Prof. Aparna Rayaprol, Prof. Vinod Pavarala and Dr.S.Shaji (UoH HARMONY project team members) visited Varna University of Management (VUM), Varna, Bulgaria, from 25 June to 30 June 202, as part of a Study visit of HARMONY Project on Capacity building in Higher education, a project funded by European Union (EU)-Erasmus+ programme. University of Hyderabad is one of the partners in this prestigious international project led by University of Zaragoza, Spain. Apart from University of Hyderabad, Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT), Vellore and NMIMS Mumbai from India, there are universities from Bangladesh, Vietnam along with European universities from Lithuania, Slovenia, and Bulgaria which are part of the project. The project which began in 2021 is expected to complete its activities by 2024.
The study visit has focused on cross cultural learning in internationalization and the best practices being adopted across the universities. In addition, the key discussions focused on various types of mobility across the Universities at different levels – teaching faculty, Students and staff. To begin with, while promoting the mobility of teaching staff to understand internationalization strategies, the project provides distinct emphasis to mobility of students. As part of it, project funded FRIENDS Teahouse will be set up at the Office for International affairs, SIP building, University of Hyderabad. The FRIENDS Teahouse is a physical and social space to promote diversity and cross-cultural learning, apart from handholding students in acclimatizing with university environments (both international and local students). The student volunteers who have undergone training will be asked to participate as volunteers who would run the Teahouse. The Teahouse will help students organize various social and cultural events – such as national days, discussion and debates, and will also act as a platform to address various issues of international and local students while settling down on the campus.
The study visit involved extensive discussions concerning the modalities of setting up of FRIENDS Tea House in partner universities, apart from introducing a new initiative called ‘ Digital Story telling’- an initiative to promote the expression of one’s emotions and experiences with acclimatizing to a new campus. The UoH team is to develop strategies to choose three students to participate in a ‘Boot Camp’ in Varna, Bulgaria in the summer of 2023. The expenses for the visit of the students will be covered by the HARMONY project. The specific training for students to participate in the selection processes will be undertaken with the help of faculty from Department of Communication, University of Hyderabad. The UoH team had the opportunity to interact with the participants of on -going Boot Camp at Varna University of Management (VUM) from around the world. Such interaction was useful to understand various nuances of this initiative. In addition, the study visit provided the team with the opportunity to interact with various communication experts through various workshops on developing communication strategies in local context. The experts, who are part of various EU-ERASMUS + project, shared their experiences in communication strategies and the methods to adopt it suited to local needs. There was discussion among the partners and the lead university on promoting capacity building among staff members for strengthening internationalization strategies. The visit also had extensive discussions on promoting cooperation among partner organization/universities on mobility of various stakeholders in the future that include some concrete MoUs. There is a plan to develop a concrete handbook/Guide on internationalization of Higher Education is also part of the deliverables in the project.
Prof.Aparna Rayaprol, along with Prof.Vinod Pavarala and Dr.S.Shaji made the presentation regarding the current status of internationalization at UoH and the present status of implementation of HARMONY project. In addition, HARMONY team members also discussed in the detail various infrastructural acquisitions as part of the project, including the setting up of a conference Hall-cum- Friends Tea House at UoH, apart from various other milestones that project envisages for each partner organization. The project in UoH is led by Prof. N.Siva Kumar (the UoH coordinator) and the other team members include Prof. J Prabhakar Rao and Prof. R. Siva Prasad