Erasmus+ Higher Education Reform Experts Seminar “Joint Programmes and degrees: strategy, management, implementation”(17-18.03.16, Serbia)

Title: Erasmus+ Higher Education Reform Experts Seminar “Joint Programmes and degrees: strategy, management, implementation”
Date: 17-18 March 2016
Location: University of Novi Sad (Novi Sad, Serbia)

Participants from Ukraine:
1. Iryna Zolotaryova, professor of the Department of Informational Systems S. Kuznets Kharkiv National University of Economics, HERE team member.
2. Iryna Sikorska, International Relations Office Director, Donetsk State University of Management, Mariupol, HERE team member
3. Ivanna Atamanchuk, National Erasmus+ Office, Ukraine, Mobility Manager

Programme and material: 

Description and key information:

Participants: Higher Education Reform Experts (HEREs) from EU neighbouring partner countries, National Erasmus+ Offices’ (NEOs) representatives, European and Partner countries experts, representatives from the host institution (University of Novi Sad).

The two-day Seminar was opened by Mr. José Gutierrez, Head of sector for Erasmus+ Capacity
Building in Higher Education, EACEA and Elizabeth Colucci, EUA /SPHERE Team who presented the program, idea and the tasks of the Seminar.

Aim and objectives of the seminar:
The aim of the Seminar was to refer and to promote current guidelines and good practice that have been developed in European projects and initiatives, as well as to provide strategic advice. It was also to address the governing conditions and frameworks required at national level, to ensure that joint programmes can be undertaken and the resulting degrees are recognized.
The Seminar was to emphasize that joint programmes and joint degrees are seen as a strategic means to internationalise higher education institutions, as they offer not only unique mobility opportunities to students, but also to teaching and administrative staff, contribute to improving and internationalising curricula, and also uniting strategic partnerships and enhancing the institutions’ international connectivity and visibility. Though they can take many formats, they usually require considerable resources in their conception and management, and are subject to a number of challenges and risks – starting from conflicts with institutional and national regulations, to issues of quality assurance and financial sustainability.
Joint programmes have been defined more broadly as international cooperative programmes in which two or several institutions work jointly to deliver a common programme. They may differ in degree of curricula integration, required mobility and how the degree award is finally conferred. Joint degrees, which are a type of joint programme, are more specific in that they require one degree/one document is issued on behalf of all institutions involved in delivering the programme. For multiple degrees, each institution awards a separate degree for the joint programmes. These nuances in the types of joint programmes and their implications were planned to be studied and discussed in the seminar.
During the seminar the participants were expected to:
• Get acquainted with different types of joint programmes, and what they imply in terms of resources, management, regulation, mobility, etc. Specific attention will be given to dual/multiple and joint degrees.
• Understand and analyse the strategic motivations to develop joint programmes, including their relationship to internationalisation
Assess the institutional approaches to develop joint degrees as well as the possibilities that digitalization can provide
• Develop an understanding of the necessary internal and external quality assurance measures for joint programmes
Considering the wide scope of the challenges to be addressed, the program of the Seminar was divided into six sessions related to the above mentioned objectives.

Session 1: Joint programmes and degrees: What are they and what are they good for?
Speaker: Rosa Becker, Senior researcher, EP-Nuffic, the Netherlands

At the session the introduction to terminology was presented: what is a joint programme versus a joint degree and a dual/multiple degree? And why are these differentiations relevant? It was reflected on different motivations for developing them in Europe, how this has evolved and how this fits into strategies for internationalisation, curricula reform, mobility. It was a provision of some insight on trends in Europe regarding joint programmes as well as some obstacles in developing and maintaining them.

Session 2: Joint programmes and joint degrees: different forms of cooperation with different implications
Speakers: Hanna Smidt, Senior Advisor, EUA

Hani Dmour, Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research and Thafer Assaraira, Mutah University, Jordan
Mohammed Isbu, Ministry of Education, Palestine
This session explored in more depth specific experiences with different types of joint programmes, from the perspective of specific countries, institutional and disciplinary contexts. The objective was to examine more closely different forms of joint programmes and degrees, what they entail, how they may differ, and what this means for the universities and the higher education sector in general. For example, joint degrees are different than dual degrees, in that they entail the award of one diploma, which in many countries is not legal. Joint programmes in general can vary in their set up, often entail the award of two or multiple diplomas and may have different legal precedents in different countries. Then, case studies were given from Palestine and Jordan. Presenters provided their national perspectives on joint programmes, discussed why certain forms of joint programmes were promoted over others (joint versus dual/multiple degrees), highlighted trends and challenges and also referred to specific institutional examples.

