Strengthening the relevance and the quality of higher education is a key objective in Europe’s educational policies. Current higher education lacks the emphasis on creativity and innovation needed to prepare students for the 21st century. In addition, as a result of a lopsided emphasis on research, there are concerns about the quality of university teaching. This applies particularly to undergraduate programs, even if these form the bulk of higher education.
Liberal Arts and Sciences Programs, as they slowly (re)emerge all over Europe, hold true potential to meet these needs. They offer interdisciplinary undergraduate education, stimulating academic skills and students’ ability to “think outside of the box”. They also emphasize teaching excellence, and bridge the divide between teaching and research in undergraduate research.
This strategic partnership brings together six of the forerunners in Liberal Arts and Sciences in Europe: University College Roosevelt, Leiden University College The Hague, Vytautas Magnus University, Leuphana University Lüneburg, Warwick University and ECOLAS. Together, these partners aim to expand and reinforce the best of Liberal Arts and Science Teaching, in order to strengthen the relevance and the quality of undergraduate education and LAS education – both by project partners and by others – in particular.
These general objectives are met via 3 activities:
* The development of LAS guidelines
* The development of a Teaching Training Kit
* The development of student and teacher undergraduate research guidelines and showcasing best practices
Each of the strategic partners has a unique expertise in one or more of these fields – quality assurance, teaching excellence and undergraduate research in LAS – which makes cooperation particularly fruitful and strengthens the combined impact. This impact is enhanced by the fact that all output will be disseminated widely: digitally (video’s, podcasts), in writing (a special issue of the Reinvention journal) and physically (in seminars and in meetings).
Put together, the project activities will not only strengthen the quality and relevance of the education in the participating institutions, and existing and aspiring LAS colleges, but also of higher education as a whole. The Dutch experience with University Colleges, for instance, demonstrates the spill-over effect of broad bachelor programmes and an emphasis on teaching excellence and undergraduate research to higher education as a whole. In doing so, this project will ultimately benefit young Europeans via offering them an education that opens their hearts and their minds, and expands their horizon beyond compare.
Current ECOLAS Initiatives
Joint activities of ECOLAS members are planned and run as part of various projects administered by liberal arts programmes from varying countries based on their specific needs and suggestions. Currently, we are approaching potential sponsors for issues common to the partners including but not limited to:
- Teacher training and professional development
- Small research grants for teachers
- Undergraduate research opportunities
- Faculty and student exchanges
- Accreditation and organisational consultation
- Summer school
The consortium applied for EU’s Erasmus+ programme for funding in the beginning of 2015. Its members are welcome to participate.
LLP Erasmus Multilateral Project: ECOLAS – Service and Certification Institute for Liberal Arts & Sciences Colleges in Europe (2007 – 2010)
By combining the size of the Oxbridge colleges and adopting a Liberal Arts & Sciences program, project partners have succeeded in improving both the quality of the bachelor programs in their universities as well as the number of successful graduates. They have received many questions for assistance from other European universities, who, as a result of the so called Bologna agreement, are prepared to build the same type of college. The three colleges have the expertise with respect to programming and organization, but lack the funds to actually assist these universities. The universities themselves, most of them being located in Central and Eastern Europe, have too little financial means to pay for these activities. As mobility and comparability in European higher education is an important policy goal, the consortium ECOLAS hopes that funds will be made available through the LLP. The objectives included (1) establishment of Liberal Arts & Sciences Colleges throughout Europe, (2) the construction of a Liberal Arts & Sciences certificate and (3) a campaign to put the liberal arts program on the list of accreditation committees throughout the EU member countries. The impact will be improvement of undergraduate university education throughout Europe.
Coordinator: Bratislava International School of Liberal Arts (BISLA)
Partners: Stichting Roosevelt Academy, Middelburg Netherlands; European Colleges of Liberal Arts and Sciences; Vesalius college vzw, Brussels, Belgium; Faculty of Humanities, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic; New Bulgarian University, Sofia, Bulgaria; University of Hradec Králové