Project Rationale

Students’ mobility initiatives have long been a stumbling block in the educational process at Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in many Partner Countries (PC), also in Ukraine and Serbia. Lack of academic performance recognition, difficulties in getting a permit for a mobility run (MR), no counselling body or person at institutional level responsible for students’ mobility initiatives cause many difficulties for students at HEIs in PCs, discouraging them from MRs and depriving them of multicultural experiences.

The problem has been differently pronounced across HEIs. However, in light of the mobility’s important role in enriching learning experiences and acquisition of new skills by students, still much work needs to be done in this field such as development of new mobility opportunities at ministerial and institutional level to enable students’ mobility initiatives. The new Ukraine Law “On Higher Education” has introduced the notion of “academic mobility” bringing the educational system closer to EU standards. The Serbian strategies on “Education Development” and “Youth” both address the need for mobility (chap.2, goal 8/specific aim 4.1.5), and distance learning (chap.8, goal 8/specific aim 4.3.4). However, further development of mobility initiatives and organization of the entire process will remain the task of HEIs and in part of the Ministry, calling for additional work in this area.

For the purpose of a wider-scope impact and sustainability of students’ mobility capacity building, corresponding governance should be established on all levels in HE, i.e. initiatives of the ministry responsible for HE and institutional solutions need to be aligned (HEIs set up and maintain MRs and methodological recommendations, coordination, and counseling are provided at ministerial level) to harmonize of mobility organization process.

There is a need for the development of capacity building for administrative and teaching staff of HEIs in both PC to be better prepared for different types of students’ MRs. Setting up the whole process by gathering necessary documents, making arrangements with collaborating HEIs, and providing informational support for students and teaching staff should become a new function existing or newly funded International Relations/Students’ Mobility Offices. Development of teaching material for MRs is also an indispensable component of students’ mobility capacity building. Preparing learning materials, developing tasks for MRs, supervising MRs and assessing students’ work should become new tasks of PC teaching staff. It will ensure that students get necessary guidance during the MRs, while teachers provide required mentoring and evaluation of outcomes. Students need to be appropriately prepared for a MR, i.e. knowledge in research methodology that is applied during the time abroad, cultural diversity integration, etc. must be assimilated before a MR starts. Basic preparation of students will provide for concentration on learning and exchange during MRs, thus improving the overall educational process and outcomes.

The current project addresses this from the students up to ministerial level by aiming to provide comprehensive methodological recommendations for enablement and facilitation of students’ MRs. These recommendations will base on previous local and EU experiences, experiences gained during the course of MILETUS and additional (legal) recommendations.
Physically limited or other numerous diligent students with familial, financial, or other health-related issues (students with disabilities) have been deprived of the opportunity to enrich their studying experiences and acquire new competences with MRs. Thus, there is an obvious need for solutions opening up a possibility for such disadvantaged groups to try their hand at virtual students’ MRs. In the course of the project, MRs for students will be arranged to encourage them to participate in pilot Master students’ MRs.

Modern labour market demands graduate to be willing to adapt easily to work in an international environment. HI must bring together mastering curriculum, diversification of learning experiences, and acquisition of competencies expected of graduates by prospective employers. Virtual MRs can serve as one of the connecting chains in this situation. The MRs will be set up in a way such as to closely replicate the realities of project work in multicultural, geographically dispersed teams with English as the main language. Such brain circulation will contribute both to students’ mobility capacities and to the development of skills by Master students demanded by international employers.

Scientific research at HEIs in the Ukraine and Serbia is largely sealed off, leading to insufficient development of some disciplines and interdisciplinary research, thus affecting the overall quality of research. Therefore, it is obviously necessary to expand the circle of research cooperation for PhD students, which can be largely satisfied by new mobility opportunities, without massive brain-drain. In the course of exposing one’s ideas to a wider group of research fellows and trying to improve or collaboratively develop them, research results become more valuable. Proper preparation of PhD students from Serbia and Ukraine in research methodology, exchange of research experience and ideas, and joint work of PhD students with their fellows from other project partners pave the way for a better quality research and possible future also cross-regional collaboration, primarily also by exchanging experiences and learning from each other’s solutions reflecting a similar background.

Blended MRs with alternating virtual and real mobility phases well match researcher’s needs in course of collaboration. Pilot runs help HEIs practice blended mobility format now made financially more feasible by the new Ukraine Law due to greater HEI autonomy. Moreover, introduction by the above-mentioned law of PhD degree in lieu of the dismissed Candidate of Sciences necessitates the achievement of the corresponding EU research standards. Also the Serbian strategies enhance introducing “mobility in the higher education system as an element of quality and a factor that affects the employment”. New mobility opportunities and resulting extended collaboration for PhD students from Ukraine and Serbia with their fellow researchers from other countries address the necessity.