TEMPUS project:
Strengthening Higher Education for Social Policy making and Social Services delivery

The project rationale

1.3 mill. persons in Serbia are to be considered poor (UN definition), but only around 600.000 persons are recipients of social assistance (Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia, 2011). Though Serbia is an economy in transition and have faced wartime in Balkan and a period of international isolation, the current numbers of social deprived persons can't alone be explained by these factors.  Neither can lack of governmental funds. So what is needed in Serbia is improved knowledge of dealing with Social policy making and Social Service delivery that will empower vulnerable groups with social capital and rehabilitation. The rationale behind SHESPSS is to strengthen Higher Education in Social Policy Making and Social Service delivery, so that Serbian society can improve policy making and service delivery to an extent where recipients of social services and assistance will be helped to become active citizen - and if possible for the persons between 16-65 years - be part of the workforce or enrolled in education.

The newest Social Welfare Law in Serbia was adopted in March 2011. Among other things, the new law has introduced new concepts in terms of accessibility of services, as well as new bodies such as the Social Welfare Chamber, gathering all the professionals dealing with social welfare. In this respect, the European Commission emphasized in the latest Progress report on Serbia (2012) that the overall legislative framework is in place for the protection, inclusion and education of socially vulnerable persons and persons with disabilities and that deinstitutionalisation effort have further continued, in tandem with the development of community-based services.

Yet, the priorities identified by the First National Report on Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction in the Republic of Serbia (2011) remain crucial: deinstitutionalisation and further development of community-based services. This remains a key strategic line of development in the field of social welfare which also requires a stable and strong policy-making and educational system that would support and enable the continuation of reform efforts. The challenges remain the same; given the high poverty rate in Serbia, as well the number of novelties introduced by the Law in 2011 which both require an increased number of social welfare practitioners.  For example, the new Law is expected to encourage the development of noninstitutional care, in particular through targeted transfers to poor municipalities and cities, national funding of supported housing and establishment of regional centres for foster care. Local governments have emphasised that they will require support in the implementation of the new Law on Social Welfare and that continued training of local government staff and other social welfare stakeholders would be desirable.

Today only University of Belgrade offers study programmes at B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. level in social policy making and social work. Around 100 students are enrolled every year at B.A. level. 20 students are enrolled at M.A. and Ph.D. level. Besides these study programmes, University of Novi Sad and University of Kragujevac are offering a number of B.A. courses in Social Pedagogy. It is estimated that around 20 students each year are enrolled in courses focusing on social pedagogy.

Within the framework of the TEMPUS programme, the partnership believes that the cooperation between higher education institutions in Social Policy making, Social Work and Social Pedagogy in EU-27, and Serbian universities, will be a new starting point for improving Social Policy making and Social Services delivery in Serbia. Through qualified Social Policy making and skilled professional social service delivery from students graduating from higher education institutions in Serbia, a larger share of persons in vulnerable groups will be able to empower themselves away from passive social services financed by public and private donors to active participation in either the workforce or the society as such.

It is in this respect, that the overall objective of the project is: Strengthen higher education in the field of social policy making and social services delivery by improving existing study programmes, develop new study programs, and establish effective links between academic programs and social and labour market needs. When funded by the TEMPUS programme, The SHESPSS project will in few years more than triple the number of students enrolled in Higher Education in Serbia at B.A. and M.A. level. Furthermore the SHESPSS project will develop courses for already educated professionals social workers and governmental officials in Social Policy making. The course will be offered at all 3 participating Serbian universities. Also the SHESSPS project will strengthen teachers' training in curriculum development and assessment methods for study programmes.

The SHESPSS project is in line with the Social Welfare Development Strategy adopted in 2005 by the Serbian Government. The strategy is built upon international and European objectives of overall economic and social development of society, including poverty reduction, ensuring improved protection of vulnerable groups such as children, persons with disabilities, the elderly and other marginalized groups of citizens. Also the social welfare strategy also recognized the need of strengthening social workers’ professional capacities and competences. The Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Policy has therefore supported the partnership with an Endorsement Letter together with Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Unit (SIPRU) under the Office of Deputy Prime Minister of European Integration.

 

Quality of the partnership

The quality of the partnership is considered very strong amongst Serbia partners. It has geographical coverage from North to South of Serbia with the participating universities located in the 3 largest cities in Serbia. Almost all groups of interest in Higher Education in Social Policy making and Social Service delivery are represented in the partnership or through an Endorsement letter from The Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Policy together with Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Unit (SIPRU) under the Office of Deputy Prime Minister of European Integration and Ministry of Science, Education and Technological Development.

