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The project rationale

In the past 10 years HE in Serbia has undergone considerable reforms aimed at harmonizing it with the standards of Bologna declaration and making it more efficient in terms of content, curricula, programs, standards, quality, study duration and meeting the needs of the society. One of the goals of HE reform is to include a stronger international dimension to enable integration into EHEA. Although significant steps have been made in that direction by participation in programs such as Tempus, Erasmus Mundus, FP7 and mobility support networks, Serbian HEIs are still far from full participation in EHEA. Therefore internationalization standards, policies, practices and support services at faculty and university level need to be changed, developed, improved and maintained, in a nationally and institutionally coordinated, organized and efficient manner.
 Internationalization in education has immensely increased over the past 30 years, particularly notable in the increased number of tertiary students enrolling outside their countries(http://ec.europa.eu/education/pub/pdf/international/mapping_en.pdf). Unfortunately, records for Serbia show that there are very few foreign students coming to Serbia for PhD programs(http://ec.europa.eu/education/external-relation-programmes/doc/doctoral/serbia_en.pdf) or for other levels of studies (Strategy of Education in Republic of Serbia by 2020, HEI’s records). Also, taking into consideration negative demographic trends in Serbia, the influx of foreign students, particularly ones from Eastern regions will be very welcome. This situation is only the consequence of many deeper-rooted problems, inadequate policies and practices and insufficient use of human resources and institutional capacities.
The particular problems identified as hindering more intensive internationalization in HE include: insufficient number of courses/study programs in foreign languages, insufficient visibility and attractiveness of Serbian HEIs, insufficient mobility,  underdeveloped or no support services at faculties (estimated 70%), unbalanced internationalization dimension at various HEIs, inadequate mobility mapping mechanisms for capacity building and networking, lack of foreign language skills for staff, lack of internalization policies and practices to include other HEIs such as colleges, etc. Also, despite declarative commitment to internationalization on the part of MESTD and HEIs, expressed in their documents and the Strategy, there is an evident lack of more binding recommendations and legal and administrative framework regulating the organization and implementation of internationalization activities (standardized elements, working protocols, administrative manuals, info guides, standardized documents for foreign exchange and degree students, etc).   
Many of these problems have been recognized as such in the Strategy and amending them has been set among the specific objectives by the year 2020.
Among the problems identified as hindering the full participation of Serbian HEIs in EHEA which will be specifically addressed by this project are the ones that focus on two areas: providing nationally and institutionally harmonized improved legal and administrative framework and support services and staff capacity building at the faculty level. The assumption is that there is the commitment, institutional capacity and human resources to do it, in a series of streamlined activities, instead of haphazard efforts of particular individual institutions. The activities and their outcomes/outputs would provide preconditions for further developments resulting in accreditation of study programs that will be comparable and recognized in EHEA, fuller participation in ERA, increased mobility closer to EU standards, etc.
The project aimed at fostering support services and procedures for full participation of Serbian HEIs in EHEA fits Tempus overall objective, some specific objectives and the theme governance reform. The project also closely fits Strategy of Education in Republic of Serbia, which requires the harmonization of HE system in Serbia with EHEA and ERA and states that it is necessary ‘by 2020 to formulate and carry out very specific policies, actions, and measures that increase international visibility, competitiveness and recognizability of Serbian HE, and ultimately better positioning of Serbian universities at international ranking lists.’  
 In view of the above, the main objective of this project is to develop capacity of Serbian HEIs to establish and improve support services and procedures dealing with international cooperation and mobility in line with advanced EU practices. This wider goal will be achieved through completion of the set of specific objectives:
-Providing legal and administrative conditions and working protocols  
-Establishing and improving integrated university support services for academic mobility and international cooperation  
-Capacity building of teaching and non-teaching staff for full participation in EHEA
The target groups identified and defined for this project include teaching, non-teaching staff and students (student bodies, incoming and outgoing students/researchers), university and faculty administration, university international offices, and the target sectors the project plans to address are university management, student services, foreign language support courses, IT support, international relations and legal and administrative framework. The target groups and sectors will benefit from the proposed project in the sense that it will provide more direct elaborations of the Strategy’s general objectives in terms of legal documentation, administrative guidelines, unambiguous protocols, improved faculty services for internationalization, established mechanisms for information exchange (databases, etc), improved visibility, more balanced practices, sustainability mechanisms created and upheld, and general outputs and outcomes with multiplier effect.

