Enhancing regional higher education in the field of Environmental protectionObjectives:
- Curriculums development and modernization;
- Development of living lab;
- Staff exchange program;
- Implementation of innovative teaching methods;
- Dissemination of information: media, website, workshops, final conference, materials, publication etc.
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 centres 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 Karabakh 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.
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. The major drawbacks that the current University programmes observed in the field of Environment Protection in Georgia and Armenia are:
- 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, modern 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 obsolete 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 nuclear 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.
Another important aspect is the European integration policies adopted by both Armenia (signed the Partnership Agreement 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.
Finally, the modern educational models imply close integration of education and research. 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.