29 September, 2011

Hosting a delegation from Aruba

A unique phenomenon in our School of Social Work: two international visiting delegations in one and the same week ! As our internationalisation strategies are really paying off at the moment, we were happy to receive two different delegations from two different continents, both interested in cooperation. Not only did we have visitors from Turkey on Tuesday (see my earlier blog post), but this week we were also visited by a delegation from the University of Aruba, who had come to Rotterdam at the invitation of our (former) managing director of the School of Social Work, Rob Elgershuizen.
Most unfortunately, however, on departure, the delegation fell apart due to a serious hitch at Aruba airport. Although this was felt as a drawback, the faculty dean Paula Kibbelaar succeeded admirably in making the most of her visit in Rotterdam on her own. We got well acquainted with the setting, perspectives and history of the University of Aruba, the Faculty of Arts & Science and the bachelor degree programme in Social Work and Development.

Before arrival we had been approached with an extensive list of factual and probing questions to which the talks during the visit would hopefully provide answers. On the final day we could establish that we had come a long way over the past few days and that a lot of progress had been made in familiarising ourselves with each other's organisations, contexts, themes and issues. This had indeed been the objectives of the visit from the start.
Both parties agreed that a win win situation was something we should strive for. And so it was decided that each partner was to draw up their own list of interesting and viable opportunities to cooperate on, in consultation with their own departments and staff. As the common ground and many parallels have been identified during the final meeting, each party will make up their own mind and exchange the lists in the near future. A further meeting will then follow soon to enhance and consolidate this process in order to have some firm plans before the end of the year.

27 September, 2011

Hacettepe University delegation visits Rotterdam

Today we received two visitors from the social work department at Hacettepe University, Ankara. It is this university which can pride itself on having the oldest social work department in all of Turkey (presently 51 years old). We learned that the 1999 Marmara earthquake led to an increase in the demand for social workers, which led in turn to an expansion of social work course programmes across the country. There was a clear need for individual counselling which could help people gain awareness about their problems and gain the skills to use their inner resources to cope with the after-quake issues.
We were told that much like other departments in Turkish universities the social work course programme was American-oriented. Another important influence came from (writer, academic and consultant on social work) Malcolm Payne, who, by the way, among many other things, keeps a fascinating blog site on Self positioning I found out just now.
Most social work graduates in Turkey find jobs in organisations under the ministry of social policies, the ministry of health or the ministry of justice. Apart from that, social workers can also find employment in private social work organisations and NGO's. We were told that there is a real need for social workers at the moment as the number of qualified social workers is low.

It was all in all a good opportunity to get to know each other a lot better and explore opportunities to cooperate with each other. Trying to establish opportunities for sustainable cooperation we decided to start with teaching staff mobility, starting this year. By constructively embedding the perspectives of the other partner in current courses lecturers as well as students on either side can benefit. And this can be arranged on an annual basis for example. Opening up opportunities for student exchange on a reciprocal basis was another idea that was explored, next to organising studytrips to each other's countries. Altogether we had fruitful discussions !

01 September, 2011

The social dimension in European higher education

In the series “European Policy Seminars” of the Academic Cooperation Association, the ACA is planning to organise a seminar (on October 14th) that is spot on: the social dimension of higher education.
Here's the rationale as taken from the invitation:
The “social dimension” is an elusive but critically important issue for European higher education. The European Commission’s 2012 Lifelong Learning Programme call for proposals (issued this month) singles out “the social dimension of higher education” as one of its five priority areas for multilateral projects. In the call, the Commission has indicated specific preference for projects focused on such issues as widening access for underrepresented groups, tracking the development of expanded access for these populations, encouraging increased completion rates in higher education, and further developing the notion of the “social responsibility” of higher education institutions.
Social concerns have traditionally played an important role in the discourse on European higher education. After a boom in the social rhetoric in the 1970s, the issue re-emerged in Europe in the context of the Bologna Process: should the student body entering, participating in and completing higher education reflect the diversity of our populations?
Stated aims and ambitions are one thing, but how about the reality on the ground? Are our universities and colleges accessible for students from lower socio-economic backgrounds and immigrants and cultural minorities, to mention just three groups that play a role in the ‘social discourse’? Or is the social dimension, as a report of 2009 found, a rhetorical rather than a real success, and is it true that it is still not the “ability to learn but the ability to pay” which determines participation in higher education? Do universities and governments in Europe have policies for participative equity in place, and are these policies effective?
These are some of the questions which this ACA European Policy Seminar will address. The latest research findings are planned to be presented, among them a soon-to-be released EURYDICE study on the issue, the brand new EUROSTUDENT 2011 report and the external evaluation of the social dimension in the Bologna Process.
The European Commission will present its latest policy position paper on higher education and the OECD will provide intelligence on if and how our universities and colleges are catering to students from migrant communities. Two institutional representatives will provide insights on access and diversity ‘from the field’.
This being the working programme for the seminar, I regret that I won't be able to attend. Still, hopefully some of the reports and results of this seminar will be shared on the web and that's when I can include some links here to relevant, valuable information. I'm already looking forward to that. In today's world we should cherish all talent and provide opportunities for this talent to be developed via higher education.