Organised by Tempus Public Foundation, the first workshop on international student mentoring programs for university staff members who work in the field of international student services was held on 4th October 2017. The workshop’s main objective was to support the recently launched and already running mentor programmes that facilitate the integration of international students in Hungarian higher education institutions. The event focused on the introduction of the two handbooks published within the frameworks of the Campus Mundi project in 2017; the overview of the related internationalization processes and the exchange of experience and knowledge between the universities.
The two handbooks presented at the workshop deal with two key topics related to international student mentoring. The first book (Mentor Programme Handbook) advises the strategic stakeholders of universities on how to plan, launch and run a successful mentor programme that supports the integration of international students into the Hungarian higher education system. The other booklet (Mentor Handbook) helps the day-to-day work of mentor students with hands-on advice and good practices. Both handbooks aim to support the quality development of the services provided by universities to international students.
Hungarian higher education institutions vary in size and profile, and they operate different mentoring systems, in line with their specific needs and possibilities. The existing student support services also show a diverse picture, in terms of facilities, demands, and their development level. There are universities where the mentoring network has been working for more than a decade now, while in others, the system is just about to be launched. Depending on their level of experience, the universities have to face different challenges: while those who are just starting to implement mentoring services most importantly need to access a wide range of information about the upcoming tasks, pitfalls, and possibilities ahead, the more experienced institutions need to cope with the changing environment (e.g.: difficulties in credit transfer or the increasing number of international students).
The fact that 32 colleagues from 23 universities attended the event clearly show that the quality development of international student support services is a key issue in today’s higher education. Thanks to their diverse institutional background and experience, the partakers exchanged ideas and engaged in inspiring discussions about the different aspects of international mentoring. The various methods used during the workshop (e.g.: reviews, debate, presentations, group works, etc.) enabled the participants to gain a deeper understanding of the discussed topics.
During the mixed group work, the representatives of the universities shared their knowledge and experience with each other. The success of the event confirmed that there is a high demand for networking and collaborative learning opportunities among the university staff members who work in the field of international student services. Based on the positive feedback of the first workshop, similar professional events are likely to be organised in the future.
The second day of the workshop is scheduled for 6th December 2017, with focus on good practices and the different aspects of the mentor programmes, both at national and international level. Although the professional content of the workshops were originally designed to create a series of back-to-back sessions, new participants will also be able to join the second event as well.
The second workshop was held on 6th December, 2017 from 10:00 to 16:00 aiming at giving support to new mentor programmes as well as to the already functioning ones. The focuses of the event were the tasks in connection with good administration of the international students, the provided services, the occurring problems and the presentation of the national mentor programme’s best practices; furthermore, the applied organizational and operational solutions were also discussed.
The second workshop, being the continuation of the first occasion’s theme, targeted the everyday operation of the mentor programmes. 41 colleagues registered for the event from 18 higher education institutes, and most of them take part in the workshop.
During the first part of the workshop, the participants formed small groups and collected the tasks and problems from the field of administration of international students - from both the administrators’ and the students’ point of view. The created problem areas were then divided into the four following sections: academic administration of international students, general office administration, everyday life problems, and tasks and issues regarding institutional integration.
The most important conclusion of the small group work was that these four unique areas are extremely connected to each other. The academic and general office administrations overlap each other, such as the general office administration and the everyday life issues, and the institutional integration and academic issues. A general problem, affecting all four areas, is the lack of language knowledge. Unfortunately the colleagues do not have suitable English knowledge for the administration in many offices, during everyday issues, or even in academic administration. The language knowledge of the incoming students is often not sufficient also.
The second part of the workshop concentrated on the presentation and discussion of the best national practices in the field. The invited presenters from the University of Veterinary Medicine, the Corvinus University of Budapest, the Budapest University of Technology and Economics shared their mentor programmes’s main elements, organisational structure and principles of operation.
This part of the day was followed by further consideration of the problem areas created in the first section. Small groups were formed again to collect possible solutions for the problems, tasks identified previously. The groups were created randomly, which made it possible for the participants to work together spontaneously with similar staff with similar duties in other institutions; on the other hand, this heterogeneity made the exchange of the experiences and knowledge possible.
The discussions after the group works as well as the presentation of best practices deepened the process of networking, strengthened the intensive contact and facilitated the channels of informal knowledge share that has already started on the first workshop day.
At the event titled „Universities in Crossroads of National and Global Rankings” university leaders from Romania, Serbia and Hungary, the representatives of the International Ranking Expert Group as well as Hungarian and international ranking-experts discussed the correspondence between national and global rankings. Around fifty participants disputed lectures on the incompetence of global rankings to measure the performance of universities as well as on the fact that the position of the very same universities on the national ranking scales and the international ones are hardly comparable due to indicator differences. Nevertheless, the best universities are at the top of any ranking scale.
According to György Fábri, associate professor of Eötvös Loránd University (ELU) and initiator of the event, one of the most important idea was that the methodological problems of rankings as well as the demand for rankings decreases the value of global rankings, therefore, rankings by discipline and regional comparisons of institutions become widespread.
The participants welcomed the idea of organizing an international ranking-conference at ELU aimed at examining the rankings based on the performance of individual disciplines, and discussing the launch of regional European rankings.
The next phase of the project would be to arrange professional trainings and online information services for university colleagues working on rankings.
A Pear Learning Activity (PLA) was organised by the Tempus Public Foundation in the framework of the Campus Mundi project on the 6 December 2016 to examine structural and interpersonal approaches of a foreign student mentoring programmes.
The 25 participants of the event represented various institutions and come from different positions such as institutional mentoring programme coordinators, young professionals, representatives of the Hungarian Rectors' Conference and that of student unions. The PLA used the "World Cafe" method along with "Open Space" workshop techniques.
The same participants took part in both sessions. The intercultural mentoring programme was investigated systematically during the morning session, while in the afternoon session, participants worked on the preparation of a guide for student mentors.
In the first part of the programme, the participants worked on exploring problems connected to an intercultural mentoring programme. After summarising individually the eventual problems, these ideas were discussed in groups of five. Each group chose a different issue to present, such as motivation (facilitation) or sustainability (financing).
In the second round, the participants worked on the preparation of a student mentor guide. They discussed the responsibilities, skills, duties and opportunities related to mentoring an international student in groups and placed them on a timeline wall. Afterwards, they collected the most important experiences related to cultural differences, competencies, intercultural differences and general, but necessary information to a foreign student.
The PLA were useful for the involved experts and organizers as well. The host team could gather many real-life examples about the unsolved problems of mentoring programme and about the difficulties of foreign students coming to Hungary. The methodology of the workshop was a guarantee for useful discussions among the participants. According to the feedback, the deliberative technique helped to get to know the systems of other higher educational institutions and share their best practices.