ERASMUS POLICY STATEMENT
AP University of Applied Sciences and Arts Antwerp in a nutshell
AP Hogeschool Antwerpen (further referred to as 'AP') is a University of Applied Sciences and Arts located in Antwerp, Belgium.
In the year 2020, AP counts about 14.000 students. The University of Applied Sciences and Arts offers 16 graduate programs, 24 professional bachelor programs and 8 art programs (respectively level 5, 6 and 7 within the 'European Qualifications Framework'). These programs are part of 4 departments (Health and Welfare, Management and Communication, Education and Training, Science and Technology) and 2 schools of arts (Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp and Royal Conservatory of Antwerp).
As a University of Applied Sciences and Arts, AP is more than just a higher education institution. AP is a learning city, an enricher of talent, an amplifier of commitment and a deepener of the students’ world view. With enthusiastic teachers, advanced content, direct honest orientation and maximum interaction with expertise, AP ensures that every student can fully develop his or her potential.
As a University of Applied Sciences and Arts, AP stands for an inviting, open form of collaboration, constantly questioning itself, always looking for new perspectives and insights. A University of Applied Sciences and Arts that is open to other, new and non-compliant inputs and influences.
AP is a learning city, a crossroads where you can meet, grow, move and build. Where people drop by every day to promote exchange. Where we belong together but are also connected with the groups around us. A learning city with facilities tailored to the permanent ‘residents’, the students.
AP is all about people; people with knowledge and skills, opinions, insights and feelings. People who speak with respect, but also people who believe in direct, straightforward communication.
AP opts for true cooperation and experiences together. It all starts with making choices, with the substantiation of the right choices. AP creates spaces for learning and orienting. AP offers a maximum of opportunities to every individual, every group and every initiative.
A challenging international context
The second decade of the 21st century announces itself as particularly challenging from a global perspective. A number of trends - all with significant impact on what AP understands by the concept of 'internationalization' (cf. infra) are becoming increasingly sharp and visible:
- Increasing geopolitical polarisation, authoritarian leadership, deliberate strategies of disinformation through social media and the equally deliberate negation of scientific evidence threaten interlinked concepts such as multilateral cooperation, global engagement, global solidarity and intercultural harmony.
- Pandemics such as the one caused by the COVID-19 virus could risk that countries and geopolitical power blocs will prioritise their own interests in the short term at the expense of shared global interests in the longer term.
- Specifically with regard to international mobility, in addition to global health risks, the very justifiably increasing attention to the fight against global warming poses a challenge to which higher education must also actively relate.
These trends call for constant reflection on the position of our higher education institution within this global context.
In order to interpret this position in the context of this Erasmus Policy Statement, AP (inspired by Stephanie Doscher, 2019) has chosen Simon Sinek's 'Golden Circle' as its guiding principle (Sinek, 2009).
In order to be able to formulate its position within the international landscape of higher education in general and within the context of Erasmus+ in particular, AP asked itself a number of fundamental questions beforehand:
- Are we opting for a broad or rather narrow vision of internationalisation?
- Do we focus our policy on internationalisation on added value for education, research and society or on financial added value?
- Do we pursue 'purely' internally-oriented or externally-oriented social added value?
AP opts for a broad vision on internationalisation and uses the following definition as a starting point for its actions:
"...the intentional process of integrating an international, intercultural or global dimension into the purpose, functions and delivery of post-secondary education, in order to enhance the quality of education and research for all students and staff, and to make a meaningful contribution to society". (de Wit, Hunter, Howard & Egron-Polak, 2015)
This is reflected, among other things, in the fact that internationalisation is included as a guiding principle in AP's mission, vision and long-term strategy.
As the definition used makes clear, AP focuses on the academic and social added value resulting from a qualitative implementation based on this broad vision of internationalisation. Although sound financial management is an important precondition for achieving these ambitious objectives, a revenue model in the area of internationalisation is explicitly not the focus of AP's policy in this area.
Two essentially internal motives explain why AP pays so much attention to internationalisation in its mission, vision and strategy:
- In a super-diverse port city such as Antwerp - a city with no less than 179 nationalities of origin and 51.1% inhabitants of immigrant origin by 2020 (source) and in a globalised world, international competences are key competences that all our graduates need to have in order to make a difference in the field of work of the 21st century (Hindrix et al., 2014).
In order to develop these key competencies among our students, AP also pays increasing attention to the international competencies of all its staff.
- AP shares the conviction that continuous, targeted and profound interaction between a diversity of people, ideas and perspectives enhances the quality of its education, research, services and practice of the arts.
In its mission, vision and strategy, AP emphasises that - in addition to the essentially internally-oriented drives - externally-oriented drives also form the basis of its internationalisation policy. This places AP in a vision as encouraged by, among others, Gabriel Hawawini (Hawawini, 2011):
"Internationalisation is the work of integrating the institution into the emerging global knowledge and learning network.” (…)
"This process "should be outward-looking rather than inward-looking, emphasising the institution's capacity and ability to become an integral part of the world's knowledge and learning 'ecosystem' not only to benefit from it but also to contribute to its development.”
AP (inspired by Hans de Wit and Betty Leask, 2019) opts for a value driven vision on internationalisation that is based on the following principles:
- Promote social solidarity beyond the boundaries of cultures
- Help lead to equality, diversity and inclusion
- Provide a counterbalance to mono-cultural worldviews
- Contribute to a better world for all by building knowledge, sharing and circulating talent, promoting cultural diversity and stimulating intercultural understanding & respect.
- Necessary for the realisation of the core objective of higher education: knowledge building and exchange about the world and its inhabitants
The leitmotiv throughout all this is the practical orientation that so strongly characterises AP's education, research and social services, also in an international context.