Quality of the partnership

To realize this project with the predicted nation-wide and institutional impact, the participation of major state universities in Serbia is essential because of their tradition, expertise, large number of students and staff and the geographical coverage of all parts of Serbia. Each of them has to some degree participated in various internationalization activities and programs, they have signed cooperation agreements with a number of foreign HEIs, and membership in various international associations, so their commitment to constant improvement of policies and practices in line with EU is one of the basic assumptions for this project.
The partnership with MESTD and the university association CSU is crucial for ensuring system solutions and legal and administrative decisions at the national level, harmonization of Serbian HE partner institutions and the multiplier effect to other HEIs. SCSU, the most representative student organization, will provide the necessary student participation for the information input and the outputs that require direct involvement of student bodies and dissemination towards individual faculties. The EU partners have been selected from geographically, linguistically and economically different parts of the EU, yet each with specific expertise, capacity and experience in international cooperation and activities, which can be complementary in the consortium, so they can provide the models of support services and procedures, carry out staff trainings and contribute to the project in terms of transfer of knowledge and experience for the purpose of implementation of all our specific goals.
UNI, the main coordinator, with nearly 30000 students, has done a lot in university reform, especially curriculum development and quality assurance and now is highly committed to improving both its own and other Serbian HEIs’ international dimension. It participated in many Tempus projects, so its expertise will serve to coordinate joint efforts of consortium members. It will be in charge of the overall project management, steer dissemination and exploitation activities, actively participate in all the DEV WPs and draw on its experience to lead WP4 related to organizing language support for participation in EHEA.
BU is highly dedicated to cooperation with international organizations, HEIs and associations, with agreements with HEIs all over the globe and strongly supports student exchange programs and organizations. It has the greatest number of courses and programs in English and the largest number of foreign students at all levels, but still insufficient taking into consideration BU’s vast offer at the national level. BU will contribute to the project by sharing its experience in student and staff mobility and strong international office and will lead the WP3 dealing with capacity building of teaching and non-teaching staff.
UNS is the 2nd largest HEI in Serbia, with a considerable international expertise, and established support services, which it will share to other partners, while at the same time improving its own practices, stemming from the project outputs. UNS will closely cooperate in all the development work packages and be the lead partner for WP2, related to fostering various support services.
UNIKG, a fast-growing university in central Serbia, with its expertise in curriculum reform, accreditation process and Tempus participation will be the lead partner in WP1 dedicated to developing administrative and legal conditions for improved university support services and procedures.
SUNP, the only integrated state university in Serbia and the regional HE center (southwest) will closely collaborate with all the partners and implement the model practices at an integrated university.
The inclusion of COT, previously not participating in Tempus projects, but with long tradition in career-oriented study programs directly related to international jobs, ensures that the developed and adopted models of practice can be extended to college level HEIs.
MU, a dynamic UK university with a long tradition, confirmed reputation for innovation and excellence in teaching and research and a large population of international students from over 100 countries will provide model protocols for the faculty level. It was a competent partner to UNI at Tempus project SIQAS. MU’s great expertise both in the project content and project management will be used so it will lead QPLN WP.  
UMA (ES) is a vigorously growing regional HEI, presently not active in Tempus program. Over the last decade has considerably promoted the internationalization of its teaching, research, staff and mobility, with over 1000 exchange students and 100 researchers per year from all over the world. It will provide the transfer of all aspects of know-how.
UJ (PL) is one of the oldest universities in Europe, which merges tradition with visions for the future, adding a strong international dimension, through active participation in recognized international HEI associations, especially improving since Poland has entered EU.
MUNI (CZ) places a strong emphasis on the systematic development of international cooperation, supports active policy of international marketing and promotion and has been awarded by EAIE in 2012 for contribution to internationalization of HE. Socio-economic situations of PL and CZ, similar to the one in Serbia (aspiring to EU membership) and their Slavic languages, will make UJ’s and MUNI’s experience particularly applicable for project activities, so they will provide their particular models and trainings for various support services.
UNIBA (DE) is a relatively small but ambitious regional university, offering courses and research interdisciplinary and international in focus. With exchange programs with nearly 60 countries and expressed orientation towards cooperation with Western Balkan universities, especially Slavic departments, it will take part in promoting such exchange programs besides knowledge transfer.

