About the project
The need for universities to contribute to local/regional development is a growing policy priority across the world. This is true for both young universities, created in remote regions so as to boost the knowledge economy, and older traditional universities, who are under pressure to expand access and demonstrate graduate employability. In the EU, various policies propagate higher education institutions (HEI) as regional/local motors for development: Under the EU2020 strategy, regional investment is a main channel for ‘smart, sustainable and inclusive growth’. The EU has promoted the role of universities in ‘smart specialisation’ in European regions, which emphasizes their contribution to innovation, industry outreach and employment.
This is also true in Latin America (LA), though the local development agenda tends to focus more on access to higher education and social inclusion. For example, several universities have recently been created in Argentina and Chile with a distinct regional development profile and a governance structure that engages local industry.
Recently, the OBREAL/GLOBAL Observatory-led project ‘ULISES’, financed under Action 3 of the Erasmus Mundus programme (2014-2016) explored universities, local development, employability and academic quality in South America. One major conclusion was that more academic cooperation is needed between institutions in diverse global regions, which share economic sectoral development interests, yet lack historical or linguistic traditions of collaboration.
The partners of VitaGlobal share the belief that in order to deliver higher quality, locally relevant study programmes and research, global engagement in needed.
The strategy ‘EU Higher Education in the World’ (2013) states that HEI should aim to ‘develop international curricula’ and ‘position themselves according to their strengths in education, research or innovation, and forge partnerships within and outside Europe’. This strategy also acknowledges that global engagement should go beyond top research capitals, and link regions across the globe with similar challenges, industries and needs. VitaGlobal is predicated on this interest: It links universities in Latin America, Europe, South Africa and Georgia in a distinct global network, committed to local development challenges through the internationalisation of study programmes.
Amongst the regional/country priorities of the Erasmus+ programme, Latin America, Georgia and South Africa all cite ‘Agriculture’ as a priority for curriculum development. VitaGlobal thus focuses on sharpening university contribution to local development, specifically by proposing a curriculum development project that targets a growing agricultural sub-sector for all of the Partner regions involved: viniviticulture and oenology. It does so by building a joint study programme, which is widely acknowledged to contribute to teaching innovation and internationalisation, as well a a wider cooperation network linking diverse insitutions.
On the macro-level, there is a strategic importance regarding viniviticulture, oenology for all partner and programme countries selected: In La Rioja, Argentina, Talca, Chile, Uruguay and Kakheti, Georgia there is an evolving wine industry, which is contributing dramatically to local development. This said, each country has its respective challenges, which universities, local producers and chambers of commerce must consider. International collaboration on the academic level is thought to be a means to generate more international awareness and build capacity to upscale and market production. In general, as technology advances in this sector, there is a need to share practice and innovate. In VitaGlobal, ‘New world’ can learn from ‘old world’ (Europe but also Georgia and South Africa, as both have a long tradition in viticulture) and ‘old world’ can also learn from ‘new’.
Aims and objectives
To develop a global university network, connecting diverse geographic regions with limited pre-existing cooperation, in order to enhance study programmes that contribute to local development, specifically in food science and viniviticulture, foci these universities share.
To consolidate a diverse international network of higher education institutions (HEIs) with a common interest to contribute to local development and a shared commitment to food science, viniviticulture and oenology, as a basis for academic cooperation and industry partnerships.
To build the capacity of HEIs to sharpen their impact on local development in the viniviticulture sector, via multi-lateral knowledge transfer and in conjunction with industry and other socio-economic partners.
To build capacity to develop joint programmes in agriculture, viniviticulture and oenology at the masters and doctoral level, so as to internationalise and integrate curricula, widen mobility opportunities for students and staff and ultimately internationalise the university contribution to local development.
The project creates a unique consortium that brings together universities from diverse and mostly non-urban regions in South America, Georgia, Europe and South Africa and allows these universities to map and compare their contribution, via teaching and research, to local development and local economies.
It embeds the development of joint study programmes in a specific discipline - viticulture (of relevance to all partners) - into wider staff training exercises, so as to foster deeper ‘North-South-emerging country’ strategic partnerships in higher education. It responds equally to Europe policy priorities for higher education internationalisation and regional development, as it does to partner country priorities for internationalizing and modernizing study programmes and generating local impact and local development in regions such as la Rioja and Salta, Argentina and the north of Chile, as well as Telavi Georgia.