projects on a department or faculty level were implemented by the project’s consortium where ESU participated in consultation meetings and assisted in disseminating the project’s outcomes. Like in QUAEM, there has been a good synergy between the SPEAQ and QUEST projects. All the small projects have been developed as a result of the findings of focus groups discussions where students expressed their views for improving the services and overall student experience at their universities. Most of the discussions have been facilitated by the QUEST QA Students Experts’ Pool members.

The FP7 funded project called SiS Catalyst will come to an end this year. Like in the previous year, ESU will continue implementing the internship programme specially designed to achieve the objectives of the project and to involve students in science and society activities with children. Seven students have been selected as interns for relevant projects within universities and children universities in the United Kingdom, Austria, the Netherland, and Ethiopia. Two more will be selected soon for internships in the United States this summer.
The experiences of students and host organisations from the internship programmes will be collected in the final report that ESU will produce in October 2014.

In addition to IDEAS, a few more partnership projects started in 2013:

The EUROGRADUATE study is set to prepare the ground for a European monitoring of higher education graduates. It will start out from the current disparate situation of different research designs, methods and organisations, which collect and analyse such data. It aims to develop a method of overcoming the gaps through a joint action of countries and data providers that will provide national and international policy makers, higher education institutions, the labour market, students and researchers with necessary data. This data can be used to evaluate, monitor and compare the success of higher education graduates, measure the effects of policies and assess the attainment of benchmarks and goals.
EUROGRADUATE is a two-year project that started in October 2013 and the first consortium meeting was hosted by the coordinator Deutsches Zentrum für Hochschul- und Wissenschaftsforschung DZHW, Hanover, Germany.

Impact Analysis of External Quality Assurance Processes in Higher Education Institutions. Pluralistic Methodology and Application of a Formative Transdisciplinary Impact Evaluation – IMPALA – is a three year ERASMUS funded project that aims at improving the knowledge and know-how of all stakeholders about the outputs, outcomes, effects and (mid- and long-term) impacts of European quality assurance procedures (EQA). During the implementation phase, ESU will contribute to:
–    Development and application of a comprehensive methodology of IA of EQA procedures in higher education institutions which is flexible to be adjusted to different kinds of EQA procedures;
–    Simultaneity of the IA with baseline study and before-after comparison (quasi-experimental design);
–    Integrated incorporation of all members and students of the higher education institutions in the IA;
–    Analysis and comparison of the impacts of different EQA procedures as well as of the various actors’s perception of and judgement on EQA procedure impacts;
–    Analysis of the role of EQA procedures in changing and improving the support (and core) processes of higher education institutions;
–    Improvement of the understanding of the causal relationship between QA and organisational change;
The project coordinator is the Evaluation Agency (Evaluationsagentur) Baden Wurttemberg (evalag), Germany.

ESPRIT, or Enhancing the Social Characteristics and Public Responsibility of Israeli Teaching through a HEI-Student Alliance, is a three-year project funded by the TEMPUS programme that addresses both university management and services for students and equal and transparent access to higher education. The project’s activities include;
– Gathering data to outline the current scope of social engagement in Israeli higher education institutions;
– Developing a model for the building of curricula with a social engagement component;
– Training specialists in the development of courses with a social engagement element;
– Implementing a pilot project on socially involved modules incorporating Bologna objectives (lifelong learning, student centred learning, ECTS, learning outcomes);
– Preparing a methodology for the building of a social benchmarking tool for higher education institutions;
– Implementing a social benchmark pilot in Israeli higher education institutions;
– Developing new modalities for the student-higher education institutional relationship;
-Introducing comprehensive quality measures accompanying the project from its onset and ensuring ongoing compliance with its objectives.
The first partners meeting is on 25-28 January hosted by the coordinator-Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Israel.


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