About the Project

Technical Information
Project Name: Modernization of Environment Protection Studies Programmes for Armenia and Georgia
Project Acronym: MENVIPRO
Project duration: 2018-2021
Call: Key Action 2: Cooperation for innovation and the exchange of good practices Erasmus+ Capacity Building in Higher Education Call 2018 EAC/A05/2017 – Selection Year 2018
Why MENVIPRO?
The project aims to facilitate the modernization of the University studies in the field of Environment Protection in the Region of South Caucasus by transferring European best practices and applying principles of Quadruple Helix.

Why Environment Protection?

The Region of South Caucasus was one of the most industrialized parts of the Soviet Union. Large-scale industrial activities such as mining, chemical and electrical industry, machinery etc. led to a severe impact on the environment. Practically in all industrial centers many atmospheric pollutant concentrations exceeded the critical limits set by the World Health Organization (WHO). For instance, among all Soviet capitals, Yerevan was the one with the highest pollution levels, including heavy metals. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, lasting economic crisis and regional turbulences (e.g. the civil war in Georgia, the Karabach war between Armenia and Azerbaijan) the public and political attention to the problems of environment protection radically reduced. This, in turn, resulted in the negative consequences for the University studies in the field of Environment Protection:

– reduced state support resulted in lowering the numbers of graduates in respective curricula,

– lack of resources did not allow updating the curricula and supporting educational facilities (e.g. labs, literature, field studies equipment),

– the general problems of higher education in all post-Soviet Union countries (lack of resources, ageing of teaching staff, decoupling of education and research, etc.) affected even stronger this area.

At the same time, in the last year the changes in economic and political priorities observed in the region, have led to the new demand for specialists in the field of Environment Protection. The Smart Specialization Strategy of Georgia is focused on the development of tourism and environmental agriculture to boost exports. Similar changes can be observed in Armenia, which puts its focus on organic agriculture. In order to implement the transition to the new economic models and ensure the competitiveness of regional economy all countries need to build and maintain the modern system of Environment Protection. And the current University programmes in this field can not provide the new generation of specialists equipped with knowledge and skills matching the demand of the economy and society. The major drawbacks of the current University studies in the field of Environment Protection observed in Georgia and Armenia:

– in many respects the curricula are based on the technologies from 80ths and do not provide modern knowledge and skills. For instance, the educational content on Remote Sensing technologies, GIS, moderm geo-chemistry technologies, etc. is either fragmentary or completely absent.

– insufficient opportunities for students, especially in postgraduate studies, to combine education and research activities (the obsolite laboratory base, disconnect with major economic and societal stakeholders)

– despite more than 25 years of independent development, the education systems still suffer from the consequences of the Soviet Union’s disintegration. For instance, Armenia has a nucler power plant, but the training in Radiation Protection is not available, as traditionally to get this education students had to go to Russia.

– all countries of the Region are part of the Bologna process and European Higher Education Area, they have undertaken efforts to comply with the principles of the Bologna process. But, still the implementation on the ground lacks a well-established best practice and experience sharing. It it  especially true for such integral disciplines as Environment Protection. The interviews with several leading professors indicated that although the formal attributes of the reforms have been introduced (3-cycle system of qualification framework, ECTS, quality assurance system, diploma supplements), the content of studies underwent little or no change at all.

Another important aspect is the European integration policies adopted by both Armenia (signed the Partnership Ageement with the EU) and Georgia (signed the Association Agreement with the EU). Both documents imply development of trade and economic cooperation in several key areas, as well as the convergence of national standards in various fields (e.g. Food Safety) with the European ones to enable the implementation of the cooperative agreements. This requires immediate and lasting efforts on building national environment protection systems on common regulatory platform with the EU. Clearly, without corresponding reforms in the national education systems sustainable attainment of this objective is impossible. That is why the consortium includes key European expert organization in the field of Food Safety (CNR) to oversee the compliance with the requirements of European integration.

Finally, the modern educational models imply close integration of education and research. This is especially important for such application-oriented area as Environment Protection. The introduction of the research component to the University studies requires significant investments and systematic lasting efforts. And also, the external advice and experience can significantly accelerate the progress in this direction. The project effort on building the regional Education and Research Lab for Environment Protection (ERLEP), which will integrate the leading Universities and research establishments, capitalize of active cooperation with the European counterparts, are urgently needed to modernize the studies and provide necessary services to the economy and society.

The project ideas are based on the system of interviews with local experts, extensive consultations with the European partners and analytical work of the project team conducted in 2017. Also, the important advice was given by national Erasmus offices and national Ministries of Education and Science, as well as National Academy of Sciences (in case of Armenia).