The Republic Institute of Social Protection has the competence of analyzing and monitoring social policy initiatives. The Institutes' competence will be very helpful when conducting the Base line study on the needs of social service delivery linked to health, ageing, occupational accidents, unemployment, retirement and disability in conjunction with the extent to which HE in Serbia today is covering the needed skills and competences in the workforce of social workers and social policy makers (WP1). Also their competence will be helpful in WP2 when developing new curriculum, new courses and restructuring existing curriculum in social policy making and social service delivery.

The social workers are represented through Social Protection Professional Association of the Republic of Serbia. So are the users of social service and assistance through Center of Independent Living. Both the point-of-views from the Association and the Center will be of great value when conducting the base line study on the needs of social service delivery linked to health, ageing, occupational accidents, unemployment, retirement and disability in conjunction with the extent to which Higher Education in Serbia today is covering the needed skills and competences in the workforce of social workers and social policy makers (WP1). Also their competence will be helpful in WP2 when developing new curricula, new courses and restructuring existing curriculum in social policy making and social service delivery.

And finally the social centers at municipal level are represented by the Association of Centers for Social Work of Serbia. They will from an employer point-of-view qualify the needs of courses for professionals in WP2, and in WP1 they will provide valuable knowledge of mapping qualification standards and job profiles amongst workers in the Serbian social sector.

Fortunately Serbia isn't on bare ground when it comes to Higher Education in Social policy making and social service delivery. University of Belgrade has a long tradition of study programmes in social policy making and Social work. Staff at University of Belgrade will therefore contribute to the development of new study programmes at University of Nis and University of Novi Sad.

To a certain extend the 3 Serbian universities together are capable of expanding Higher Education in Social Policy making and Social work. But being outside EU, the developing trend in Europe of offering Social pedagogy as a Higher Education discipline and integrating educational science as part of Higher Education in social work, isn't satisfactory introduced in Serbia. University of London, Institute of Education, is representing research and teaching in social pedagogy together with educational science. This is also why The Institute of Education is responsible for WP3; Teacher training at higher educational institution in Serbia, because of their competence within this field of research.
Together with University College Zealand that has a vast tradition of educating field workers of social service and assistance, Institute of education will be focusing on the M.A. parts of the curriculum development in WP2 at all 3 participating Serbian universities, whereas University College Zealand will focus upon the B.A. parts of the curriculum development in University of Nis and University of Belgrade. Because of the focus in curriculum development on Social policy making in WP2, mainly at University of Belgrade, but also at University of Nis, the partnership has included University of Catania, because of their competence and research in Human Civil rights when executed and implemented in national law and regulations. Neither University College Zealand nor University of Catania has been partner in any previous TEMPUS project.

As indicated above and in the attached LFM to the application, the degree of collaboration between partners is high. The 3 Serbian universities will work together upon curriculum development, and the distribution of responsibility of WP1 to University of Belgrade will broaden the ownership of the project among at least 2 Higher Educational institutions in Serbia. Also the distributed responsibility of WP3 to The Institute of Education (UK) broadens this ownership of the project outside of Serbian borders.

Through the planned Start-up, Midterm and Final conference, all project stakeholders will have the opportunity of meeting one another. These events will be organized together with steering group meetings. The project website will gather all relevant documents and other information about the project, and by this the project website will gather project partners as a community.

The project's content and methodology

The project is addressing curriculum reform at B.A., M.A. and Ph.D .level at 3 universities in Serbia. The main aim is to develop new curricula and to improve existing curricula in consistency with EU standards in Higher Education of Social Policy making and Social Service delivery. This will be developed: 1) At University of Nis a new B.A. study programme in Social Policy and Social Work (240 ETCS) and 2 new M.A. study programmes in Social Work (60 ETCS) and Social Pedagogy (60 ETCS), 2) At University of Novi Sad a new M.A. study programme in Sociology for Social Welfare (60 ETCS), 3) At University of Belgrade existing curricula in Social Policy and Social Work at both B.A. (70 ETCS), M.A. (17 ETCS) and Ph.D. level (20 ETCS) will be restructured. Also University of Belgrade will develop 5 courses for professionals/civil servants, 2 courses at B.A. level (5 ETCS each), 3 courses at M.A. level, (1 course of 10 ETCS, 2 courses of 5 ETCS each). In addition University of Belgrade will develop a Ph.D. course (5 ETCS). All these activities are gathered in work package 2 (WP2).

