Updated: 21 July 2022
As global problems need global solutions, the Mediterranean Universities Union (UniMed) is working on dozens of projects across the Mediterranean shores to promote quality education governance, research collaboration, diversity, student mobility, and employability.
Founded in 1991, UniMed is an association of 144 universities from 23 countries on both shores of the Mediterranean.
Governance Projects in Algeria and Iraq
After a long period of strong centralisation, Algerian universities are moving toward greater autonomy and being asked to contribute more to the national economy. That means universities need a medium-term strategic plan that takes into consideration their environments and assures a higher employability rate for their graduates.
To help achieve those goals, UniMed and 12 Algerian universities, along with Algeria’s Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research and the Commission for the Implementation of Quality Assurance in Higher Education in Algeria (CIAQES), have formed a partnership to support the reform initiated by the ministry on university governance systems with a focus on strengthening quality-assurance mechanisms and the definition of strategic plans.
The project, called ESAGOV, has produced action plans for defining strategies and building the strategic skills of universities’ academic and administrative staffs. It is now in its final phase of revision or definition of the strategic plans, which will be presented in Algiers in January 2023. Four university partners in Europe are assisting in this process.
In Iraq, UniMed has launched the INsPIRE project, coordinated by the University of Siena, to address weaknesses in higher-education institutions’ governance systems and provide models of good governance practices. Some of the models are based on higher-education reforms that have been introduced in other countries in response to global changes such as the economic recession, increased internationalisation, disillusionment with state-centered steering of higher education and the trend toward marketisation of higher education.
UniMed projects in Algeria, Iraq and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq focus on university governance, quality assurance, and harmonising higher-education systems.
INsPIRE seeks to achieve good governance practices in Iraqi universities, including institutional values such as autonomy, accountability, participation, internationalisation, and well-structured management systems that assure the implementation of these practices.
Ten Iraqi universities and the country’s Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research are participating in the project. Three university partners in Europe and one in Turkey are also involved.
In the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, UniMed has launched a similar project, called APPRAIS. In cooperation with the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, the project addresses governance, strategic planning and quality assurance of higher-education institutions, with a particular focus on enhancing the capacities of human resources and proposing a reform of the local higher-education system through the implementation of the Bologna process.
Eight Kurdish universities are participating, along with four partner universities in Europe.
Virtual Exchanges and Online Monitoring
To cope with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on students’ mobility, UniMed launched the FRAMES project to foster a harmonised implementation of “blended mobility”, a combination of physical and virtual education exchanges, among higher-education institutions across Europe. The aim is to make the European Higher Education Area more innovative and resilient, and to help universities move from the Covid-19 emergency to sustainable innovation.
The project will be centered on the Virtual Exchange (VE) methodology, which consists of sustained, technology-enabled, people-to-people online exchange sessions in which constructive communication and interaction take place with the support of educators or facilitators.
In another technology-based project, called RSMF (Remote Student Monitoring Framework for Securing Exams), UniMed is seeking to develop innovative tools to help universities deal with the challenges of online teaching and learning assessment in online courses.
The project aims to advance the latest approach by applying modern technologies to resolve the challenges of assuring academic integrity when students take exams remotely.
A Diverse, Tolerant Mediterranean
In a technology-related project, UniMed is seeking to develop innovative tools to help universities deal with the challenges of online teaching and online learning assessment.
To counter increasing xenophobia, cultural tensions, and toxic narratives on migrants and migration, UniMed is contributing to several projects related to the social inclusion of refugees and displaced people, and their education rights.
The Ci-RES project is a pilot experiment, coordinated by the Algerian university Mohamed Lamine Debaghine Sétif 2, that seeks to create institutional capacities for the integration of refugees in Algerian higher education. The project brings together four partner universities in Europe, four Algerian universities and the Algerian Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research.
This project attempts to strengthen the knowledge and skills of academic and administrative staff for better caring for refugees in universities.
Plans include amending universities’ internal regulations to include provisions on the status of refugees, their rights and obligations; enhancing access to employability for refugee students; and promoting refugees’ culture and intercultural dialogue through partnerships with civil-society organizations and local communities.
Another project, UNI(di)VERSITY, supports the role of European higher-education institutions in building inclusive societies and promoting the social inclusion of migrants and refugees. It seeks to increase knowledge about successful, transferable strategies that universities have adopted regarding diversity and inclusion.
It also aims to inspire higher-education institutions’ commitment to their role as key actors in promoting inclusion and cultural diversity in relation to the phenomenon of migration.
Addressing Specific Needs of Vulnerable Groups
Another project, RAISD (Reshaping Attention and Inclusion Strategies for Distinctively vulnerable people among the forcibly displaced), focused on identifying highly vulnerable groups among forcibly displaced people, analysing their specific needs, and finding suitable practices tailored to address specific needs.
The project, led by the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, recently completed its work with the presentation of eight innovative strategies designed in seven countries for the care and inclusion of forcibly displaced people in Europe and the Middle East.
The team conducted advocacy-focused research, grounded in human rights and socio-ecological models, through a network of units in countries along migration routes. The project promoted the involvement of vulnerable groups in these research units, so they could speak with their own voices, gather information, and test practices.
Universities in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Europe were among the partner institutions in the project, along with Menedék, the Hungarian Association for Migrants.
Food Safety Curriculum Development
Several UniMed projects seek to foster greater inclusiveness of marginalised groups, including refugees and displaced people, in higher education and in societies at large.
The FoSaMed project aims to contribute to inclusive higher education in Morocco through curriculum development and teacher-education on food safety.
It brings together four Moroccan universities to develop a joint master’s degree programme on food safety that is associated with the recovery and promotion of the traditional Mediterranean diet. The project includes underprivileged groups, such as women, rural populations and refugees, and gives them equal access to knowledge and the opportunities it brings.
Universities in Portugal and Spain are providing support.
Enhancing Research Capabilities in Libya
In an effort to promote research and innovation in Libya, UniMed launched the IBTIKAR project. It aims to increase the production of joint high-quality research in Libya through a new class of thinkers able to cope with local and global challenges, and have a positive impact on socio-economic growth.
Under this project, Libyan administrative and academic staff will be able to share with their counterparts not only the knowledge acquired but also their experience in managing and implementing research activities in the Libyan context. Libyan research centres will be equipped and properly refurnished from both technological and human resources points of view.
The project also seeks to develop networking among Libyan and European higher-education institutions and research centres, to maximise synergies between them and share knowledge and experiences regarding scientific research with a stronger connection to the labour market.
Better Mobility and Employability
The PELIARQ project (Promoting European-Levantine Internationalisation and Automatic Recognition of Qualifications) has two key objectives: to promote opportunities for internationalisation by European universities with the focus of the Levant countries; and to promote improved recognition of qualifications and transparency around the education systems in Europe.
The project seeks to establish a better understanding of Levantine qualifications and systems that will support learning mobility between Europe and the Levant. This will also promote an element of social inclusion, as individuals coming from the region, particularly from Syria, may be refugees or migrants, and improved recognition of their prior qualifications.
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To better respond to the unemployment challenges facing the southern Mediterranean countries, UniMed launched its SubNetwork on Employability, as part of the RESUME project (Mediterranean Network for Employability), which promotes cooperation between members on the theme of entrepreneurship and employability.
The SubNetwork has a focus on female entrepreneurship and university incubators. Over three years the RESUME partners collected about 300 good practices concerning young graduates’ employability.
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