ERASMUS+ has completed its review and evaluation of the BLASTER project (Best Liberal Arts and Sciences Teaching Expanded and Reinforced). The project was carried out over the past two years by six EU institutions of higher education: ECOLAS (European Consortium of Liberal Arts and Sciences), University College Roosevelt (Netherlands), Leiden University College (Netherlands), Leuphana University Lüneburg (Germany), Warwick University (UK) and, Vytautas Magnus University (Lithuania).
The highly favorable report issued a grade of 92/100 and noted the importance of the materials produced for the future of undergraduate liberal arts learning in its summary: “The resources produced by the grant and the plans for their on-going dissemination and employment adds considerably to the partners’ ambition to expand liberal arts and sciences best practices across the EHEA. It is evident that a reinforced LAS education with their new European-wide methods convincingly helps to prepare students for an ever-changing labour market and in their role as active citizens.”
BLASTER was originally conceived by ECOLAS as a means of producing practical materials for liberal arts and sciences learning in three major areas: 1) teacher training and development; 2) undergraduate research and, 3) quality standards of a program in liberal arts. Working in collaboration with University College Roosevelt, the partners identified the four additional institutions for their expertise in these areas and developed a proposal in the ERASMUS+ area of Cooperation for Innovation and the Exchange of Good Practices – Strategic Partnerships for higher education which was submitted and accepted for funding in 2015.
Each learning area was assigned a task group according to the relevant expertise of the partners: University College Roosevelt, Warwick University and ECOLAS for teacher training; Warwick, UCR and Vytautas Magnus for undergraduate research and; ECOLAS, Leiden University College and Leuphana for quality standards. Each group produced a set of materials for reference and for use throughout the EHEA and introduced them at a series of public workshops that drew nearly 200 educators, students and policy-makers.
The Guide to Emerging Liberal Arts and Sciences Practices in the EU is a handbook designed to introduce the characteristics and best practices of the liberal arts and sciences currently in operation within the EU. Learning and Teaching in the Liberal Arts is a practical teacher training kit meant to aid professors in liberal arts and sciences programmes in their teaching practices and their students’ learning. CURLAS, the Companion to Undergraduate Research in the Liberal Arts and Sciences, provides a summary of the current state of undergraduate research in Europe and contains guidelines to support undergraduate students and their academic supervisors. Work is currently underway to disseminate these innovative materials even further.