Session 3: Development of joint programmes: partnership, curricula design, coordination, mobility (including credit award and grading)

This Session was divided into three working groups.
Group 1: Chair – Elizabeth Colucci, SPHERE Team, Intervention – Nelly Asmatullayeva, Ablai Khan University of International Relations and World Languages, Kazakhstan
Group 2: Chair – Zeineb Mazouz, SPHERE Team, Intervention – Rosa Becker, EP-Nuffic
Group 3: Chair – Hanne Smidt, EUA, Intervention – Giordana Bruno, EACEA
The working groups were intended to react to the presentations of the previous session and to explore in more depth how joint degrees work. To start a discussion a set of question was proposed to the participants:
• Do joint degrees and programmes start with institutional partnerships? Do they start at the faculty level? How do ‘bottom up’ (bi-lateral faculty or professor relations) versus ‘top-down’ (institutional partnerships and policies, central administration) relate?
• What are factors to be considered and good practices when it comes to designing joint curricula?
• What centralized support is required when setting up a joint programme? (from the international relations offices, legal services, etc.)
• What are the funding considerations regarding joint programmes and does external funding play a major role? How are tuition fees for students of such programmes agreed?
• How is mobility integrated into joint programmes (for students and staff)? Is it required? What support services are needed?
• How are arrangements made for aligning academic calendars, student selection, grading, and quality assurance?
• What are the most important obstacles in designing and managing joint programmes?

Session 4: Joint programmes in times of digital provision

Presenters: Tim Deprez, University of Ghent, Belgium
Nils Cronberg, Lund Uinversity, Sweden

At the session it was stated that technology is increasingly playing a role in joint programme development. Many universities are exploring ways of using technology to deliver course content online, in conjunction with partners. This session explored the modern trends in collaboration in joint-online programme delivery. Then, the first speaker provided an example from the University of Ghent, notably an EM course on marine biology which had developed a platform to manage joint programmes. The second speaker presented the example of joint online course collaboration via the Nordic Network

Session 5: Quality assurance of joint programmes and degrees

Speaker: Achim Hopbach, Agency for QA and Accreditation in Austria (AQ Austria)

The speaker pointed out that Quality assurance of joint programmes and degrees is an increasingly a topical issue, and often and obstacle to the development of such programmes. The speaker gave an
overview presentation on quality assurance and accreditation regarding joint programmes, citing major European trends. He pointed to different legal situations in different European countries regarding joint programmes, and also how quality assurance systems differ (institutional versus programme accreditation, for example). He outlined the debates that have been had at European level, in the context of the Bologna Process, and presented the newly agreed approach to joint programme quality assurance that had been agreed by ministers. He also cited the key projects and initiatives that have tried to advance this, notably through ENQA and ECA.

Session 6: Joint programmes and strategic internationalisation (institutional investment in JPs, role of leadership, evaluating impact, spin-off cooperation and wider strategic partnerships)

Presenters: Carla Locatelli, University of Trento, Italy
Iryna Zolotaryova, professor of the Department of Informational Systems S. Kuznets Kharkiv National University of Economics, HERE team member, Ukraine

This session looked specifically at the role of university leadership and strategies in guiding joint programme development. The first speaker made some general remarks on the topic and spoke about institutional internationalisation policies, about the motivations and incentives of the faculties and professors to set up joint programmes, how universities manage mobility in general (in terms of credit transfer, recognition, quality assurance).
The second speaker presented the case of Master double degree program of S. Kuznets Kharkiv National University of Economics and University Lyon 2, France, which has been successfully implemented and run for more than 10 years.

Conclusions and suggestions / recommendations for Ukraine:

Ukrainian institutions considering developing joint programmes should ask themselves why they wish to develop joint programmes, what the added value will be, and to which extent joint programmes help to realise their institutional strategies. They should have clear understanding of the reasons to develop joint programmes, which could be numerous at all levels. Yet, for Ukrainian HEIs joint degrees and programs are still a challenge due to many external and internal factors.

1. Joint degrees/programs can be initiated on the ground of the long-term partnership and fruitful cooperation between partners.
2. Clear understanding and definition of terminology should be agreed ahead to avoid misunderstanding.
3. Quality assurance of the programs at national levels should be analysed ahead.
4. Best practices and good example should be more widely spread, like the case of S. Kuznets Kharkiv National University of Economics.
5. Institutional investment, starting at the top level is absolutely necessary to sustain the commitment required, but is not enough to implement Joint Degrees projects.
6. Motivation for implementation is never a “top down” imperative, but a “bottom up” expressed desire. It is always specific (to areas and projects), and produces commitment.
7. Joint Degrees require a huge amount of work and resources and the people who are willing to get involved – at all levels – require sufficient institutional back up (formal and financial).
8. Trustworthy communication between the partners responsible for the joint degree programme should be established. Each partner institution needs to analyse its own situation regularly in order to identify what might be relevant for the programme as a whole. Joint seminars, conferences and regular meetings will also support the sense of unity, and help each participating institution to contribute effectively to the overall programme.
9. The organisation of a networked type of cooperation needs to be maintained at the same time as programme activities are sustained in each participating university. All aspects of this specific inter-institutional quality culture will benefit from a broad involvement and participation of all relevant stakeholder groups, notably students, academic and administrative staff as well as the senior leadership of the institutions.
10. Quality assurance should be regarded as a shared and integrated responsibility of the partnership as well as a responsibility to be taken by each participating institution. Likewise, activity only at the program level will also be insufficient, since the joint program is not an isolated self-sustaining activity, but depends on the individual contributions of each institution in the partnership.

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