UCAS Virovitica is the only higher education institution established in the Virovitica-Podravina County. County is divided on the 3 towns and 13 municipalities, all of which are involved in financing the activities connected with and by UCAS trough annual budget items directed for UCAS. Also, strategic activities that are defined in the strategic documents of local and regional governments are deeply inbounded with study programs of UCAS. Planning of new programs by UCAS is also based on strategic goals defined in strategic documents of local/regional governments.
What was the challenge intended to be addressed? Why? What did work well? What did not work well? What have been the main achievements? How did you evaluate its success? What has been the change brought by this good practice?
The biggest challenge was to bring together all relevant stakeholders in the process, so that they take an active role in joint identification of strategic goals, and to make political aspects of the system to accept the financial commitments towards the educational partner. Likewise, within the UCAS, the management has applied the systematic approach to involve teachers and students in the activities of development of regional and local strategies and their implementation. The unresolved issues present at the beginning of the process were the result of the experiences based on the old approach, i.e. that education is based on self-sufficient and socially non-integrated principle. On the other hand, regional and local authorities have not had any experience in continuous cooperation with the PHE. The most important accomplishments are precisely the changes in the current practice, establishing the formal (school, college) and informal educational programmes in accordance with the needs of the environment and inclusion of the PHE in the planning process of the future strategic activities in their area of responsibility. The success of the approach is visible and measurable from a number of indicators, such as financial participation of all units of regional and local authorities in funding the PHE institutions, large number of joint projects, and employed students.
What are the enabling conditions (e.g. institutional, economic, social/cultural, regulatory) that needed to be in place or played a facilitating role for the good practice to be successful?
Since there is a legislative framework in Croatia that enables and encourages the inclusion of PHE institutions in strategic reflection and the pursuit of activities of interest to regional and local partners, the core activity undertaken by UCAS Virovitica, which has influenced this as an example of good practice, is the inclusion of all interested in the process of strategic action. To achieve this, additional efforts were needed to educate all partners on the importance of joint action, both teachers and students, as well as politicians, businessmen and civic initiatives. In other words, the most important thing was to make socio-cultural adjustments of all partners and then transfer of those to the institutional level.
What are the challenges, barriers or limiting factors encountered? How have they been addressed?
The main question that has been imposed, and still is a potential limiting factor, is whether the process participants understand the importance of joint action, and whether they consider that their active participation can contribute to the strategic developmental guidelines. Both in the process of designing, and later in the implementation of the same. Lack of understanding of the importance of their own participation results in the institutional limitations in participation and strategic action towards the achievement of the goals.
Feasibility & Sustainability
What are the elements that need to be put into place for the good practice to be sustainable (institutionally, socially, economically, etc.)? If applicable, indicate the total costs incurred for the implementation of the practice. What are the benefits compared to total costs?
The example of good practice shows that the synergy between institutional factors, such as the internal policies of the PHE and regional and local authorities, contributed to the inclusion of all relevant stakeholders in the joint strategic planning and implementation. The financing of the PHE activities, provided by all local and regional departments in the county, increases the involvement rate and provides sustainability through financial stability. The costs of financing the PHEI amount to 0.1 to 0.2% of the total local and regional annual budgets, and the benefits exceed the investments, because the knowledge and competencies that are activated and possessed by PHEI are significantly more valuable in the strategic sense. While on the other hand, the interest of PHEI is that students and teachers continue to be active in a community, thus securing projects and scientific activities, while students are provided with a potential job after graduation.
Replicability & Upscaling
What are the possibilities of extending the good practice more widely? What are the conditions that need to be in place for the good practice to be successfully replicated in a similar context? What are the steps that should be taken/respected to ensure that the good practice is replicated / up-scaled, but adapted to the new context?
In addition to the aforementioned example in Croatia, UAS Čakovec and UAS Knin are also positively emphasized, where a similar approach has been applied and brings good results. In order to apply an example of good practice in similar circumstances, it is important that the basic principle is the desire of all included stakeholders, both PHEI and regional and local authorities as well, to adjust to this concept. Also, in order to disseminate such activities, it is important to inform the stakeholders and educate them about the opportunities offered by strategic co-operation.
What would have facilitated an earlier and/or bigger impact? What are the key features that should be kept in mind if this would have to be implemented again? What would you do differently if you could go back in time? What could have been done better?
Example of good practice for PHEIs and for Local/Regional governments (LRG). Clear and easy planning of financial supports from LRGs, care of PHEI for local strategic needs.