From 2014 to 2017 sparqs has been involved in a project aimed at enhancing student engagement in the university sector in Armenia.
The work is a part of the European Union’s Tempus programme, created to support the modernisation of higher education in various Eastern European, Mediterranean and Central Asian countries. We are currently involved in a similar project in Kosovo.
Our Armenian project is titled ESPAQ - Enhancing Students Participation in Quality Assurance in Armenian Higher Education. Partners in the project include Armenia’s universities, key Armenian sectoral and governmental agencies, the Armenian National Students’ Association, and various external European partners such as the European Students’ Union, a number of European universities (Macerata in Italy, Rioja in Spain and Spiro Haret in Romania), and of course sparqs.
ESPAQ involves various work packages focused on research, training and knowledge exchange for university management and student representatives, and the building of capacity to provide sustainable student engagement in Armenia for the long term.
sparqs is the lead partner for a number of work packages, including the awareness raising conference for the Armenian sector which took place in October 2015 and training for key student representatives in November 2015. Both took place in Yerevan, Armenia.
The training days built more and more capacity and by the end students in each university had identified some key projects to work on, and plans of how to implement them. These included the first legislation on supporting students with disabilities at universities in Armenia, and a student-run refit of the library alongside a student-led translation project to make Russian or English-language books available in Armenian.
When the project was reviewed by the European Commission, sparqs were singled out for praise for their role in training students. The work with ESU was especially positive with real energy and student expertise being delivered by them.
We visited Yerevan once again on 17-19 May 2016, for a project management meeting with all the partner agencies and universities, plus a dissemination event which was a chance to discuss and reflect on the key developments in training and capacity building to come out of the project.
We returned to Yerevan in September 2016 and also visited Spain in December 2016, again working with the European Students’ Union, to deliver Quality Assurance simulations and training for students involved in review activity at internal, institutional and sectoral levels. In January 2017, we returned to (a very cold) Yerevan again for further student training sessions and an advisory board meeting.
We were delighted to welcome ESPAQ members to the sparqs Conference in Edinburgh on 23rd March 2017, and also a management meeting taking place earlier that week. The final management meeting and advisory board meeting took place in Brussels on 9th and 10th October 2017, followed by the final conference in Yerevan on 14th November 2017, and publication of the quality assurance handbook for Armenian students, which was written by sparqs.
The events, as with ESPAQ as a whole, drew on sparqs’ unique position as a student engagement development agency with expertise in facilitating conversations on quality between staff and students and the development of training for student representatives and student quality experts.
More details can be found on ESPAQ's own website. The project hashtag, for following related Twitter activity is #espaqproject