U3M-AL is a TEMPUS project partially financed by the EU and coordinated by the University of León (Spain). Most public Albanian universities and the Ministry of Education are partners of this project. It is a two years project (from October 2012 to September 2014) with a budget of around 800,000€.
The relationship between higher education and society is frequently referred to as the Third Mission (3M) of universities. It encompasses a wide range of activities involving the generation, use, application and exploitation of knowledge and other university capabilities in the service of society. This is integral to the traditional university missions of teaching and research. 3M activities provide benefits of many kinds – enhanced research opportunities and outcomes; generation of ideas, jobs and companies; a much broader group of students of the university; enhanced engagement with the community; and they can bring in additional money. Such benefits serve as positive factors for the development of the more traditional missions of universities: teaching and basic research. We adopt a classification of 3M into activities related to research (technology transfer and innovation, etc.), to teaching (lifelong learning/continuing education, etc.), and to social engagement (public access to museums, concerts and lectures; voluntary work and consultancy by staff and students, etc.). They are a variety of activities that involves many constituent parts of universities and that requires a suitable culture and mind-set; different people with specialised skill-sets; and supporting structures and mechanisms, for it to achieve its potential. In the era of the ‘knowledge society 3M activities have received substantial policy attention, as universities have been asked to optimise their roles as key players as is the case in Albania. Albanian universities need to reinforce their role for the social and economic development of the country. This is a national priority stated in the Higher Education Strategy and in the Action Plan defined by national authorities. Teaching and learning and research, the traditional missions of universities, need improvements in order to support Albanian development. Additionally 3M need also a stronger and deeper development in Albanian universities. The three groups of activities which are part of 3M (technology transfer, continuing education and social engagement) are still incipient in Albanian universities and a greater effort should be undertaken for making universities more responsive to social and economic needs, especially at regional level.
Objectives The U3M-AL project will support the role of Albanian universities in the social and economic growth of the country through three main objectives:
- Developing relationships between Albanian universities and society through the promotion of 3M activities: technology transfer, continuing education and social engagement.
- Establishing Regional Development Centres for promoting and organising 3M activities in each Albanian public university
- Establishing an Albanian network of 3M activities for promoting these activities after the conclusion of this project.
Main activities The U3M-AL project will support the role of Albanian universities in the social and economic growth of the country promoting and developing 3M activities in public universities as it is required by the Albanian Government and as it is required by the need of modernising Albanian universities. The project U3M-AL will promote cultural and structural reforms in universities but not only. The role of the socioeconomic environment it is also critical for the success of this project. In this sense, the project will promote the relationships with regional industry, employers, public authorities and the society at large. Apart of other additional activities, the core of the project will be done in three steps:
- First phase (first year, roughly). Promoting 3M and training staff. In other words, changing the mentality in regard to 3M, when necessary, and giving the tools for introducing changes. Three main activities will be developed in this phase:
- Mapping 3M activities in Albanian partner universities
- Training on 3M activities in each Albanian university
- Training visits on 3M activities to three EU universities
- Second phase (second year, roughly). Starting up the changes establishing Regional Development Centres in each Albanian partner universities. This phase include these activities:
- Analysis of the potential regional demand for 3M activities
- Business plan for creating a Regional Development Centre in each university
- Establishment of Regional Development Centres
- Third phase (at the end of the project and after). Maintaining and developing the outcomes of the project. An important tool will be the Albanian network of 3M activities established in this project and later supported by the Ministry and universities.