I consider myself to be very lucky to have been able to participate in the Consortium Erasmus Al Sud Staff Training Week in Setúbal Portugal. Not only was it wonderful to connect with my counterparts from across the EU specifically that of Estonia, France, Poland, Portugal and Spain, the ability to share and discuss Best Practice was incredibly insightful.
I found the concept of a regional university network to be fascinating. Consisting of the Universities of Algarve, Évora, Lisboa and the Polytechnic Institutes of Beja and Setúbal, the main aim is to strengthen the link between the HEIs and Portuguese industry within the European scale. By sharing resources, working on joint funding and mobility programmes, collaborating on projects and enabling greater communication between education and industry, the Consortium has proven to be successful.
It was particularly interesting for me to see that an alumni mentoring programme to final year students had been implemented given my role at BU. Given that the Faculty of Media and Communication is currently trialling this concept with our BA in Public Relations course and the BU Alumni Office with recent alumni, it was insightful to hear more about the challenges and learning outcomes.
Another key highlight was that of the HEInnovate self-assessment tool for Higher Education Institutions who wish to explore their innovative and entrepreneurial capacity and is free to access. Given the seemingly international focus on entrepreneurial and innovation education, this was great to explore with the idea of introducing it to the BU campus.
A personal highlight of the programme included a session regarding a dedicated academic programme and partnership with Deloitte. Whilst serving as a judge earlier this year on the National Undergraduate Employability Awards, I did see examples of similar programmes taking place in the UK however they were few and far between. In this 5 year programme, students undergo an intensive study and work training programmes where they contribute to live projects. At the conclusion of the first year programme Deloitte hired all of the participants. Given the success of the project the idea is to double the student intake this year and to also implement a similar system in Northern Ireland. Whilst motivations for attending university can be varied, I think that the success of this programme shows the growing concern of students attending university to secure employment whilst the engagement from industry shows their desire to have an appropriately trained working force.
The social aspect was wonderful. By taking part in traditional Portuguese cuisine, observing dolphins on a port boat cruise, to touring the Lauak aeronautical factory plant, taking part in a flight simulation, and visiting the historic Jose Maria Da Fonseca winery, it was a memorable trip that I will always remember.
Therefore, the key criteria points of the experience. As this was my first trip to Portugal, it was a great learning experience about the country and culture. The impact on our host organisation was felt greatest following a presentation I delivered concerning the current challenges facing the UK HE system. This provided a platform for all of us to share and I felt that this was a highlight of the programme as delegates came from Estonia, France, Poland, Portugal and the UK. When linking my experience having an impact to BU in line with BU2018, I was proud that BU and essentially the UK were represented. By participating in the programme, previously academic partnerships were discussed, particularly that of a previous link with our Faculty of Science and Technology. New possible links were also explored.
In the immediate future, I hope that certain contacts will be able to visit BU so that the relationships can develop. It is clear that the UK must continue working with our EU colleagues towards the common goal of increased mobility of our students and staff.
For HEInnovate – https://heinnovate.eu/en
Vianna Renaud, Placement Development Advisor, FMC