INOTLES survey on teaching ES in EU partners

INOTLES survey on teaching ES in EU partners                    


The INOTLES project provided East European Partners with a unique opportunity  to explore the long-standing experiences in the field of European studies of the leading Western Universities (i.e the EU partners).

The added value of this intra-project survey is the understanding of teaching European Studies within the EU partners (type of program, teaching methods used, major challenges, etc.) The survey was led by the Institute for European Studies of Tbilisi State University, in cooperation with the University of Surrey.

The questionnaire was sent to the representatives of the University of Surrey, Maastricht University and Vrije University Brussels. Thematically, the survey was split into four parts and was aiming to understand the composition of the program and its staff at the EU studies programs of EU partner HEIs (part 1), available resources (part 2), arrangement of the body of students (part 3) and the desired outcomes for cooperation with HEIs of EaP region partners to INOTLES project (part 4). 

Under part 1 of the questionnaire the University of Surrey (US) responded that it operates BA in EU studies along with MA and PhD programs; And only BA has a minor. Programs are administered not in an autonomous manner but by  School of Politics and a School of Law. Even though University of Surrey does not have experience of cooperation with EaP HEIs, the survey showed the interest to collaborate mainly through Erasmus agreements and also via visiting for crash courses. During teaching at US, the Professors use various methodologies such as simulation games, blended learning, collaborative projects. During supervising MA thesis in European Studies Professors begin with preparatory work (identification of research topic, supervisor allocation) in autumn semester; they have regular meetings through to submission in September; research methods modules provide relevant support; most work done after exams in May.

Three main problems that academic staff face in teaching European Studies are related to the following items: 1. Student motivation and engagement, 2. Keeping content up-to-date, and 3. Getting students to connect learning from different modules. Three methodological courses have been indicated as part of the MA program: Qualitative methods; Quantitative data analyses; and Research design.  Three core mandatory courses on MA level are as follows: 1. EU politics, 2. Introduction to Research, and 3. Research in Practice.

Under part 2 of the survey, US suggested that most  widely used databases and e-resources to which  University’s faculty, students and staff refer to in the process of teaching/learning European Studies might be considered as: 1., 2. Online journal packages 3. Lexis-Nexis newspaper archive. Besides, US has the capacity to offer an affiliation to visiting students/researchers/scholars of partner Universities from EaP countries for a limited period of time. Apart from this, access to the library resources for the guests from a partner university is free of charge.

Under part 3, US responded that the number of students enrolled in MA programmes in European Studies are fewer than 20 students per academic year. While the number of students enrolled in BA programmes in European Studies range between 20 and 50 per year. The number of students enrolled in Graduate (e.g. PhD) programmes in European Studies is fewer than 20 students per academic year. The students’ prior educational background before they enroll to BA, MA or PhD programs are mostly from social sciences degrees. Besides, only few students combine MA studies with work at US.   While University allows students to have internships both at national and international institutions, still finding an internship placement is the student’s responsibility.

Under part 4, US expressed willingness to cooperate with INOTLES partners in the future after the project is over in the following fields: Joint training courses for teachers; Joint certification of innovative courses/program; Joint application for other projects in the future; Research collaboration; joint publications.

Under part 1 the Vrije University Brussels (VUB) responded that they do not operate BA program in European Studies, but only Research Master Program,  Graduate programme ( PhD) and Postgraduate Certificate program in European Policy –making (through blended learning); apart from this they have online modules on European policy-making as well as a Summer School on European policy-making. Besides, MA programs do not have minors. The programs are interdisciplinary and are administered by an independent autonomous unit - Institute for European Studies, but in cooperation with Faculties of Law and Political Science.

The academic staff has experience of cooperation with colleagues of EaP region, mostly with scholars from South Caucasus (Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia).  Academic staff have an interest to enhance this cooperation further through bilateral cooperation agreements/ bilateral Memoranda of Understanding and also via visiting EaP HEIs mostly for providing short term crash courses.

Academic staff of VUB use both traditional methods of teaching such as lectures and seminars as well as interactive methods like simulation games, e-learning and blended learning. During supervising MA thesis in European Studies VUB academic staff have limitation on maximum number of students they can supervise, which is about 7 MA students. Three main problems during teaching EU studies as identified by academic staff of VUB are related to 1. Workload (teaching vs research), 2. Administration and 3. Need to constantly update the content of their courses.  The methodological courses taught on MA level are as follows: Qualitative methods, Quantitative data analyses and Research design. VUB provided whole list of compulsory courses as well as two separate streams of electives where from the students can make their choices. The list of compulsory courses (for 6 credits each) are as follows: 1. The History and Law of EU integration, 2. The Economics of European Integration, 3. The political aspects of European integration, 4. The EU and the stakeholders of the economy, 5. Research methods (3 credits). The first elective stream is on ‘economic integration’ and the second one is the ‘European Politics and Social Integration’ stream.

Under part 2, VUB indicates that access to the library resources for the guests from a partner university is free of charge.

Under part 3, VUB answered that the number of students enrolled in MA programs in European Studies are between 50 and 100 students, while on PhD level they have less than 20 students per academic year.  Students come with diverse academic background but mostly with degrees in social sciences. On MA level almost half of the students combine work and study but VUB is flexible in that terms because it offers classes during the evening time.  Finding internship placement is the sole responsibility of the student.

In ‘desired outcomes’ under part 4, VUB sees partnership possible with INOTLES partners in promoting jointly administered program without giving its own degree after graduation (e.g. program called as “MA program in European Studies in cooperation with… X University”)  as well as in   teachers’ yearly participation in crash courses. Apart from this, after INOTLES conclusion VUB sees partnership opportunities with project partners in the fields of organizing joint training courses for teachers, application for other projects in the future, collaboration in research, or joint publications.

Under Part 1, University of Maastricht (UM) responded that they operate undergraduate (BA), Research MA, Professional MA as well as Graduate (PhD) programs. UM have minor European studies for which exchange students, students from other faculties or other programmes and pre-Master students can enroll. The programmes are structured in an interdisciplinary manner with staff (more than 200) teaching from different departments but they are administered by one faculty. There is no information available whether academic staff has experience of interaction with EAP HEIs but staff members are certainly interested to travel there, however the hindrance is their dense academic year and practical obstacles related to the different timeframes.

Problem Based Learning is the main teaching method for teaching European Studies at UM. Supervision of MA thesis is structured and the director of studies provides the timeline. Each Professor can supervise from 3 to 5 students maximum. Three main problems during teaching EU studies are identified as workload, long academic year with short breaks as well as the administration.

Qualitative and Quantitative data analyses together with the course on Research design form part of the curriculum.  MA programme offers 3 different tracks for students to choose from.

With regard to the library resources under part 2, academic staff of UM was not is a position to answer because this is the issue to be answered by the administration. 

Under part 3 it was responded that UM has between 50 and 100 students on MA, more than 100 students on BA and fewer than 20 students on PhD programs per academic year. Finding an internship is the student’s responsibility. UM academic staff is not aware whether students combine study with work.

Under part 4, UM academic staff sees an opportunity for cooperation between INOTLES consortium members after project is over in the spheres as follows: organizing joint training courses for teachers, research collaboration, publications or application for other projects in the future