 

The Overall Objective
The overall objective of the project is to significantly improve the quality of postgraduate studies in the field of Environment Protection in Armenia and Georgia on the basis of complex modernization of postgraduate studies in line with the Bologna principles, Salzburg principles of EAU and best European practice.
Operational Objectives
  • To study the best practices in postgraduate studies organization existing in Europe and partner countries (specific focus on education-research integration). To identify the possible directions and existing limitations for curricula reforms on the basis of national educational standards, Bologna and Salzburg principles, best practice;
  • To develop and prepare for accreditation new and improved MSc curricula (including core and transferable segments). To implement modernization of relevant MSc curricula in all participating Partner countries Universities. MSc curricula:
    • Environmental geochemistry
    • Environmental monitoring and measurement devices
    • Complex Geoecological mapping
    • Spatial data infrastructure and data management
    • Landscape planning
    • Ecology of Urban environment
    • Environmental toxicology
    • Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
    • Ecological risk assessment The following MSc course will be newly developed (each course gives 3 ECTS credits):
    • Environmental radiation protection
    • Environmental statistics
    • Applied remote sensing for the environment
    • Water quality management
    • Food safety and security
  • To develop and establish innovative teaching/learning environments (International Postgraduate Summer School, shared Education and Research Laboratory for Environment Protection);
  • To evaluate the new curricula and teaching/learning environment through pilot implementation (curricula delivery + evaluation of learning effectiveness and learner satisfaction, training of teachers/supervisors, master classes). To ensure the sustainability of the project results;
  • To ensure high quality of project outcomes;
  • To inform the academic communities in the partner countries and Europe of the project results and ensure the broadest possible impact on the respective postdoctoral studies systems. To prepare and promote the Innovative Master Degree Introduction toolkit for other Universities.
Work Packages
The overall project plan consists of 4 content-specific WPs implemented in sequence with certain overlaps allowing inter-project transfer of results between activities (conveyor-like structure). Additionally, the Quality (WP5), Dissemination (WP6) and Management (WP7) activities will run throughout the project lifetime ensuring continuous visibility of the project, exposure of the target groups to the project results, as well as coordination and management soundness of the project implementation.

WP1: Preparation – Analysis of the nowadays state of Environmental Protection educational programs in Armenia’s and Georgia’s HEI’s with special attention to the local and international environmental regulations, as well as requiremen

ts for the potential workforce. Development of study program modernization and adaptation plan with the same teaching time schedule and content for Armenia and Georgia HEI’s which will also ensure the competence of students passing from one degree (MS) to another (PhD).

WP2: Mobility – Familiarization with the teaching processes in Environmental Protection study programs in EU HEI’s. Examination the possibilities and peculiarities of living lab incorporation into the new study program plan.

WP3: Process of curriculums development and modernization in the following topics:

  1. Environmental geochemistry,
  2. Environmental radiation protection,
  3. Environmental monitoring and measurement devices,
  4. Environmental statistics,
  5. Geoecological cartography/mapping,
  6. Spatial data infrastructure and management,
  7. Landscape planning,
  8. Applied remote sensing technologies,
  9. Environmental research logistic,
  10. Urban ecology,
  11. Ecotoxicology,
  12. Environmental impact assessment, environmental audit & environmental standards,
  13. Analytical provision of environmental protection activity
  14. Water quality management

WP4: Laboratory capacity building – Conceptual logistic and physical development of living lab. Implementation of living lab principles in Armenia’s and Georgia’s HEI’s.

WP5: Pilot teaching and evaluation.

WP6: Dissemination – creation of project website, communication with media and stakeholders, organization of workshops, final international conference in Yerevan, publication of textbooks, manuals etc.

WP7: Management.

The system of postgraduate studies is an important element of HE system of any country as it lays a foundation to innovative economy and competitive science system. Moreover, it also ensures the reproduction of the HE system itself. Extending the Bologna principles to this area of education corresponds fully to the trends and needs of European and global economies and lays in the area of priorities for education reforms in Armenia and Georgia. So far, the attention paid to this sector, especially in the field of Environmental Protection (EP), was not sufficient. For instance, in Armenia, the country running a nuclear power station, the postgraduate curriculum in the field of Environmental radiation protection is not available! All specialists in this field have to study abroad. In Georgia, the country the economy of which fully depends on tourism and agriculture (e.g. wine production), there are no postgraduate courses in the field of Food safety. At the same time, the thematic area of EP represents a lasting and important priority both in Europe and in the target countries. In fact, capacities in EP is a core prerequisite for ensuring quality of life and competitiveness of economy, especially for such small countries as Armenia and Georgia, the countries with very clear Smart Specialization Strategies. That is why, the ERASMUS+ programme continuously announces this field as a priority area for cooperation with the target countries.

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