Western Balkans follows progressive educational and economic practices
The University of Sarajevo hosted the final conference within the BESTSDI (Western Balkans Academic Education Evolution and Professional's Sustainable Training for Spatial Data Infrastructures) and NatRisk (Development of Master Curricula for Natural Disasters Risk Management in the Western Balkan Countries) Projects on 4 September 2019. The conference was held under the EU supported Erasmus+ program’s auspices; in the field of higher education capacities enhancing.
The conference brought together participants from the Western Balkans academic community, prestigious European universities, governmental and non-governmental sectors, higher education and curriculum development experts, the IT and communications industries, security and resource and risk management fields.
New study programs and curricula
After three years of intensive realization of the BESTSDI project, one can emphasize with certainty that the project has accomplished fully all objectives, whereby making the project coordinator, Prof. Dr. Željko Bačić, University of Zagreb proud.
“A high level of understanding and comprehending the concept of Spatial Data Infrastructure (IPP) has been achieved among academic institutions and project partners that create different expert profiles, resulting in the design of a new curriculum in the IPP field and implementation of IPP teaching in 88 courses at 16 Faculties in the region. Of these, in addition to aforestated Faculties and universities, the economy will benefit the most, which will receive new profiles of experts equipped with modern understanding of the possibilities for using spatial data, electronically literate, capable of developing applications and interdisciplinary educated, who will understand the needs of other professions. Such experts will be able to cope with the challenges of present times, especially space management, climate change impact and society management as a whole, based on spatial data and geoinformatics. That is the reason behind organizing a joint final conference of the BESTSDI and NatRisk project that was developing a new curriculum for the Natural Disaster Management Studies” said Dr. Bačić.
European Union experts estimate that by 2030 the economy based on the development of applications for the use, processing and use of spatial data will be developed to such an extent that geoinformatics, within which spatial data infrastructure is one of the basics, will become a new independent profession.
How to manage natural disasters?
Natural disasters have become a constant threat to the community and the environment as a whole. The damage they sometimes cause exceeds all acceptable measures.
“We are witnessing that exposure to the effects of natural disasters - droughts, floods, landslides, earthquakes - has been increased to a large extent, due to the poor knowing of the causes, the mechanisms of action and the methods of protection. The goals of the NatRisk project are: development and implementation of the master study program in the Western Balkan countries in accordance with European standards, state-of-the-art laboratories for research in the field of natural disasters, students and faculty members mobility conducting in order to acquire innovative teaching methods, development and conducting training for citizens and the public sector in the field of managing natural disasters” was concluded by the NatRisk project coordinator, Prof. Dr. Milan Gocić, University of Niš.
In addition to the education of teaching personnel and students, four training manuals for civil sector training in natural disaster situations were created within the NatRisk project, 14 multi-day trainings held at the Western Balkans higher education institutions, and approx. 500 students from more than 150 institutions educated.
University of Sarajevo, leader in quality and cutting edge education
Prof. Dr. Rifat Škrijelj, University of Sarajevo Rector opened the conference emphasizing that equipment procurement procedures at the Faculties, as well as the introduction of new study programs that are needed to keep up with the progress, include some of benefits received from these projects.
“The importance of introducing a new study program ‘Protection from Natural Disasters’ compliant with the requirements of natural disaster risks managing should be noted and emphasized. The need and importance of such studies was best demonstrated by the 2014 floods, which affected the entire region and caused the damage estimated at 15% of total gross national income. That is why I think that we, academic community by educating our expert staff and their further academic development are contributing to the society as a whole” added Dr. Rifat Škrijelj.
Through participation in the BESTSDI and NatRisk projects, with the support of European Universities, Western Balkans Universities are becoming regional leaders when it comes to scientific endeavors of this kind, which are the multiple benefits of society as a whole, especially from the point of view of developing electronic literacy in the adequate use of spatial data, when managing spatial and natural resources.