The project's content and methodology

The proposed project is envisaged as the first nation-scale project in Serbia aimed at developing the capacity of Serbian HEIs to establish and improve university support services and procedures dealing with international cooperation and mobility in line with advanced EU practices, which will be implemented at all levels. This wider goal will be achieved through completion of the set of specific objectives, concerned with the areas where the measures should be applied:
-Providing legal and administrative conditions and working protocols  
-Establishing and improving integrated university support services for academic mobility and international cooperation
-Capacity building of teaching and non-teaching staff for full participation in EHEA
 
In order to achieve the set objectives, numerous activities are planned, grouped into eight workpackages. According to the objectives and activities, the proposed project is expected to achieve the following outcomes:
-Developing  administrative and legal conditions for improved university support services and procedures
-Fostering various support services (academic mobility support, IT support, marketing and information activities)
-Capacity building of the teaching and non- teaching staff for better participation in EHEA
-Providing language support for full participation in EHEA
-Dissemination of project information and results
-Quality Plan
-Exploitation of project results
-Project management

The expected outcomes will be achieved by realization of activities grouped into eight work packages.
  In the first work package the objective is to develop and improve the administrative and legislative framework at Serbian universities in such a way as to provide better quality university support services and procedures at the faculty level. First, a detailed analysis of the current situation at Serbian universities regarding the administrative and legislative framework related to the existing policies and practices dealing with support services and procedures will be performed, on the basis of reports from each partner, as well as the relevant reports from the MESTD. On the basis of this, a joint report will be made. Second, the legal and administrative models of international cooperation at EU partner institutions will be reviewed via the reports from EU partners and the study visit of Serbian partners’ representatives. Based on the aforementioned analyses, the reports, informative booklets of good practice and the comparative report obtained (the joint reports will be provided by the WP1 work team (UNIKG lead partner), the target areas in Serbian university support services and procedures that need improvement will be identified and possible ways of their enhancement will be considered, both at the national and institutional levels, and discussed at the work meetings/round tables, with the participation of decision-making bodies, at Serbian partner institutions. In addition, action plans and procedures which are essential prerequisites for a successful information exchange among all stakeholders will be developed and introduced into the legal framework, for the nation-wide impact. Moreover, in this WP university protocols and manuals for the staff dealing with international students and affairs will be individually devised at Serbian partner HEIs, following the general model provided by the WP work team.  Also, with the help of MESTD, standardized nation-wide form of documents of academic achievement to be issued to foreign students will be developed, as the model for possible institutional documents. These systematic developments in legislative and administrative framework will be adopted in institutional settings, especially at the faculty levels, for improvements in current policies and practices.
The aim of the second work package is to establish capacities, methodology and mechanisms to foster various support services at Serbian HEIs. The first task is to analyze current practices in academic mobility services and other services, both in Serbia and at EU partner institutions, to identify the best practice models, through a number of reports and study visits to EU partners. These study visits will be combined with and connected to the ones carried out in WP1. Based on the results of this analysis, and with the assistance of EU partners, the WP2 work team will devise models for mobility services at Serbian universities to be established and enhanced, beneficial primarily for students, university management, administrative and non-teaching staff, at the faculty level. Next, in order to increase the visibility of the opportunities offered by Serbian universities, as well as EU partners and EU options, university and individual faculty websites will be modernized in terms of technical side, attractiveness and informativeness (including versions in Serbian Latin script and in English), and updated on a regular basis. Databases of available courses and programs in foreign languages will be formed for each institution, regularly updated and made available. Tailor-made materials, such as guides and booklets (printed and e-form), will be created for foreign students, at institutional level, and institutional advertising activities will be intensified in order to promote the educational opportunities at the national and international levels.
In the third WP the objective is not only to train and re-train teaching and non-teaching staff but also to raise the general awareness of all stakeholders for the active nation-wide involvement in EHEA. The study visits to EU partners will be followed by reports and recommendations, posted on the project website as well as on the university and faculty websites, and promotional materials will be made available in printed and electronic forms. These will serve as the basis for the training of Serbian teaching and non-teaching staff as well as students, in terms of knowledge, skills, practices and procedures that will be applied at all institutional levels. Two major trainings, with participation of EU partner institutions trainers will be held at BU (lead partner for WP3) for all Serbian partners.  
