Since 2012 an executive order issued by the Ministry of Education, Research, Youth and Sport in Romania (Ministry of Education, Research, Youth and Sport, Executive order no. 3163 / 01.02.2012) creates the legal framework that enables the universities to organize post university studies for long life learning and professional development. This is a good practice case because such a measure allows that a significant expertise in the field of higher education (namely the expertise of university staff) to be used / shared also in the field of professional education. The university staff is already familiarized with teaching techniques and with theoretical and scientific approaches of its respective fields, and transferring this valuable knowledge to an area previously destined only to professional education constitutes a good example of knowledge transfer.
This measure encountered a strong opposition on the behalf of the traditional providers of services related to lifelong learning activities, as they were afraid that the new programs developed by universities will put them out of business. The effective application of the ministerial order was postponed until 2015, and the first study programs organized by universities within this framework started around 2016/beginning of 2017.
Although the universities have the legal capability to provide lifelong learning activities, this is not their domain of expertise and the attendees are not their usual target group. Therefore, such activities are putting an extra challenge on the didactic personnel in terms of planning, teaching, scheduling etc.
In order to fully use this opportunity for the improvement of PHE it is crucial for the university to identify and to have access to a significant number of prospective students and also to provide relevant qualifications, recognised at national level.
The main actors involved in the process of providing courses specific to the PHE by the traditional universities are: the universities and their staff (teachers and administrative personnel for providing the courses and the logistic support), professional associations relevant for each field of activity (in order to endorse or to validate, from an informal point of view the proposed study program), other representative bodies (NGOs active within a specific domain, ethical associations etc. that might provide both endorsement but also access to a large number of prospective students), and the ministries such as the Ministry of education and the Ministry of labour (for recognising the qualifications). Last, but not least, co-opting several large or prestigious economic agents within the area would be useful as they are the prospective employers.
The main resources needed are: human resources (teaching staff, administrative staff, staff involved in promoting the new educational programme by ways of networking and online communication), location (provided by the university), educational resources (this requires time and expertise), educational tools (new technology and classical pen & paper).
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?
This measure is mainly addressing the issue of ensuring a strong impact of PHE on society and the world of work mainly because qualifications delivered by universities, even for short term courses are highly valued within the society (or at least they are more appreciated than short term courses delivered by NGO). In the beginning it didn’t work so great because various providers of professional higher education manifested a strong opposition. Also, the effort imposed upon university staff in order to compose the curricula and promote the newly created programs was significant, especially since in various cases, no additional financial resources were allocated for preparing the new programs.
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?
• Good networking between universities and relevant institutions and professional associations specific to a specific area of activity.
• Adequate financing, both in terms of preparing the new program and in promoting it to the relevant audiences;
• Institutional flexibility on the behalf of the university: e.g. delivering courses during the weekend;
• Having the final diploma recognised both by the Ministry of education, but also by those instances regulating the validation of LLP within a specific domain of activity
What are the challenges, barriers or limiting factors encountered? How have they been addressed?
• Investing in preparing the PHE programs: high investment in terms of time and human resources;
• Limited access to significant audiences and prospective students: addressed by intense networking efforts and concluding a partnership between universities and professional associations
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 sustainability of the practice might be acquired by a long term partnership between university and relevant professional associations within a specific field of activity.
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?
The practice was, from its very beginning thought as being nation-wide replicable. It will mostly benefit small, region-focused universities acting as major providers of education on a local level. It is still too early to say how the universities have used this opportunity and whether or not they were successful.
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?
An earlier and bigger impact would have been facilitated by an intensive promotion prior to launching the study programme. Also, benefitting from the endorsement of relevant professional associations and acquiring access to large numbers of prospective students is a feature to be kept in mind for future implementation.
Please provide some information about the context and initial situation that can help in fully understanding the action (e.g. information about the national system, applying regulations, etc.)
Traditionally, PHE in Romania is provided by dedicated institutions that are, in most cases heirs to the former infrastructure, put in place by the communist regime. Some of those institutions were successful in rebranding themselves and remaining competitive within the world of work. It was usually the case of institutions that offered education for fields where the main employer is the state (culture, education, health). With the arrival of universities in this field, the educational offer increased both in terms of numbers and in the variety of the educational programs proposed to prospective students.