Beyond failure and success: applying for a KA2 Erasmus+ project

Beyond failure and success: applying for a KA2 Erasmus+ project

Partnerships make institutional relations stronger, especially if they are strategic. We do not only learn to share resources, but also how to receive them. This interconnection can enhance both the relationships with partner universities and between our domestic and international students.

One year ago the EBC Hochschule, Universidad Autónoma Madrid, Regent’s University London, UCSC Milano and the Paris School of Business decided to write a KA2 Erasmus+ grant proposal together. At that time, we were all very excited and committed to the new adventure of our recently-formed group of strategic partners, but things ended up not going quite as expected.

The motivation to apply

Providing optimal support for students and graduates entering the labour market has become an integral part of the role of higher education institutions. The more institutions are able to prove the success of their graduates in finding adequate work or founding successful businesses, the higher their chances of recruiting bright future students. The choice of higher education institution is often related to future career prospects. In that sense, the interests of HEIs and European policy are aligned, especially nowadays where the financial crisis has shown how vulnerable our markets are and how fast the consequences can be felt – especially by young graduates trying to start their careers.
The Bologna process led to an increase in the implementation of career services at European institutions of higher education. Their main task is to strengthen the employability of graduates, opening their pathways into the labour market. In the last few years, it was mainly important to set up adequate structures and networks at the local and national level. The next step will be to increase cooperation in career services at the international level, since international mobility of students and graduates continues to rise and students’ demand of well-informed service departments is also increasing.
The aim of our KA2 application was to acquire the necessary funds to form a consortium of European career services that together would form a shared transnational career services department. This department would help cater to student needs regarding building a career or business in a global context. We deliberately think of career and entrepreneurship together because we see a lot of possibilities in connecting academic expertise, experienced career administrators and related stakeholders under one ‘roof’, and then adding an international dimension.

Why establish a ‘strategic’ partnership

The initiative for the project came from the EBC Hochschule and is based on an analysis of students’ and institutional requirements. As a result, the project coordinator started to search for partners that fulfilled criteria that fit with the needs of the partnership. In this sense, strategic partners needed to gather all the following features:
1. Partners needed to be situated in the most popular countries for placement mobility, so that as many students as possible could benefit from the outcomes
2. Institutions needed to have a strong international focus and track record in terms of study and placement mobility
3. Institutions needed to have favourable local networks and career service professionals with exceptional labour market insights
4. A good working relationship between the institutions needed to already exist
5. Core team members needed to know each other in person. This would serve to secure well-functioning communication and a strong personal commitment to the project
6. Each partner needed to be committed to the project’s core ideas and have key information that could benefit partners
Using this assessment framework, the most favourable partners were quickly identified. EBC Hochschule wrote a project outline containing the expected inputs specific to each partner and consequently approached the partner institutions. They all agreed instantly.
Since employability and internationalisation are of such importance to students and form the core values of our institutional mission statements and internationalisation strategies, the project is of great strategic importance not only for all business schools and universities involved but also for students and employers.

Failure or success?

After submitting our first proposal and obtaining 83 out of a possible 100 points, we realised that our project became the first on the waiting list due to lacking funds. This situation motivated the group to work on an improved project. Strong ties between all group members and information provided by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) – that was giving feedback during webinars and conferences on how to apply again – proved very helpful.
The result is still pending, but the core ideas and procedures are still in place since we want the funding for something we believe will work. Since establishing this partnership, we managed to keep our spirit alive and also our common network, which has been reinforced enormously thanks to this cooperation.
Although we do not yet know whether the necessary funding will be approved, we can agree that this is a success story nonetheless. Our universities are more internationalised, more aware of needs, and more powerful due to double degree arrangements, spin-off projects and faculty exchange.

Adriana Pérez-Encinas is Lecturer and Researcher in the School of Business and Economics at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid and Jérôme Rickmann is Director International Talent Acquisition & Project Development at EBC Hochschule.

Since writing this blog post, on 10 July 2015, Jerome and Adriana got the news that their KA2 proposal was accepted.

This blog post is part of the Summer Forum series. The theme of the current issue of Forum magazine is ‘strategic partnerships’. EAIE members can expect to receive their hard copy of the magazine soon, but can already browse articles in the Member Centre.

To read Forum in full and stay up to date on hot topics in the field of international higher education, among many other perks, you can become an EAIE member.

Adriana Perez-Encinas
Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (UAM), SpainAdriana is a Lecturer and Researcher at Universidad Autónoma de Madrid.

Jérôme Rickmann
Uppsala University, SwedenJérôme is Project Lead at the European Centre for Career Development & Entrepreneurship, as well as a Visiting Scholar at the Centre for the Studies of the Internationalisation of Higher Education at Uppsala University.