Another important task is to develop and update foreign student hosting networks, model working protocols and databases of student hosts, in cooperation with SCCU and other student organizations. At institutional and faculty levels databases of academic contact persons for foreign students will be developed and updated. Mapping mobility mechanisms will be introduced and improved at HEIs in Serbia, providing constant information exchange between the MESTD and HEIs, and vice versa. Databases of academic contact persons for foreign students will be developed and updated, which will contribute to the unification and better exploitation of capacities, and together with D2.4, D3.2 and D3.3. facilitate the competitiveness and accessibility to Serbian universities in EHEA.
 The aim of the fourth WP is to provide language support activities at HEIs in Serbia, since language barrier has been identified as one of the possible hindrances. The first step is to establish cooperation networks among all language professionals at Serbian partner universities (foreign language teachers at HEIs, translators/interpreters, international officers) so as to promote, enhance and organize various language support services for teaching and non-teaching staff. Guidelines for providing language support to teaching staff (translation services and classes) will be developed and improved. Also, the conditions for the development of English language skills of HEI administrative staff will be improved by designing a model English-for-specific-purposes course. Another important goal is to develop and improve the guidelines for organizing Serbian language classes, for foreign students coming to Serbian HEIs, in printed and e-forms.
Quality control of project activities and results will be continuously performed during the project realization, with evaluation done in several ways. The lead partner will be MU, a EU partner with great experience in project management and project quality. The internal work quality standards and procedures will be agreed upon and established by the Consortium partners at the kick-off meeting, and a Quality Assurance Group (QAG, consisting of experienced manager/teacher staff from EU partner institutions, Project Coordinator institution and CSU) will be established to monitor project performance. Qualitative reviews will be conducted at each milestone (twice yearly) of each WP to ensure satisfactory progress on the basis of regular reports submitted by WP coordinators to the Project Coordinator and the QAG, on the basis of which the QAG will prepare evaluation reports for the Coordinator and the Core Group, which will, in turn, notify all the partners on the issues related to project quality. The reports will focus on KPIs set for the activities of each package and the whole project (outputs, outcomes, timely achievement, participation at meetings, effective communication and effective management of the project. In case the quality differs from the expected or the outcomes are not achieved on time, adjustment mechanisms such as official warnings, consultation meetings (of QAG, project management bodies, work teams, team coordinators and contact persons in charge of each WP), staff strengthening of work teams, or, ultimately, re-arranging and re-defining of the planned activities (in case of unforeseen causes).
Interproject coaching will be organized with a project in a similar field for mutual exchange of accumulated expertise and a peer review. Independent monitoring evaluations by expert(s) (mid-term and end) will be arranged as well.
 The project management (WP8) will include all the phases and aspects of the project. In the initial phase of the project a kick-off meeting will be organized, project management bodies set up and a partnership agreement signed, which will regulate the relationiship among the consortium parners. The project management bodies will include the Consortium Management (consisting of representatives from each partner institution),  the Core Group (consisting of representatives from largerst PC HEIs), the Quality Assurance Group. For each workpackage, a WP coordinator will be nominated, who will organize the work team, be responsible for the realization of the workpackage tasks and report to the Project manager, who, on her part, will report to the Core Group. All levels of management  bodies will monitor how the project is progressing in terms of expenses, use of resources, implementation of activities and delivery of outcomes. In order to achieve defined objectives of the project, the management bodies will systematically collect, analyze and use relevant information about the project progress.  The QAG will perform internal reviews and report their findings to the Core Group. Following this, relevant decisions will be passed at regular meetings of the project management bodies and at coordination meetings and relevant documents will be adopted at Consortium meetings. The meetings of work teams and project manager will be held as needed, while the consortium meetings of delegates from partner instutions will be held at least twice annually at different institutions. Financial administration and bookkeeping will be done regularly to the highest standard, and partners should provide the necessary input for the project coordinating institution. The project management will arrange for midterm and end financial audits to be done as well.

