Following a European Commission call for applications as part of the institutional twinning programme (1) the CIEP, in collaboration with Lithuanian and Latvian partners, have been piloting a 1.2 million euro project since April 2018, the general objective of which is to strengthen Azerbaijan’s integration into the European Higher Education Area and to improve the implementation of the Bologna Process.
A process already started
Azerbaijan has been an active member (link is external) of the Bologna Process since 2005. A series of important reforms of its higher education system were introduced with some success, such as the establishment of an L-M-D system and ECTS credits, the external assessment of universities and training programmes, or the national adoption of qualifications.
The current project aims more specifically to assist the Ministry of Education and the Azerbaijani universities in the transformation of university training models by taking the skills-based approach and student-centred teaching into account.
By taking the national economic priorities and the Ministry of Education’s priority sectors into account, three priority areas have been chosen for the project: educational sciences, engineering sciences and natural sciences. 15 existing programmes have been selected as pilot programmes, across eight universities (2) among the 51 existing higher education establishments in the country.
Diagnosis and recommendations for the benefit of quality
The first phase of project activities (April - June 2018) had the objective of establishing an analytical diagnosis of the state of higher education in Azerbaijan. It revealed the following weaknesses of the current system:
- the aging teaching staff, whose theoretical knowledge often dates to the Soviet period, without them having updated through research activities or access to continued training, whether organised systematically at a national or institutional level;
- the lack of teaching and experimental equipment (particularly essential to assure the quality of training in experimental science pathways, like physics or chemistry);
- the weak link with the business world or other social partners; the overly centralised method of governing, with, for example, little leeway for universities to design their own training model.
The expert missions carried out in the second phase (July - December 2018) allowed recommendations to be developed in terms of tools and practical methodologies to guide the Ministry and the universities towards new approaches, based on better European and international practices.
At present, work is being carried out to put assessment tools for university programmes into place, with a specific focus on the skills-based approach of student-centred teaching. The quality assessment agencies in Lithuanian and Latvian higher education draw together their experience to support the Azerbaijani Ministry of Education accreditation department, in charge of the assessment of universities in Azerbaijan.
In total, since the beginning of the project, 20 French, Lithuanian and Latvian experts have carried out more than around thirty visits. 26 interviews (with 100 participants), 20 training workshops (with 184 participants) and a conference (with 90 participants, at the project’s launch) have been organised.
For further information on the project: www.twinning4he.edu.az
(1) The institutional twinning programmes are aimed at helping countries wanting to work in a manner that is closer to that of the European Union to get to grips with the regulatory and technical framework in force in the European Union. In the case of higher education, the framework is mainly based upon the benefits of the Bologna Process.
(2) The Baku State University, the Azerbaijan University of Oil and Industry, the Azerbaijan Pedagogical University, the Baku Engineering Sciences University, the Azerbaijan Technical Sciences University, the Sumqayit State University, the Ganja State University and the Nakhchivan State University.
Photo: Opening speech by the Vice-Rector of the Public University of Ganja at a seminar on the topic: “Bringing university programmes in line with the needs of the world of work.”