The “Eastern European University” project is close to its conclusion, so it is time for a summary. The final conference, which was held on 30 September 2016 in the Lublin Conference Centre, was the ideal occasion for this. It gathered nearly 200 participants, mostly from Poland, the States of the Eastern Partnership (mainly Ukraine and Belarus) and representatives of project partners from Slovakia and Lithuania.
The Conference was part of the 5th Eastern Europe Initiatives Congress, supporting its programme line “Science and education”. The line encompasses issues concerning education, and, in particular, its international dimension.
The first item on the agenda was the speech by the former President of Ukraine, Viktor Yushchenko, who in his speech addressed to participants discussed the issue of the conflicts provoked by Russia and their international dimension. 4 panel discussions were held after his speech.
The first of these was entitled “Immigrants in my city”, and discussed various aspects of migration. How do immigrants perceive the homeland of Solidarity? What do governmental and self-governmental administration, non-governmental organisations and the Church do, and what should they do, to make our cities friendlier for immigrants and refugees? How should the schools, parishes, and non-governmental organisations open to immigrants and refugees and what should they say about them? This was debated under the leadership of Krzysztof Stanowski, President of the Management Board of the International Solidarity Fund by Jakub Karfík, Ambassador of the Czech Republic to Poland, Kamil Kamiński, Chairman of the Przestrzeń Wspólna (Common Space) Foundation from Warsaw, and Larisa Suleymanova – a refugee from Chechnya residing in Poland, and a translator for the Różnosfera Foundation.
The next discussion was held on the topic of modern models of academic cities, forms of collaboration among cities and metropolises with academic circles, and building strategies for the development of cities on the basis of the education sector, including higher education. Good practices for collaboration, as well as the challenges posed for academic cities, were also discussed. The panel entitled “Academic city – idea, strategies for development, models of cooperation between a city and universities” was attended by Prof Volodymyr Babayev – Rector of the A.N. Beketov Kharkov National Academy of Municipal Economy, and a member of the Executive Committee of Kharkov City in Ukraine, Tomasz Śpiewak – Director of the Centre for Promotion and Services of the Wroclaw Agglomeration Development Agency, and Wiktoria Herun from the Office of Strategy and Investor Relations of the Lublin City Office. The panel was moderated by Dr Mariusz Sagan – Director of the Office of Strategy and Investor Relations of the Lublin City Office.
A vital issue discussed during the meeting held as part of the project was the issue of the conducting of joint studies by international consortia of universities. Therefore, the next item on the agenda referred to this topic. The panel “Dual degree programmes in the scope of internalization processes of higher education” was addressed to models, the practice of the creation and effects of international programmes for dual degree programmes and other international programmes of mutual higher studies. The discussion referred to, among other things, the role played by dual degree programmes in the processes of the internationalisation of higher education, the forms of financing of joint studies, barriers in the creation of these programmes by partner universities from EU and Eastern Europe States, the problem of the quality of education, and the organisation of joint studies. The discussion, moderated by Beata Surmacz, PhD – Deputy Dean for Didactic Issues, Faculty of Political Science of Maria Curie-Skłodowska University in Lublin (UMCS), was attended mostly by representatives of Ukrainian universities with which UMCS is running dual degree programmes: Prof Serhii Danylenko – Head of the Chair of International Media Communications and Communication Technologies at the Taras Shevchenko Kiev National University, Dr Vitalii Makar from the Faculty of History, Political Science and International Relations at the Yuriy Fedkovych Chernivtsi National University, and Prof Ivan Monolatij from the Institute of History, Political Science and International Relations at the Ciscarpathian National University in Ivano-Frankivsk. Prof Irena Žemaitaitytė – Deputy President of the Senate and lecturer in the Institute of Pedagogics and Social Work at that university, and Agneta Lisauskienė – Manager of the Bureau for International Mobility and Students, talked about joint studies at the University of Michał Römer in Vilnius. Thanks to the presentation made by Anna Bielecka – Coordinator of the campaign “Strategic Partnerships” of the Erasmus + Higher Education Programme, the attendants at and participants in the conference received very detailed information on the financing of joint studies from the Erasmus+ Programme. The panel was also attended by Bartosz Pachuta, who is the first Graduate of the dual degree programme from UMCS. He talked about his experience in obtaining a dual degree.
The last panel, entitled “The Eastern European University” comprised a presentation of highly specific results from the project, demonstrating what could be achieved within the project. The panel was headed by Marta Jędrych – project manager from the Department of Non-Investment Projects of the Lublin City Office. As an introduction to the discussion and the sharing of experiences, the leader presented the strategic partnership of the city and university which was the basis of the “Eastern European University”. Next, representatives of project partner universities in Lublin presented research performed within the project. A report on research into the motivation of potential students from abroad was presented by Dr Joanna Bielecka-Prus and Dr Marzena Kruk from the Division of General Sociology and Research on Migration at the Institute of Sociology of UMCS. Research into satisfaction with studies in Lublin, conducted among students from the Eastern Partnership States, was presented by Dr Tomasz Sieniow from the Department of International and European Private Law at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin. Research into existing solutions and good practices was presented by Małgorzata Wilczyńska from the International Exchange Office at the Lublin University of Technology. The next issue was the shaping of the educational package for foreign students, and, in particular, discussions on the new curricula of studies prepared and created within the framework of the project. The postgraduate studies “Citizens and enterprises on the internal market of the European Union” offered by the Maria Curie-Skłodowska-University in Lublin were presented by Dr Jakub Olchowski from the Faculty of Political Science at UMCS. Postgraduate studies in the field of the development of Central and Eastern Europe offered by the John Paul III Catholic University of Lublin were discussed by Dr Tomasz Sieniow, and the specialty “Sustainable construction” offered by the Lublin University of Technology was discussed by Dr Eng. Mariusz Skwarczyński from the Faculty of Environmental Engineering at the Lublin University of Technology. Foreign universities involved in the project shared their experience of participation in the international and inter-university transfer of knowledge and knowledge sharing – the panel was attended by Doc. Eng. Ľubica Černá from the Faculty of Education at the Catholic University in Ružomberok and Viktorija Šimanauskienė from the Research and Innovation Support Centre at the Mykolas Romeris University in Vilnius. The next result of the project, discussed during the panel, was a collective publication, and, in particular, the recommendations contained therein, including good practices and lessons for the future. The publication was presented by its editor, Dr Jakub Olchowski. For the partners in the project, the panel was not only an occasion to summarise the results of the project and the partnership itself, but also to thank each other for their faultless and friendly cooperation.