Dissemination and sustainability

From the very beginning of the project, emphasis will be placed on the dissemination of the information and acquired knowledge related to the activities and deliverables of the workpackages and it will continue during the project’s realization and after its completion. The project website will be created, maintained and regularly updated, containing various types of project-related information, and it will also be used for documents exchange among the consortium partners. Based on individual project reports from partner institutions, annual joint reports on project achievements will be prepared and presented at relevant decision-making bodies at partner institutions. In order to facilitate the dissemination of the information related to various activities encompassed by the project, project promotional materials will be designed and distributed. A number of various dissemination gatherings will be organized, where information about the project will be given to various groups of project stakeholders, other HEIs, academic community in general,  the general public, and to policy-makers not directly belonging to the partnership as are the Ministry of Education's bodies such as National Council for Higher Education and CAQA. Dissemination events will include PR media events, etc. An important activity in project dissemination is organization and realization of the workshops where the knowledge obtainted through trainings and study vistis will be demonstrated  to the relevant target groups.
Besides the project results dissemination, a very important activity is also their sustainability. The stated interest and commitment of the Serbian government to increase and focus efforts for full participation of Serbian HEIs in EHEA, as expressed in the Strategy of Education in Republic of Serbia by 2020, is the most positive policy factor to ensure the sustainability of the projects results, some of which are the direct recommendations from the strategy. The adopted action plans and in particular, the developed working protocols, adopted manuals, established certificates, information exhange and mobility mapping mechanisms will be incorporated into the existing relevant institution documents, with the necessary modifications to suit the institutions’ specific needs. The adopted documents will also create the obligation for the maintanence and regular updating of the created databases. Some of the project results, such as institutions’ websites, improved for international visibility and attractiveness, various types of established support networks, printed and e-guides, will become part of institutions’ normal activities, where some other results, such as for instance the wider implementation of model language courses and foreign language support, will still require some additional financing. However, we believe that the institutions will find their interest in providing such financing, comparatively small considering that higher foreign language competences can lead to the creation and accreditation of more courses/programs in English and other world languages.
Among the intangible results, the provided trainings, information, and the generally raised awareness on part of all the stakeholders about the particular measures and procedures that will enhance fuller participation of Serbian HEIs in EHEA will ensure the creation and maintaining of a more internationally oriented culture within the academic community.
The direct involvement of the Ministry of Education in the Consortium will ensure the seriousness of the project realization and it will be aware of the project activities and results at any time during the project period. The presence of high university management representatives (rectors, vice-rectors, CSU) as the project consortium members guarantees the institutional support for both the project realization at each participating HE institution, as well as the project results sustainability.

Budget and cost effectiveness

To ensure that the proposed results and objectives will be achieved in the most economical way, the budget items have been allocated in accordance with the activities, combining them whenever possible, and sharing resources from staff, travel and printing and publishing (for meetings, trainings etc) To save on travel costs, extensive use of e-communication is plannedwhenever possible to ensure optimal communication among consortium partners. Equipment purchase will be realized as a joint purchase to achieve the best available price, and the printing and publishing costs will be moderate taking into account the planned deliverables in the print form, dissemination and promotional activities. Study visits to EU partners for various deliverables will be combined, and mobility, whenever possible, is devised in such a way as to achieve a combination of more than one activity (study visits, management, trainings, coordination, quality control, etc).Project partners possess sufficient capacities so there will be no outsourcing, except for the external quality control and the obligatory financial audit.
The budget for this project is balanced, harmonized among partners and among workpackages. Large Serbian HEIs have a similar share in funds, except for the slightly larger share for BU, the largest Serbian HEI, and for the increased staff costs and printing and publishing for UNI due to significant project tasks of management and dissemination. EU partners get a significant share in the budget, fully commensurate with their tasks and obligations. The higher share for MU compared to other EU partners is due to its role as the lead partner for QPLN.
Delivering this project involves implementing a contract and has to meet both the national and EU/Tempus financial regulations. Regular and detailed bookkeeping will be done to satisfy rigorous reporting requirements. Quality control is planned which includes financial reporting, monitoring and mid-term and end financial audits.