Interview with Ryszard Zamorski, Bologna expert

Dr. Ryszard Zamorski is currently a Bologna Expert for DAAD (The German Academic Exchange Service) and an Erasmus Expert at his institution, the UTP University of Science and Technology in Bydgoszcz, Poland. He has been active in the Erasmus programme since 1999 and in 2011 he became an official EU Staff Erasmus Ambassador for Poland.

With 40 years of academic teaching experience (biochemistry), Dr. Zamorski has participated in more than 60 study and teaching visits across Europe, Turkey and in American universities. As an Erasmus Expert and ECTS expert, Dr. Zamorski has developed teaching programmes and trainings on international mobility as well as double diploma/joint study programmes . He also coordinated different teaching programmes with Texas State University (TSU)  and Dover State University, USA. Dr. Ryszard Zamorski has also held the position of Vice-Dean for teaching and students’ affairs.

 

SPHERE Team: Please describe your current role as a Bologna Expert in your country. What types of activities have you undertaken?

There are two kinds of activities that I undertake: Activities for my own university and other ‘outside’ tasks. At my university, my role concentrates on the promotion of new EU measures and trends, as well as Bologna Process developments as clearly stated in the Paris Communiqué. This includes, among others, information on newly opened project calls and on EHEA (European Higher Education Area) meetings. Last but not least, my activities as a Bologna Expert bring a lot of new ideas, and, what is equally important, improve the international networking of my home university (in Poland). The other field is my active participation in a number of meetings and seminars concerning Erasmus+ and concerning Polish higher education reforms (Rzeszów, Lublin, Toruń 2017, Warsaw 2018, for example).

 

SPHERE Team:  How do you think this role has evolved in the past 5-7 years?

I would say that there are no basic changes in my activities, however some fields get increased attention, like internships and/or research-based learning. Some topics need constant attention and must be constantly updated in the context of the changing world. For instance, the topics of learning outcomes, the diploma supplement, etc. require constant attention. Increasingly, academics feel they understand the dynamics of higher education systems, which is positive. What is probably the most important message for the years to come is to focus on life-long learning, in my opinion.

 

SPHERE Team:  Which obstacles have been identified in your country? What are the priorities?

We’ve noticed a very dynamic change, actually a jump, which accompanied our political changes at the turn of the century. The percentage of students in the younger generation shifted rapidly from a mere 7% to more than 55%. The number of non-public higher education institutions grew rapidly as well causing, on the one hand, higher completion rates but also a drop in the quality of teaching. Recently, and also attributed to the EU activities in  the field of education, higher education in Poland has undergone a profound reform based on holistic improvement and the use of well-defined tools and objectives. Among others, research-based teaching and high quality research have been top priorities.

As for obstacles, they remain the same: Slow reaction of individuals to the proposed reforms and proposals, poor cooperation and understanding among the actors involved in education (ministry, high schools and universities, and the national economy – companies, state institutions, etc.).

 

SPHERE Team:  How are ‘Bologna’ and the ‘EHEA’ perceived in your country today by the academic sector?

I still remember how strong doubts were, and the fears and the opposition against the Bologna Process system. Much time was needed to convince (or even force!) opponents to accept it. Nowadays, it is rather a question of continuous improvement, adjustments, and utilising European projects offered for the improvement of research and education. Many Polish academics are involved in planning the future and preparing reports necessary for the higher education policy of the European Union and of Bologna. I can openly and positively say that I can hardly find anybody working for HEIs in Poland who do not understand the need for reforms and well-educated graduates.

 

SPHERE Team:  In your opinion, is Bologna still relevant as a ‘process’ or has everything been accomplished?

Certainly we still have to work on higher education,  even more than in the past, given that the modern world changes quicker and quicker. We all have to understand that (generally) improving life standards can also cause problems we could hardly foresee. So, definitely, it is a never-ending process. Upon assessing what has been accomplished, especially on the field of the quality standards and processes, I do think that much more has to be done, and that the Bologna Process is an important political frame for this.

 

SPHERE Team:  What are the main priorities for Bologna reforms and commitments currently in your country and what have you taken away from the most recent Paris Declaration?

Clearly quality teaching and the orientation of the education profile(s) towards the needs of the national economy are the priorities. We need thousands of qualified engineers, doctors and teachers. Though the level of unemployment has dropped a very low, we have  a growing deficit of medium-level professionals in construction, midwifes, etc. and the outstanding question of whether immigrants should fill up that gap. The Paris Declaration principles are well understood at universities, but at the government level the reaction is relatively slow.

 

SPHERE Team:  What do you think the priorities should be for the cooperation between the HERE and the Bologna Experts? How could this be better structured and facilitated?

I believe this is a natural cooperation and that one cannot exist without the other. Actually, we meet very often, and there are many platforms to exchange ideas and good practices. The most advisable activity is of course networking, which depends on the general openness of individuals. I am also convinced that the involvement of active students, what I gladly observe so often, is a very good trend. The HERE students and student Bologna Experts are important for promoting the role of students in national reform but also at the inter-country level. Erasmus+ is also important, as many students and graduates point to this programme as a milestone for their understanding of the modern world and its problems. Such young men and women can contribute a lot to the HERE and Bologna Experts’ activities.

 

SPHERE Team:  What do you think were three major take-aways or messages from the HERE seminar in Montenegro on research-based teaching?

First, a strong message was that there is no modern higher education without research-based teaching, especially in experimental sciences. Second, large amounts of money are not needed to implement project-based teaching, which can also be done at the bachelor and masters level, although focus is generally put on PhDs. Third, teaching staff should take advantage of European tools and forums to share good practice in this field. Networking is a key action and a potential source of success!

 

SPHERE Team:  Do you have advice for the HERE, to help them fulfill their roles?

Two things are most important: open mind and networking. The problem is the velocity of changes that are occurring in higher education and the tension caused by some of them, as well as the increased work load for teaching staff. This may trigger frustration, which must be overcome and replaced with optimism and the will to work for the future of our young generation.