Azerbaijan, Baku, Apr.2/ Trend, E.Ostapenko/
Trend exclusive interview with head of the National Office of EU Tempus Program Parviz Bagirov
Q: Tempus is one of the most funded EU programs. The last phase of Tempus IV has already been running for two years. What are the main achievements of this project?
A: Tempus is one of the longest running EU programs in Azerbaijan. It has functioned since 1995. The program supports the modernization of higher education and promotes university-to-university cooperation between EU and partner countries. One of the main strategic directions of the EU Neighbourhood Policy is higher education. This is one of those bridges that Europe is trying to pave with partner countries.
Earlier, the EU in its educational program paid close attention to the interaction of higher education and society. This year, university management was chosen to be a priority area of interest.
Q: What is the Bologna process' role in modernizing the educational system in Azerbaijan?
A: In my opinion, in countries where the Bologna process is taking place, many wrongly believe that the process and its reforms are a panacea for all higher educational problems. This is not so.
The Bologna process is "good practice" in higher education management. But in Europe there is also criticism toward the educational system. Bologna is an opportunity to introduce European achievements, adapting them to each country, and thereby improving the quality of education. But first one needs to start seriously working on things at home.
Q: Does the community know enough about EU educational programs in Azerbaijan? Are the opportunities provided by these programs sufficiently used?
A: We hope to to see more interest. EU programs can be considered as a big "pot" from which everyone can benefit as much as they can. More interest in Tempus programme from universities in Azerbaijan may increase the chances of projects being funding by the European Union. The main reason for the lack of involvement of Azerbaijani universities in Tempus is that the program projects - as well as the most of donor projects - are prepared in foreign languages such as English, French and German.
Those people in the universities, which can create projects, firstly teaching staff and professors who are the main generators of ideas, does not speak foreign language. In addition there is also a general apathy.
Practice of European higher education institutions shows that active students should be involved for writing projects, to overcome language and communication problems. Unfortunately, there is still a wall between teachers and students in Azerbaijan. We need more time in order to gradually overcome this negative tendency.
Q: Have institutions, teachers and students from Azerbaijani regions been engaged in EU educational programs? And at what level?
A: In general, the Azerbaijani University of Foreign Languages, Baku State University and Khazar University participate most actively in Tempus program. The Azerbaijani University of Tourism, Ganja State University, Baku Slavic University, Nakhchivan University, Azerbaijani Medical University, Azerbaijani State Oil Academy, Sumgayit State University and other institutions are also involved.
The Ganja and Nakhchivan universities are the most active universities from Azerbaijan's regions. At present we are working to cooperate more actively with educational institutions in Lankaran.
Q: How do you inform about the innovations of the program?
A: We have a list of email addresses to which we periodically send out new information on the projects. Also, we hold information sessions to gather quite a large number of participants twice a year.
Tempus is involved in many educational fairs. The last time we participated in an international Education Career Exhibition in 2009. In early April there will be another exhibition that will represent also Tempus, Erasmus Mundus and Jean Monnet programs.
Q: What is the usual procedure of writing a project?
A: We have an e-form that must be filled. An aplicant should clearly limit the scope of the project - what the project is, what it is for, will it work? Then it is necessary to find partners, since the application is filled on behalf of one organization with the participation of several partners.
Q: Are there any most memorable projects?
A: So far, about 22 projects have been funded. All Tempus projects are divided into two main areas:
All the projects of the program are divided into two main types: Structural measures, that focuses on structural changes in Azerbaijan's general education policy; Joint European projects, implemented between universities to promote any programs within university.
The Azerbaijani Oil Academy and the Sumgait State University have prepared a very interesting project on the management of energy resources together with the Cologne University. It was a very long project which repeatedly received EU approval and was extended. Professor at the Cologne University Reza Talebi Daryani, Azerbaijani from Iran, with all his heart stood for this project. After its completion this work received a very large-scale support from the Azerbaijani state and the project was included as a master's course.
I can also name the interesting project in immunology which was run by Medical University. Almost unique immunological laboratory was created in Azerbaijan under the project which was led by Professor Gulnara Nasrullayeva.
A: Your center also deals with the EU Erasmus Mundus program, the second part of which was started last year. How successful is this program in Azerbaijan?
A: Erasmus Mundus is a student and teacher exchange program targeting to establish cooperation between the universities of EU and partners countries. Three universities took an active part in this program: Khazar University, Tourism University and Ganja University.
These universities are part of consortiums, which ensure dispatching the guaranteed number of student to the EU countries every year under this program. There is also an opportunity envisaging education of a student on the basis of individual appeal. About 60-70 participants could study in Europe since the beginning of Erasmus Mundus program in Azerbaijan in 2007.
Q: What is major option of the EU's latest Jean Monnet Program?
A: Jean Monnet Program is the youngest EU-financed program in Azerbaijan. There was not any project under the program yet. The program targets European integration and its target audience includes students and teachers. Optional education courses injected at the universities under the program are intended to stimulate students' interests on European integration. Professors from Europe are attracted to conduct the courses.
Q: To what extent are you optimistic with regard to future of Azerbaijani education?
A: I am always optimistic, because I am meeting very interested young people who love their country and are eager to see positive changes. Azerbaijani education system has already come closer to the European zone. And the future of the country is based on young educated people.
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