In order to start working with curriculum development, the primary step of the project is to investigate: 1) What are the social needs of vulnerable groups that are demanding social services, 2) To which extent does existing curricula in Social Policy making and Social Service delivery respond to the demands of necessary Social Policy making and Social Services delivery? The work will include a mapping of existing Higher Education programmes in Social Policy and Social Service delivery (B.A., M.A. & PhD), exact numbers of students enrolled and numbers of person in the workforce carrying out task related to Social Policy making and Social Service delivery. The SIPRU unit is currently mapping all social service delivered in Serbia. This mapping is expected published in Spring 2013 and will be taken into account in the analysis under Work package 1 (WP1).

In short the partnership will produce 3 base line studies and a Concept Note about possible correlation of Qualification standards, Job classification and educational profiles in a Serbian context within Social service and assistance to citizens. The base line studies conducted are: 1) An investigation of the needs of social service delivery in Serbia linked to health, ageing, occupational accidents, unemployment, retirement and disability in conjunction with the extent to which HE in Serbia today is covering the needed skills and competences in the workforce of social workers and social policy makers, 2) On the basis of the mapping of social services and existing mapping of study programmes in social service delivery, to produce a more comprehensive understanding of existing study programmes including working with social issues in Serbia (social policy making, jurists, social work, sociology, social welfare, social inclusion, social pedagogy, special education teachers, pedagogues, psychologists), 3) Mobility paths for students between different study programmes and different levels of study in the field of social policy, social work and related social sciences.

To this work the Serbian Universities have obtained an user-driven methodology of curricula development by working closely together with the non-university partners in the project. Especially the Center of Independent Living in Serbia, Association of Centers for Social Work of Serbia, Social Protection Professional Association of the Republic of Serbia and Republic Institute of Social Protection is representing respectively the users of social service, the centers coordinating the social assistance to persons, the social workers and the entity monitoring Social Policy initiatives. The result is improved knowledge at Higher Education institutions in Serbia about needs amongst vulnerable groups. Here new and restructured study programmes can offer graduated candidates to work with Social Policy making and Social Service delivery.

Work packages 1 and 2 are closely interrelated in order to secure quality of the curricula development and that the new and restructured study programmes and courses corresponds to the need of competence among social workers and policy makers in Serbia. The 2 work packages have together a budget share of almost 40% of total eligible cost which somehow reflects the importance of the work in SHESPSS.

The SHESPSS project has various quality assurance processes. First of all the selected EU-27 universities will qualify the curricula development and teaching assessment methods with knowledge transfer of how to introduce and integrate social pedagogy and educational science into the study programmes in social services. This is mainly the tasks of University of London, Institute of Education, and University of Zealand. As scheduled in LFM, The Institute of Education is responsible for work packages 3 about teacher training and both university institutions are following the work in Work packages 2 whenever curricula is about social work and social pedagogy.

For the University of Catania the tasks are dedicated social policy making and how to work with principles of human rights and social justice as fundamental aspects to social work and social service delivery. To further develop curricula, University of Catania will introduce working with international recommended qualification standards for social work in study programmes at Higher Education institutions. These standards are developed as recommendation by International Association of Schools for Social Work (IASSW) and International Federation of Social Workers. Concerning these issues, the Serbian Universities together with all the non-university partners participate in workshops in Serbia as part of Work packages 1.

Another aspect of quality assurance is the necessary accreditation process in Serbia of 4 new study programmes. This accreditation process will be prepared in accordance with the standards defined by the The Commission for Accreditation  and Quality Assessment (CAQA) in Serbia, and regards: 1) Described Curriculum structure, 2) Aims and objectives of the study programme, 3) Outcomes of the study programme, 4) Outcome qualifications and competencies acquired by graduated students, 5) Syllabuses for the curriculum courses, 6) Compatibility of the study programme with similar study programmes at other Higher Education institutions, especially EU Higher Education institutions, 7) Criteria for  student enrolment in the study programme, 8) Assessment and evaluation of students’ knowledge and skills, 9) Teaching staff qualifications, 10) Higher Education institution’s capacity for realizing the study programme, 11) Quality assurance and sustainability of study programme. Without this accreditation, the SHESPSS haven't accomplished one of the project objectives. This procedure of accreditation is gathered in Work packages 7.

Quality of developed curricula will also be assured through piloting the new and restructured curricula in Work package 4. This will give valuable knowledge about teachers' assessment and through planned interview with students and professionals enrolled in the study programmes and courses. All together 86 students and 25 professionals working with social policy making and social service will have the possibility of giving feed back to the developed curricula. Based on the evaluation from teachers, students and professionals, the curricula can undergo revision. At last quality assurance of curricula will also be the case in Work packages 5 through an establish National Project Team and through peer review by the participating EU-27 universities. All together quality assurance of the developed curricula is secured in a multiple ways, partly through assessment from teachers, students and professionals, partly through the accreditation process at the CAQA (for the new study programmes), and partly through an appointed National Project Team and peer review by EU-27 partner universities.

