Evidence of effectiveness
In the framework of the Updating Higher Education Curricula initiative, 36 (out of 51) higher education institutions (HEIs) in Bulgaria received financial support for the implementation of the project proposal, aimed at improving the quality of education they offer in accordance with the labour market needs. In all 36 HEIs new curricula were introduced, designed with the participation of the business sector and taking into account the specifics of labour market demand. The benefits, resulting from the implementation of the initiative, exceeded expectations and can be outlined in the following aspects:
- Established sustainable ties between HEIs, the business sector and the regional/municipal administrations for effective functioning of the ‘knowledge triangle’ (HEIs-research-business).
- Creation of work groups of academics, employers, key experts from the business sector, cooperating to design curricula in order to enhance the practical applicability of education outcomes in the system of higher education.
- Engaging, on a long-term basis, key experts and leading specialists as guest lecturers in the delivery of university courses.
- Active partnership between HEIs and business in providing the most adequate environment for practical training of students: organising and conducting practical exercises in a real working environment, conducting seminar exercises for students with the participation of business practitioners, etc.
- Established effective cooperation between NEIs and employers for updating the existing and designing new curricula for priority specialties in conformity with the specific needs of the business at regional level.
- Established effective cooperation with the business for professional realisation of graduates at regional level: business representatives and employers were introduced to prospective job candidates, framework agreements were concluded on providing jobs opportunities for university graduates. Besides employers and employers' organisations, a large number of government institutions, regional/municipal administrations, NGOs, etc. were involved in the implementation of the initiative as partners under the separate projects, which further enhanced the benefits for HEIs and students in terms of both economic and public sectors covered.
Engagement of stakeholders
The key pre-requisites for the sustainable engagement of employers and their associations in the continuous process of updating university curricula to the skills needs of the business sector are associated with the established partnerships under the initiative, which proved to be of mutual benefit for both HEIs and their students on the one hand, and for employers, on the other.