In the process of further implementing this broad, academic & socially oriented and value driven vision of internationalisation in the period 2021-2027, AP uses two inspiring frameworks as a starting point.
The first inspiring framework concerns the concept of 'comprehensive internationalisation' as defined by John K. Hudzik (Hudzik, 2011):
- A commitment and action to infuse international, global and comparative content and perspective throughout the teaching, research and service missions of higher education. (…)
- "It shapes institutional ethos and values and touches the entire higher education enterprise." (…)
- “It not only impacts all of campus [internal, institutional] life, but the institution's external frameworks of reference, partnerships and relationships.”
The roadmap of the American Council on Education (Helms, 2015) also inspires AP to continue the process towards comprehensive internationalisation in a step-by-step and goal-oriented manner:
A second guiding framework is provided by the United Nations Sustainability Goals (further referred to as the SDGs as abbreviation, of course, of Sustainable Development Goals).
A total of 17 SDGs - subdivided into the five major themes People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace and Partnership - have been operationalised into 169 sub-objectives. Many of them can also be implemented and contributed to by higher education institutions on the basis of their specific context. The inspiring framework that AP uses to continue this process step-by-step and in a targeted manner is described in a document to which all Flemish universities of applied sciences gave their approval in 2019: 'Global commitment in higher education: an inspiring framework. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a handle for internationalisation within Higher Education' (see source).
This inspiring framework offered by the SDGs is in line with AP's mission, vision and strategy. In it, internationalisation, world citizenship and sustainability form an interlinked trinity that is one of the guiding principles to which AP policy in all its facets is geared towards. In other words, they are an explicit and well-considered part of AP's DNA.
Both the concept of 'comprehensive internationalisation' and the SDGs thus provide an inspiring framework within which AP will take further steps in the period 2021-2027 towards the implementation of a broad, academic & socially oriented and value driven vision of internationalisation (see above).
To this end, AP formulates 10 largely interlinked priorities in which further interpretation will be given simultaneously in the coming years:
- AP implements a generic competency framework across the whole of the University of Applied Sciences and Arts in which competencies in the field of internationalisation, sustainability and global citizenship, among other things, are structurally embedded.
This set of competencies together form the 'AP attitude' with which AP students distinguish themselves in the professional field during their studies and after graduation.
- AP continues to focus on the internationalisation of all program’s curricula through the anchoring of international competencies.
AP's target is that all of its programmes should be able to earmark 10 credits as international because they demonstrably contribute to the development of the international competencies of all students.
Among other things, but not exclusively to support the internationalisation of all program’s curricula, AP is further developing an active language policy aimed at both students and staff.
- AP is further developing its policy on internationalisation @ home and uses the following definition for this purpose:
"The purposeful integration of international and intercultural dimensions into the formal and informal curriculum for all students within domestic learning environments". (Beelen & Jones, 2015)
More and more emphasis is being placed on International Virtual Exchange (the term Collaborative Online International Learning is also used) & blended mobility - complementary to short and long term mobility.
AP is also developing English-language training courses in which international classrooms are used to develop international competencies.
- AP deliberately strengthens the social impact of (among other things) international learning activities through forms of Community Service Learning:
"A form of experiential education in which students engage in activities that address human and community needs together with structured opportunities for reflection designed to achieve desired learning outcomes.” (Barbara Jacoby, 1996)
- AP further focuses on the mainstreaming of interdisciplinarity in AP teaching and research practice.
It is not without reason that interdisciplinarity - also but certainly not exclusively in the context of international cooperation - as a guiding principle (horizontal policy priority) also forms part of AP's mission, vision and long-term strategy.
- For many years now, both within and outside the context of Erasmus+, AP has been strongly committed to international cooperation on a project basis and wants to maintain and further develop this tradition in the future.
Both AP and its international education and other involved partners experience these international projects as important drives for innovation in education and research.
In the period 2021-2027, AP will pay extra attention to transversal themes: - capacity building of the various partners - ownership - reciprocity - recognition of each other's interests - the ethical framework - the ecological impact - win-win for both parties.
- In the period 2021-2027, AP will focus on a network of strategic partners with which a deep and broad cooperation will be developed and which aims to evolve into a European University. In this way, AP actively contributes to the realisation of the European Education Area.
In a non-European context, AP is developing a regional strategy to focus scarce resources to the benefit of all relevant stakeholders.
- AP explicates sustainability as a guiding principle in its mission, vision and long-term strategy.
AP works towards a broad, deep and systematic embedding of all relevant SDGs within the university of applied sciences. This is based on a holistic approach in which both the desired positive contribution to and the imminent negative impact on SDGs are taken into account when decision-making takes place.
By means of international cooperation (including in the context of international projects), further development of expertise in the field of sustainability is pursued. Students' international learning activities also contribute to knowledge building and good practices in the field of sustainability.
- AP pays systematic attention to the realisation of equality, diversity and inclusion.
The unique composition of the AP student population in terms of socioeconomic and cultural diversity forms a living lab in which ever deeper expertise in these domains is developed and shared with international and other relevant stakeholders.
Universal Design (for Learning) counts for AP as a benchmark and as a touchstone.
- The Personnel department of AP is committed to embedding international competencies in the HRM policy (selection, professionalisation, etc.) of the university of applied sciences.
AP takes into account not only the international competencies of professors, but also those of administrative staff.
ERASMUS CHARTER FOR HIGHER EDUCATION
The Erasmus Charter for Higher Education (ECHE) provides the general quality framework for European and international cooperation activities a higher education institution may carry out within the Erasmus Plus Programme. The award of an Erasmus Charter for Higher Education is a pre-requisite for all higher education institutions located in an eligible country and willing to participate in learning mobility of individuals and/or cooperation for innovation and good practices under the Programme.
The Charter is awarded for the full duration of the Programme, from 2021 until 2027.