• ATHENA Project

    Fostering Sustainable and Autonomous
    Higher Education Systems
    in the Eastern Neighbouring Area

  • Focus

    University autonomy and funding reforms
    in Armenia, Moldova and Ukraine

  • Objectives

    Transfer of good practice
    Promotion of inclusive approaches
    Capacity building in university management


Strategic importance of HR Management underlined at final ATHENA Training Seminar

The third of three ATHENA Training Seminars took place on 10-11 February 2015 at the University of Amsterdam. This capacity building event welcomed senior managers and university leaders from ATHENA project partner institutions, national rectors’ conferences and public authorities in Armenia, Moldova and Ukraine. The focus of the event was human resources management (HRM) and staff development in universities and the role that these have to play in fostering autonomous and sustainable higher education institutions in the partner countries.

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The ATHENA policy analysis showed that HR management and staff development are among the key challenges facing all three systems. This is for two main reasons: the lack of middle management staff with a strategic function, with key administrative and managerial functions being taken by academic leaders (rectors and vice-rectors); and limited staff development opportunities, due to limited staffing autonomy, inflexible career paths and a lack of funding.

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The seminar began with a welcome address from the Rector of the University of Amsterdam, Professor Dymph van den Boom, followed by a summary of the HRM challenges facing partner institutions revealed by the ATHENA policy analysis from Thomas Estermann, Director of Governance, Funding and Public Policy Development at EUA. He outlined the basic concepts of HRM strategies in European universities and described the limitations and challenges that need to be overcome in the partner countries both in legislation and institutional practices.

In the  second session Bert Burger, Director of HRM at the University of Amsterdam, described the two-tier system of HRM at the University, with a small central function overseeing HRM across the institution in addition to operational teams located in each faculty. This is one of many possible structures, which participants from the partner institutions were encouraged to consider when reforming structures and process at their own institution.

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The third and final session of the first day welcomed representatives of the faculties to discuss how this structure works in practice. Wout Buitelaar, Professor in the Faculty of Economics and Business, offered his reflections on how HRM functions at the University from an academic perspective, while Maaike Lürsen, Director of the Faculty of Science, gave a presentation how HR is managed at faculty level and how they interact with the central HR team.

The second day began with a presentation from José Koster, Director of Job Service BV, the University of Amsterdam’s holding that oversees staff development activities, who presented the re-employment and career development services that the University offers. This was followed by a presentation from Charlotte van Hees, Deputy Director of the Association of Universities in the Netherlands, who discussed the high degree of cooperation between Dutch universities to achieve common goals in HRM, such as collective labour agreements and lobbying public authorities.

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In the conclusions presented by Thomas Estermann, the importance of tailored HRM strategies was emphasised, which would enable universities in the partner countries to make use of the formal increase in institutional autonomy through changes to the legal frameworks. He underlined the need for support from public authorities and the usefulness of cooperation among universities in developing HR strategies and tools, as well as in representing their interests in this matter in dialogue with public authorities.

Presentations from all the sessions are available on the ATHENA website. An accompanying HRM Toolkit is under development and will be published during Spring 2015.

  • Yerevan State University
  • Gavar State University
  • State Engineering University of Armenia
  • State Universities Rectors Council of Armenia
  • Ministry of Education and Science of Armenia
  • Academy of Economic Studies of Moldova
  • Cahul State University
  • Free International University of Moldova
  • National Council of Rectors of Moldova
  • Ministry of Education of Moldova
  • Taras Shevchenko National University of Kiev
  • Donetsk National University
  • Odessa National University
  • Lesya Ukrainka Eastern European National University
  • Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine
  • University of Coimbra
  • Polytechnic Institute of Coimbra
  • University of Helsinki
  • Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences
  • University of Amsterdam
  • European University Association