The 1st Training Week of APPRAIS hosted at the University of Oslo, Norway, was held from May 9 to 13th, 2022 and was targeted the internal staff of 8 Higher Education Institutions from the Kurdistan region of Iraq and the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research KRG.
The training week aimed to increase participants’ skills and capacities in terms of quality assurance, strategic planning, governance and Bologna process implementation, which represent the pivotal topics of the APPRAIS project, “GovernAnce, quality, accountability: a Piloting Reform Process in KurdistAn region of Iraq” , project funded by the European Union in the framework of the Erasmus plus programme -Capacity Building KA02, whose objective is to support, through the cooperation with European institutions, the rebuilding and modernisation of the governance system of higher education institutions (HEIs) in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, with a specific focus on strategic planning, quality assurance and Bologna process implementation.
36 representatives from the 8 KRG university actively participated in the training among Presidents and Vice-president for Scientific affairs, Director of Quality Assurance, Head of international relations office, Head of the Bologna Committee, besides the 4 representatives from the Kurdistan Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research dealing with Quality Assurance and Accreditation.
Several complementary themes were tackled by more than 20 trainers and experts recognized in their field of competence from Oslo University and not only, but also by the other EU partners of the APPRAIS project, from Murcia University, from Evora University and from Pisa University. Knowledge transfer was achieved mainly through front-end teaching and comparative analysis of case studies and lessons learnt; some working groups were also conducted in order to encourage an inductive approach.
The first day was dedicated to the general understanding of the framework of the Bologna process thanks to the contributions by prof. Marco Abate: Vice rector for teaching, University of Pisa whose presentation was focused on “Qualification frameworks, learning outcomes and how to design a course program according to the Bologna process” , by prof. Maria Jesús Periago: Science and technology coordinator for campus Mare Nostrum, University of Murcia, who focused on the “Students’ progress during the study programme” and by Tor Egil Førland, Head of Department of Philosophy, Classics, History of Arts and Ideas from Oslo University, who highlighted how the Structural Reform of Education was implemented at UiO in the light of Bologna. The Monday afternoon was dedicated to answer some of questions arisen by the Kurdish colleagues, mainly dedicated to overcome some obstacles and difficulties linked to the implementation of the Bologna Process. Finally, a joint presentation by two Kurdish HEIs, Zakho and Charmo Universities, that shared their experience as piloting universities in the Bologna process implementation, has completed the first training day.
The second day focused on the “Policies for governance of higher education in Norway and on the concept of institutional autonomy” thanks to a short overview over the legal framework of the higher education sector in Norway, gave by Bjarne Skov from the University of Oslo. The Kurdish universities had the possibility to discuss about the concept of autonomy and their relationship with the Ministry of Higher Education and to define together which are the actions that should be supported by this latter to contribute to the achievement of the strategy by the universities in terms of Bologna process implementation and in general about their strategic mission. The afternoon saw the participation of the NOKUT – The Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance in Education that presented the topic “Quality assurance and accreditation in Norwegian higher education, through their main activities and their role. A special attention has been dedicated also to the concept of quality assurance of programmes and courses seen from department level with some speakers and contributions from University of Oslo.
The third day of the training was dedicated to “University Social Responsibility and Student Services”: the Kurdish partners were able to know from the experience of University of Oslo (a series of interventions from the UiO technology transfer office (TTO) and from the Science and the Life Science Growth house) how to tackle with this topic and to improve the outreach of university and its third mission by creating linkages with the labor market, by bridging the gap between the academic offer and the community’s needs. The afternoon saw an interesting panel on student and employee democracy with the participation of Jørgen Hammer Skogan, leader of the UiO Student Parliament. The session focuses on the importance to involve the students’ perspectives in all the university’s processes through their representatives, to ensure that they are heard in everything the university does – “ We are convinced this makes the university better for its students, and that makes the students do better in turn” – said the leader of the UiO Student Parliament. The students’ participation as well as the third mission are among the needs of the Kurdish universities to be further improved for a better management and performance of their entire higher education system.
The fourth day was focused again on Quality Assurance but on the research’s field where we saw the laws, the guidelines and the norms within research ethics and guidelines for good scientific practice. It was very interesting for the Kurdish universities and the Ministry as well, listened to the experience of the National Research Council in Norway and the way how they set the research strategy at national level for the higher education sector, as well as their funding opportunities. This day saw also the contribution of another APPRAIS partner from EU, the University of Evora, with the intervention of prof. Soumodip Sarkar, who focused on “External evaluation systems as a quality control mechanism”.
Finally, the fifth and last day of the training week, focused on “Strategic planning: A way to secure quality and coherence in a university’s activities” thanks to the contribution of prof. Peter Maassen from the Department of Education of UiO, who has served as extraordinary professor at Stellenbosch University, South Africa and is fellow at Steinhardt Institute for Higher Education Policy, New York University, USA and he is also part of the research group “Knowledge, Learning and Governance: Studies in Higher Education and Work”. His presentation was functional for the working groups session that the Kurdish colleagues had: divided per university, the participants have been invited to think and to write a strategic plan example for their university/the higher education sector (Ministry), by identifying attainable goals for 2023, goals for a three-year period and long-term goals e.g.2030, focusing on management/governance, the Bologna process and quality assurance system. For each goal, they have been sketching out some actions that are necessary to attain the goals. The Kurdish partners actively worked together and, in the afternoon, a plenary session has been organised as restitution phase of what they have worked on in the morning.
The training week in Oslo will be followed by another training workshop that will be held from June 13 to June 16 at the Sulaymania University in Kurdistan.
Please to know more about the Oslo training week, consult the programme and stay tuned for further developments.
To know more about APPRAIS project, what has been done so far and about next steps, don’t hesitate to visit the project website: www.appraisproject.eu