Project management: Based on the Grant Agreement from the agency (EACEA), Univerity of Nis will as coordinating partner draft a Cooperation Agreement among all partners that regulates the cooperation between the partners. The Cooperation Agreement will establish the partnership as consortium with partner budgets, payment forecast and time schedule for all partner activities and deadlines for all partner deliveries. The Cooperation Agreement will set up the managerial structure of appointment members to steering group and eventually advisory boards, peer review groups and National Project Team. In the event of disputes between partners, The Cooperation Agreement also set up procedures for solving conflicts. The Cooperation agreement will be signed by all partners at the first steering group meeting in connection to the start-up conference.

All together the partnership believes that the the scheduled plan and budget will meet the overall objective of the SHESPSS project: Strengthen higher education in the field of social policy making and social services delivery by developing new study programmes, improving existent study programmes and establish effective links between academic programs and social and labour market needs. And specific objectives will be met too at both B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. level. 1) New study programmes and courses in social policy making, Social work and Social pedagogy will be introduced, 2) Existing curriculum will be restructured in Social policy making and Social work, 3) This will lead to a more diversified educational structure in Serbia in the field of social policy, social work and social pedagogy which enables graduates to work on a variety of tasks and with a variety of groups in need for social services, 4) and finally the SHESPSS project will Initiate and prepare material for the future national qualification standards and mutually adjusting national jobs classification and educational profiles of students in the field of social policy and social services delivery.

Dissemination and sustainability

The SHESPSS project has great potential for tangible impact and multiplier effects when objectives are met with accredited study programmes introduced in regions of Serbia where no such study programmes are offered. Despite the need of social service and assistance to vulnerable groups, Serbia lacks graduated candidates from Higher Educational institutions. Especially the introducing study programmes in Nis will highlight the specific challenge of social service and assistance to the large proportion of roman population in the city and the region of Nis.

The SHESPSS project has ensured strategic engagement through its partnership both at the national and European level. The non-university Serbian partners will deliver valuable information about educational demands from social policy makers and social workers, and much of the dissemination of project outputs and results will be distributed through meetings and workshops taken place during the project period. In addition a project website will serve as a national and European forum of sharing experience, posting questions and recommendation.

By addressing and disseminate the development activities of study programmes and courses together with a partnership of stakeholders like Center of Independent Living in Serbia, Association of Centers for Social Work of Serbia, Social Protection Professional Association of the Republic of Serbia and Republic Institute of Social Protection, the sustainability of the project outcome is strong. The participation of stakeholders in social affairs in Serbia will ensure that the curricula developed or improved are responding to social needs and thereby enhancing the employability of the persons graduating from these study programs. So to speak clearly; when students and professionals recognize that their employability and career opportunities is broaden in the field of social policy making and social service delivery, the participating universities will be able to attract students - and thereby finance the offering of the new and restructured study programmes and courses. Also at the policy level having the Ministries of Labour, Employment and Social Work and The Social Inclusion and Poverty Unit (SIPRU) as supporters of the partnership, the universities have a more direct and qualified access to decision making about social policy programmes and the monitoring of social work.

Budget and cost effectiveness

As both University of Novi Sad, and especially University of Belgrade, have competence in the field of social science, the 2 universities will collaborate close with University of Nis in the development process of curricula's for new study programmes. This is why budget allocation for curricula development is more equal distributed among the participating Serbian Universities than if allocated in accordance with developed curricula measured in ETCS points. Also University of Novi Sad and University of Belgrade have a budget share over-proportionally due to fixe cost of starting up developing curricula.

By appointing a Serbian university as coordinator, the partnership has secured a more economical way due to high cost of administration at EU-27 universities. Other budget cost is allocated in accordance with TEMPUS procedures and categories. Staff cost is allocated to project partners in accordance with the proposed project activities, contribution to deliverables and consequent allocation of partners' human resources. Basis for the allocation of the cost for equipment is the number of students on the universities.

Project partners agreed that the travel cost is allocated mainly in accordance with the execution of curricula development and transfer of knowledge activities organised in Serbia and EU-countries. In order to minimize the travel cost, dissemination events will be scheduled together with steering group meetings and other managerial meetings in the project.  Project team will use every opportunity, where possible, to share the project results in electronic media in order to minimize the usage of paper and contribute to protection of the environment.
The arrangements for financial management will be part of the Cooperation Agreement between partners. Here the procedures and deadlines for reporting expenses will be described in accordance with the obligations set by the TEMPUS programme.

 

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