In Bosnia and Herzegovina (BIH) the link between labour market and Higher Education Institutions (HEI) is still week. The market has low level of trust in HEI as serious partner in solving technical and technological or any work-related problems but also cannot see their role in the creation of skill and knowledgeable graduates, who are fit for employment. Vice versa, Universities are not recognizing companies as those who can contribute to the modernization of study programs and who could help adopting them to the future needs of society. At the same time, the unemployment rate in BIH is very high, with above 40%, according to Agency for Statistics of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Analysis done by employment agencies in both entities (Agency for Work and Employment of BIH and Employment Agency of Republika Srpska) shows that the unemployment rate is significantly lower for young people with secondary education than for university graduates. BIH does not have a defined catalogue of skills and knowledge (national qualification framework), which reflects the needs of the labour market. Also, practical work (internships, project work, etc.) is not well organized across most study programs. Except in rare good practices, which are not systematically developed, work placement of students during studies is not institutionalised. The graduates are mostly without any work experience when they enter the labour market and this disables them from getting a job thus capturing them in the unemployment because they education is mostly out-dated and/or to theoretical, not job relevant. The competences of our graduates are not recognized in many cases by employees. Dual Higher Education (DHE) will enable students to acquire more relevant knowledge and skills by combining classical traditional teaching/learning at universities with knowledge and skills acquired at the work place (work-based learning). As a consequence, this will provide them with competences and skills that are more in line with needs of employers and will significant increase employability of the graduates and decrease investment for trainings of young professionals on the employers’ side. In the same time reputation of HE will benefit from a larger number of graduates that find and keep jobs in fields that are relevant to their fields of study.
To this end, work placements as part of study programmes must be embedded in the programme in terms of resources and time: working students’ main problem is that their dropout rates are considerably high and that they often also do not work in a field that is related to their study but work in classical low-wage student jobs.
Introducing dual education will be extremely important for attracting needed investments in BIH, since investors demand not only positive and friendly business climate but also highly trained and specialised workforce that can be produced fast enough through flexible DHE This proposed project targets the main issues concerning the employability of students and graduates and is thus in line with strategies on the level of entities and state for increasing the employment rate of young population.
There are several strategic document that supports the goals of DUALSCI project. Document “Priorities for 2016 – 2026 Higher Education Development in BiH” was adopted by the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2016. DUALSCI project is in line with several priorities:
Priority 3. Connection between work-field and high education.
- Modernise and increase the number of existing study programmes for qualifications that are in demand in the labour market; clearly define goals that HEIs should realise in relation to the labour market. Holders (leaders, participants): Relevant education authorities, Ministries of Labour and Employment, Ministries of Finance, rectors’ conferences, all higher education institutions, higher education agencies in BIH, academic community, labour market representatives, student organisations and unions, local authorities, the general public, through joint activity. The same priority also underlines the importance of cooperation and coordination with employers and chambers of commerce.
Priority 5. Student experience
- Set goals for equal access to HE of members of certain target groups13; assign a separate budget item for HEIs in order to provide scholarships (e.g. a custom curriculum for these groups).
- Increase participation in higher education; (…) introduce modern teaching methods aimed at students and improve the quality of instruction and evaluate student satisfaction; (…) improve the efficiency of the outcomes of the HEI, including the length of study and employability of graduates;
Priority 6. Internationalization
- Allocate a budget item to support the internationalisation of HEIs; allocate budget items intended for international networking, especially research (international conferences, seminars, visiting professors, etc.) as well as reporting on international projects (maintaining relationships with partners, the initial funding, etc.).
- Improve regional and cross-border cooperation through joint registration and participation in projects; actively support the international mobility of HEIs’ staff by linking this to career advancement; (…) create conditions for accommodation and other infrastructural capacities for international mobility; provide training in foreign languages to staff in HEIs (…).
- Through training programmes ensure that all actors in HE understand the development of the Bologna Process and properly implement it, particularly in terms of pedagogy, quality assurance and accreditation;
The similar strategic goals are also in the Strategy of employment Republic of Srpska 2016/2021 (Strategic aim 1, operative aim 1) and Strategy of development Federation BIH 2010/2020 (Strategic aim 9), and Action plan of the Strategy for development of Science and Technology Republic of Srpska 2017/2021 (Strategic aim 3).
According to EACEA report “Overview of HE system – Bosnia and Herzegovina” form 2017 in the chapter “3.2.6 Employability” the issue of employability of students is underlined: “Cooperation between HEIs and employers has been recognized as very important in the recent years, however it remains rather unexplored. Some HEIs have included internship programmes into their study curricula. Numerous faculties (especially technical professions) have their centres in order to establish connections with industrial enterprises where students can pursue a traineeship programme. (…) Most universities in the process of creating new or making changes to existing academic programmes involve stakeholders from the industry in order to improve their curricula. (…) However, this is not enough to achieve a strong partnership between higher education institutions and the labour market. Such cooperation needs to be improved through a careful research of the labour market and industry sector needs, as well as through a connection of learning outcomes with curricula and assessment methods.”
The project is also in line with Regional Priorities for Joint & Structural Projects (Erasmus+ KA2 – Capacity Building in Higher Education) for the Region 1 (Western Balkan) and is related to Category B: Learning and teaching tools, methodologies and pedagogical approaches: The project proposes a new approach in BIH in order to make HEI more professionally oriented with emphasis on offering the exact working skills to the students and Category D: University-enterprise cooperation, entrepreneurship and employability of graduates: a. The DHE connects the employers that request particular set of skills with students that have strong propensity and potential to acquire that set of skills. b. The DHE gives the students an opportunity to acquire much needed work experience before graduation which in turn enables them to be more competitive on the labour market. c. The DHE implementation requires from the HEIs to develop such study programmes that are highly compatible with students’ future profession and altogether create a teaching ambience similar to that of a workplace. 4.Category D: Definition, implementation and monitoring the reform policies: The project will provide the legislation background for establishing currently non-existent DHE studies in BIH.