The University of Western Macedonia (UOWM) welcomed 13 representatives from consortium partners of Western Balkan Universities for a productive Study Visit on May 15-16, 2023. The aim of the visit was to explore best practices in international cooperation and draw inspiration from UOWM’s International Relations Office (IRO).
During the visit, participants had the opportunity to gain insights into the structure of UOWM’s IRO, including its internationalization strategy objectives and priorities for international cooperation. Various approaches for fostering collaboration between potential partners were discussed, such as online or modular courses, lecture exchanges, visiting staff programs, summer schools, and joint programs.
To illustrate these strategies in action, the organizers delved into a case study on the “Development of a network of universities in Green Transition Areas,” in which UOWM played a strategic role as a partner. The hosting university also prepared a questionnaire that covered organizational issues of IROs, cooperation and mobility structures of students and staff, and criteria and priorities for international cooperation.
Participants engaged in discussions about the autonomy and administrative structure of their respective IROs, as well as the coordination with faculties and departments. They also shared their criteria for choosing international partners, highlighted the involvement of students in international initiatives, and exchanged insights on raising awareness about mobility opportunities. The study visit emphasized the importance of support services for students and staff, including mental and physical health, cultural activities, volunteering, and greater accessibility for vulnerable social groups.
On the second day, the focus shifted to UOWM’s Erasmus Office, which provided detailed information on the management of the Erasmus+ program, including inter-institutional agreements, project development, and implementation, as well as student and staff mobilities. The office also discussed its future targets for professional development and strategic partnerships with other higher education institutions and research organizations.
During a roundtable discussion, the results of the previous day’s questionnaire were presented and analyzed. Key findings revealed that a significant proportion of IROs operated as autonomous units with clear administrative structures, and there was coordination between faculties/departments and IROs in the majority of cases. Respondents also expressed similar criteria and priorities for choosing international partners and emphasized the involvement of students in international cooperation initiatives.
The study visit at UOWM concluded with detailed discussions on the selection procedures and support services provided to students and staff, facilitating an enriching exchange of ideas and experiences among the participants.
The study visit proved to be an invaluable opportunity for consortium partners from Western Balkan Universities to learn from UOWM’s successful international cooperation practices and further strengthen their own mobility programs.