June 23, 2023 | Friday

Erasmus+ Program Boosting Education and Opportunities in Kosovo

Since 2014, Erasmus+ has been the main EU programme supporting higher education, opening doors to a wide range of career opportunities. We had the opportunity to speak with Mimika Dobroshi, Coordinator of Erasmus + Kosovo Office, to gain a deeper understanding of the various cooperation opportunities offered by the programme in higher education, vocational education and training, school education, and youth.

EH: For many years, Erasmus+ has become an integral part of Kosovo’s education system, with thousands of students and academia participating in the programme. What specific opportunities does Erasmus+ offer to Kosovo citizens, especially the younger generation? What specific initiatives by Erasmus+ have been implemented in Kosovo?

MD: Erasmus+ is the EU’s programme designed to support education, training, youth, and sport in Europe. It has an estimated budget of €26.2 billion for the period 2021-2027, including a special allocation of 374 million euros for the Western Balkans region. The programme for 2021-2027 places a strong emphasis on social inclusion, the green and digital transitions, and fostering young people’s participation in democratic life.

Erasmus+ aligns with the priorities and activities outlined in the European Education Area, Digital Education Action Plan, and the European Skills Agenda. It offers opportunities for mobility and cooperation in various areas, including: Higher education, which has been available since 2014; Vocational education and training, which became available in 2021; School education, including early childhood education and care, will be available for Kosovo starting from 2024; Adult education will be available for Kosovo from 2025; Youth activities have been available since 2021; Sport-related initiatives have also been available since 2021.

In Kosovo, between 2015 and 2022, a total of 7,685 mobilities took place as part of the Erasmus+ programme. Out of these, 5,012 students and academic staff traveled from Kosovo to Europe, while 2,673 individuals traveled to Kosovo through the international credit mobility action of the Erasmus+ program.

Until 2022, higher education institutions in Kosovo benefitted from 50 Capacity Building projects in the field of Higher Education, 5 Jean Monnet projects, and 2 Erasmus Mundus Joint Masters projects. Starting from 2021, there was an additional Erasmus Mundus Design Measures project. Moreover, from 2015 to 2022, a total of 41 Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Scholarships were granted to students from Kosovo.

In 2022 alone, there were 9 successful Capacity Building projects in the field of Vocational Education and Training, 8 projects in Youth, and 4 projects in Sport. These last three categories (VET, Youth, and Sport) were newly opened for Kosovo in 2021, and it is expected that these actions will generate increasing interest in the future.

The Erasmus+ actions that are available for Kosovo include the following: International Credit Mobility, Erasmus Mundus Joint Masters, Erasmus Mundus Design Measures, Capacity Building in the field of Higher Education, Capacity Building in the field of Vocational Education and Training, Capacity Building in the field of Youth, Capacity Building in the field of Sport, Jean Monnet, Virtual Exchange, and Alliance of European Universities.

EH: What are the key avenues for personal and professional growth that Erasmus+ provides for Kosovo’s youth?

MD: This programme not only builds up one’s capacity but also expands one’s network, integrates individuals into the positive culture and traditions of their host country, and enhances their foreign language competency. Education, training, youth, and sport are key areas that support citizens in their personal and professional development. High-quality, inclusive education and training, along with informal and non-formal learning, ultimately equip young people and participants of all ages with the qualifications and skills needed for meaningful participation in democratic society, intercultural understanding, and a successful transition in the labor market.

EH: How has Erasmus+ contributed to fostering cultural exchange and understanding among students in Kosovo?

MD: Kosovo, with the youngest population in Europe, greatly benefits from programmes like Erasmus+, which have an enormous impact on our youth. The Erasmus+ programme empowers, connects, and broadens their horizons by providing various opportunities. Through this programme, students have gained numerous soft skills from their exchange experiences, including language proficiency, cultural exposure, and the ability to travel to multiple countries in Europe while being financially independent. The visa liberalization process will further enhance the efficiency and accessibility of mobility, and it is expected to generate even more interest among students and academic staff to utilize the opportunities offered by Erasmus+.

EU: What initiatives are being implemented to promote greater participation of underrepresented groups, such as students with disabilities or students from disadvantaged backgrounds, in the Erasmus+ programme in Kosovo?

MD: There are several initiatives implemented by KEO and HEI through their capacity building projects in higher education to promote the Erasmus+ program. These initiatives include:

Awareness and Information Campaigns: These campaigns aim to raise awareness about the Erasmus+ program among underrepresented groups, such as students with disabilities or students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The goal is to inform students about the benefits, opportunities, and available support provided by the program;

Accessible Information and Support: Efforts are made to ensure that information about the Erasmus+ program is accessible to students with disabilities and students from disadvantaged backgrounds. This may involve providing information in multiple formats and ensuring that the application process and support services are inclusive and accommodating to their needs;

Financial Support and Scholarships: Recognizing that financial barriers can hinder the participation of underrepresented groups in exchange programs, scholarships and financial support are made available to students from disadvantaged backgrounds. This support covers travel expenses, living costs, and additional services needed related to their disabilities;

Targeted Mentorship and Guidance: Underrepresented groups receive targeted mentorship and guidance to assist them in navigating the application process, understanding the available Erasmus+ opportunities, and addressing any concerns or challenges they may encounter;

Inclusive Program Design: Erasmus+ project coordinators work towards creating an inclusive program design that takes into account the diverse needs and challenges faced by underrepresented groups, ensuring that their perspectives and requirements are considered and accommodated.

EH: What are some success stories of Kosovo students who have returned from their Erasmus+ experience and made significant contributions to their communities?

MD: Young people have greatly benefited from the Erasmus+ program, gaining valuable skills, language proficiency, and expanding their horizons by forming friendships and partnerships. Recent studies have demonstrated that Erasmus+ has a positive impact on the quality of life and career prospects of students, both during their time abroad and long after their participation in the program. Additionally, the program has been shown to foster innovation and promote social inclusion in higher education.

Importantly, Erasmus+ helps students discover their career aspirations after graduation. Notably, according to the Western Balkans Alumni Association Tracer study of Erasmus alumni from WB6 countries, half of the employed Kosovar respondents attribute their current jobs to the skills acquired during their studies abroad. Furthermore, 65% of respondents state that they utilize the knowledge and skills gained during their study abroad in their current employment. Among the Kosovar respondents, 40% are employed and no longer studying, while 8% are actively seeking employment.

Many of these individuals work in universities, contributing to their communities and advancing teaching methodologies based on their experiences with Erasmus+ in the EU. The majority (80%) are employed in the Western Balkans region, while approximately 14% work in an EU country, and only a small proportion (3%) commute between these regions.