Over the past decade, many universities in the Central and South-Eastern Europe (CESE) region have made significant progress in developing services for incoming students and supporting their mobility. Support for PhD students and researchers from different countries who come for mid- and long-term research fellowships is not as developed as in the case of supporting student mobility. For this reason the UniWeliS Project was established.
Along with the growing ambitions of higher education institutions (HEI) in our region, striving to internationalization of their teaching and research facilities, there is a need to strengthen the support for the mobility of PhD candidates and scientists and researchers and further professionalization of services for this groups. In the face of the ongoing war in Ukraine, this aspect is also taking on a humanitarian dimension – all of us can see how important it is to provide efficient service to visiting PhD candidates, scientists and researchers.
In the UniWeliS Project, financed by the European Union under the Erasmus + Programme, we want to create practical tools to facilitate the support of researchers' mobility. Mentioned tools are intended to reflect the realities of higher education in the region, but also to use cooperation with already existing support services, provided at the institutional, local or national level (e.g. EURAXESS network, migration information centers).
Polish National Agency for Academic Exchange is a member of the UniWeliS Project consortium. Its aim is to support the internationalization of higher education through the professionalization of services for mobile academic staff. The Partners of the Project, co-financed under the European Union "Erasmus +" Programme, are also: Slovak Academic Information Agency (Slovakia) - Project coordinator, Academic Cooperation Association (Belgium), Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski (Bulgaria), Comenius University (Slovakia) and University of Niš (Serbia).
The integration of scientists and researchers is a key element of the internationalization of science and higher education units. Mobile scientists who receive high-quality support before, during and after their stay, can concentrate on their tasks – research and teaching simultaneously. That is the reason why they have an even greater contribution to the work of the research teams, which they become part of. The same applies to the host units, which also become beneficiaries of this type of activities. In our Project, we want to present what kind of support need mobile researchers and how to train the management and administrative staff of higher education institutes (HEIs) and research and development units in this area.
The UniWeliS Project is divided into several intellectual outputs (IO). The main goal of the IO1, coordinated by the Academic Cooperation Association, was to gain knowledge about the difficulties in scientific mobility. The result of the IO1 is a report which is an analysis of the existing barriers and specific needs of PhD students and researchers coming for fellowships. The report shows, i.a., that scientific institutions should develop short- and long-term partnership strategies with external institutions in order to consolidate shared services and maintain regular exchanges at the expert level. In addition, the report indicates that in recent years, many research institutions across the CEE region have made noticeable progress in attracting and supporting foreign scientists (especially in the early stages of their careers). As the Polish National Agency for Academic Exchange, we also made a significant contribution to the creation of this document. We conducted questionnaire research and in-depth interviews among representatives and representatives of Polish units.
The result of the IO2 is a collection of several dozen good practices in the field of admitting foreign scientists. This set presents a very wide range of solutions: from cooperation with graduates to organized support in the field of social integration, issues related to health insurance and accommodation.
Currently, the IO3 – entitled "Comprehensive training program and its online version" – is implemented. This stage is coordinated by our Agency.
UniWeliS Project Consortium report on the barriers and specific needs of incoming doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows at institutions in Central-eastern and South-eastern Europe.
The UniWeliS Explorer application tool is a collection of 70 practices in 14 categories. Each of them includes not only a detailed description illustrating how to create a particular type of service, but also specifies the scale of time and financial commitment needed. Each good practice is also accompanied by examples from various European universities where the process has already been implemented. The application can be used as a collection of good ideas that have worked well for others, but can also be used as a tool to improve services that are already operating in specific unit.
A handbook with six training modules for managers and administrative staff responsible for internationalisation and hosting foreign academics.
The handbook "Let's professionalise the services for mobile academics! Comprehensive training for higher education managers and support staff', contains free materials for use in training organised into six themes:
Module 1. Institutional welcome centre: practical and strategic considerations
Module 2. Digital Welcome Centre
Module 3: Comprehensive approach to support services
Module 4: Local Partnerships
Module 5: Intercultural Communication: Responding to cultural specifics and universals
Module 6: Global profile, marketing, and talent attraction
More information: https://uniwelis.saia.sk/en/main/main-outputs/training-programme/
Online training for management and administrative staff responsible for internationalisation and the hosting of foreign researchers. Modelled on the Handbook, organised by module.
For more information: https://uniwelis.saia.sk/en/main/main-outputs/online-training
UniWeliS Project workshop in Warsaw, April 2023
On 20 April 2023, the UniWeliS Project workshop took place in Warsaw, aimed at those managing or responsible for overseeing activities supporting the mobility of international researchers, who are looking for solutions that can improve the processes involved in handling international mobility at their institution. The workshop presented the achievements of the UniWeliS project to date, including training modules for university staff to use on their own.
Bratislava symposium, June 2023
The hybrid symposium 'Welcoming universities: Towards high-quality support for international academics in Central-Eastern and South-Eastern Europe' took place on 21 June 2023. The crowning conference of the UniWeliS project presented the main findings of three years of work to create an overview of high-quality services for international staff and doctoral students in the Central and South-Eastern Europe region.
Project website: https://uniwelis.saia.sk/en/main/events/
The UniWeliS team at NAWA:
Zofia Sawicka, Ph.D. - Deputy Director of NAWA, Project Coordinator at NAWA