The project focused on higher education and research in the Western Balkans and aims at enhancing evidence-based policy making in the region, primarily through strengthening regional capacities for conducting research in the field of higher education and research. At the same time, the project looked into the dynamics of higher education and research systems in the Western Balkans, while placing them against the backdrop of European integration processes.
Reliable data and solid analysis of systems of hi gher education and research are crucial for the on-going processes of integration of the Western Balkans to the EU, as well as the underlying reforms taking place in a number of policy areas. However, prior to this project the necessary data about the cou ntries in the region was not easily available in a consolidated form and therefore it was not possible to study these issues in a comparative manner.
Through close cooperation between institutions from Norway (IPED, ARENA and NIFU) and the region (Unive rsity of Zagreb in Croatia, Faculty of Political Sciences of the University of Belgrade in Serbia and Centre for Education Policy in Serbia), the project supported the development of technical and human capacity to address these issues in a comprehensive and sustainable manner. The project covered the entire Western Balkans.
The project had several components. The first component is the so-called HERDATA knowledge base, an online repository of knowledge about the Western Balkan countries. It can be acces sed at www.herdata.org. It acts as a resource centre for researchers, policy makers, as well as other stakeholders, such as higher education institutions, students, general public etc., from the Western Balkans and beyond.
Related to this, the second com ponent focused on collection and analysis of data on higher education and research in the WB. This included (1) 7 national case studies which provided a systematic presentation of data on higher education and research systems and comprehensive overview of changes in higher education policies, governance arrangements, funding, institutional landscape and quality and focus on major reform trends in the recent years; and (2) a survey to all public and private universities in the Western Balkan region on issu es concerning organizational and managerial routines in their institutions (all available on HERDATA).
The research team of the project also produced an edited volume within the Higher Education Research and Development series by Peter Lang, Frankfurt:"R e-Institutionalization of Higher Education in the Western Balkans: The Interplay Between European Ideas, Domestic Policies, and Institutional Practices". The volume consists of 11 chapters which focus on overarching issues of European integration in highe r education and research in the WB, and specific issues of governance, quality and the regional dimension of higher education. The team is preparing translation into one of the local languages of the WB countries.
Other publications which have resulted from the project include a series of working papers published online (http://www.herdata.org/wps), scientific articles and several popular science presentations (see http://uv-net.uio.no/wpmu/hedda/tag/norglobal/ and http://eracrn.wordpress.com/2014/05/10 /10-years-after-the-eu-big-bang-expansion-and-15-years-after-bologna-insights-from-the-former-yugoslavia/)
Work of 2 PhDs (based in Zagreb, Croatia) and 1 postdoc (based in Oslo) was supported through the project as well (see HERDATA for project descri ptions). The PhDs attended joint PhD courses on theory and methodology in higher education, contributed to the national case studies and the edited volume and the discussions in various events in general. The postdoc also contributed to the edited volume and the discussions, conducted a survey amongst the universities in the region and produced a report on excellence and quality in higher education in the WBC (see HERDATA) and produced several articles (some of them in cooperation with other members of th e project team).
Within the framework of the project three large conferences were organized: May 2012 in Zagreb, May 2013 in Belgrade and February 2014 in. All these conferences gathered both researchers from the region and Norway, as well as the relevan t stakeholders. They also facilitated the networking between researchers on higher education in the region, in particular for individual researchers which operate independently or do not have specific organizational units dedicated explicitly to research related to issues of higher education. In this way, the project was able to extend the group of those involved in research of higher education in the WB countries well beyond the partners in the project. The HERDATA knowledge base is of particular importa nce for the network of researchers and for these reasons it will be continuously maintained even beyond the formal end of the project.
The project seeks primarily to strengthen the basis for evidence based policy making in the area of higher education and research. Reliable data and solid analysis of systems of higher education and research are crucial for the ongoing processes of integr ation of WB countries to EU and NATO, as well as the underlying reforms taking place in a number of policy areas. However, the necessary data about the countries in the region does not exist yet in a consolidated form, therefore it is not possible to stud y these issues in a comparative manner. So far, this has resulted in the lack of solid evidence basis for policy development on the national or regional level. Higher education institutions or research centers on their own seem not to have the necessary c apacity (technical or human) to develop and maintain the data base and do the analysis. Through close cooperation between institutions from Norway (Pedagogisk forskningsinstitutt and ARENA - Centre for European Studies from the University of Oslo and NIFU STEP) and the region (University of Zagreb in Croatia, Faculty of Political Sciences of the University of Belgrade in Serbia and Centre for Education Policy in Serbia), the project will support the development of technical and human capacity to address th ese issues in a comprehensive and sustainable manner. Although partners are from Croatia and Serbia, the project will cover the entire Western Balkan region, i.e. Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia. The proj ect will result in (a) a data base on higher education and research in all countries of the Western Balkans, (b) two PhD and one postdoc project, (c) joint research publications and (d) applications for future joint research projects.