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Ministerial meetings under the Western Balkan Platforms on Education and Training & Research and Innovation

On 27-29 September, Ministers for Education and Science from the Western Balkans met in Belgrade, Serbia, to discuss measures to further increase regional cooperation in the areas of education, science, research and innovation. This high-level meeting was organised under the framework of the Western Balkans Platforms on Education and Training & Research and Innovation, set up by the European Commission with the goal of bringing together education and research stakeholders and decision makers within the Western Balkan region as well as with their counterparts in the EU. For the first time, the meetings of the two platforms have been held jointly.

The ministerial conference was opened by the European Commissioner for Education, training, youth, sport and culture, Tibor Navracsics, Serbian Minister of Education, Science and Technological development, Mladen Sarcevic, and Head of EU Delegation to Serbia, Sem Fabrizi. The first part of the day was dedicated to a panel discussion with Commissioner Navracsics and alumni from the region on mobility experiences, regional needs in terms of (improved) educational provision, employment opportunities and reforms in education and training systems. Ministers also had the opportunity to hear about the Western Balkan Alumni Association (WBAA), which will soon be officially launched with the aim to support students and alumni from the region, establish dialogue with decision makers, conduct research and collect evidence for better policymaking and reforms of higher education systems in the region. The afternoon focused on research cooperation in the region, opportunities and experiences under Horizon 2020 and prospects for building research capacity in the region. Day 2 of the conference looked again into the opportunities for the Western Balkans under Erasmus+ and the possibilities for intra-regional mobility with the Western Balkans.

Some of the main conclusions from the meeting are as follows:

  • Western Balkan alumni are one of the main pillars of regional cooperation and ambassadors of mobility and internationalisation of education in the region
  • Staff training and capacity building of universities’ international offices is a persisting and growing need with the view to quality mobility and partnership building
  • It is necessary to enhance the teaching process in English and increase English language provision at universities in the region
  • There is a need for more inclusion in education and a special focus on disadvantaged groups
  • Countries will work to increase the relevance of research and funds through a smart specialisation exercise to be rolled out for the region in the coming years. The European Commission’s Joint Research Centre is to conduct the activity and coordinate the most relevant funding at regional level.
More information will soon be available on the page of the Western Balkans Platform on Education and Training.