An online constituting session of the National Group for the improvement of the social dimension of higher education took place on 25 May 2021.
The participants were greeted by the State Secretary of the Ministry of Science and Education Ivica Šušak, Head of the National Group for the improvement of the social dimension of higher education, who emphasized the importance of inclusion in all areas of society including higher education, as well as the continuation of active development of social dimension policies.
The members of the National Group for the improvement of the social dimension of higher dimension are as follows: Ivica Šušak - State Secretary and Head of the National Group, Ministry of Science and Education, Dijana Mandić - Head of Sector for Development of Higher Education and Deputy Head, Ministry of Science and Education, Margareta Mađerić - State Secretary at the Ministry of Labour, Pension System, Family and Social Policy, Danijela Špehar - Adviser in the Cabinet of the Ministry of Science and Education, Vesna Hrvoj Šic - Head of Unit for Vocational Education and Training, Ministry of Science and Education, Jurica Dugandžić - senior advisor at the Ministry of Labour, Pension System, Family and Social Policy, Ivana Borošić - representative of the Agency for Science and Higher Education, Lidija Novosel - representative of the Agency for Vocational Education and Training and Adult Education, prof. dr. sc. Goran Kardum - Vice-Rector for Teaching at the University of Split and representative of the Rectors' Conference, doc. dr. sc. Ruža Karlović - Vice-Dean for Research, Development and University Studies at the Police College and representative of the Council of Polytechnics and Colleges, Tin Meštrović - representative of the Croatian Students’ Union, University of Zadar, Assoc. dr. sc. Sanja Žaja Vrbica - Vice-Rector at the University of Dubrovnik, prof. dr. sc. Srđan Podrug - Dean of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Naval Architecture in Split and Miško Krešić - student at the University of Zadar.
The tasks of the new National Group are to draft the National Plan for improving the social dimension of higher education 2022 - 2025, to prepare a report on the implementation of the National Plan for improving the social dimension of higher education 2019 - 2021, to draft and adopt the relevant documents related to the social dimension of higher education, to raise awareness of the importance of social dimension, to promote inclusion in the education system at all levels, inform the public about activities for improving the social dimension of education at national and European level, and to participate in relevant international meetings and conferences.
Ana Jerković, the project manager of SIDERAL - Social and international dimension of education and recognition of previous learning, from the Ministry of Science and Education, informed the National Group members about the activities of the SIDERAL project. Over the past two years, this project has provided support in implementing the measures of the National plan for the improvement of the social dimension of higher education as well as to the National Group by connecting it with the BFUG Advisory Group on Social Dimension and with inclusion policies at the level of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA).
Iva Odak and Nikola Baketa from the Institute for Social Research in Zagreb and the reviewers Martin Unger from the Institute for Advanced Studies in Vienna and Martina Gaisch from the University of Applied Sciences in Upper Austria presented the study "On vulnerable and underrepresented groups in higher education: Contributions to social dimension of higher education in the Republic of Croatia
”, which was prepared within the SIDERAL project, and is related to the accompanying document of the National Plan for the improvement of social dimension on vulnerable and underrepresented groups of students.
Iva Odak emphasized that the aim of the study was to conduct an empirical analysis of the conditions and assumptions for improving the social dimension of higher education in Croatia, with special emphasis on a narrow set of vulnerable and underrepresented groups. She stressed that the measures that already exist in the higher education system (e.g. public scholarships) should be further developed and adapted to other identified groups, according to their needs. The recommendations presented in the study relate to proposals for improving institutional policies at the level of higher education institutions, as well as at the level of national education policies.
Martin Unger, a reviewer from the Institute for Advanced Studies in Vienna, pointed out Croatia's exceptional success in policy development related to improving the social dimension of higher education, comparing it with Austria and Ireland, and praised the quality studies that he believes make an exceptional contribution to improving inclusion in higher education.
Thomas Farnell from the Institute for the Development of Education presented research related to improving the social dimension of education in the period from 2021 to 2024 as part of the ESP project TEMCO: Thematic Network, lifelong learning accessible to all. He highlighted an important future activity in the course of scientific research, which is focusing on trends and causes of dropping out of higher education.
The last point of the session of the National Group focused on agreeing on a report on implementing the National Plan for improving the social dimension of higher education 2019 - 2021 and on considering the drafting of a new National Plan 2022 - 2024 based on the report on implementing the previous plan.
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