Building capacity is never a one-way street

What can Danish higher education institutions gain from capacity building projects within Erasmus+? Some might think that you only build capacity elsewhere – but Dr. Romeo V. Turcan from Aalborg University has a completely different perspective.

Commitment is the most important thing when you manage an Erasmus+ Capacity Building project, project coordinator Romeo V. Turcan unveils. This has also been one of the driving forces writing the application and managing the project.

An application for an Erasmus+ Capacity Building Project was almost inevitable as it was a natural extension of previous collaboration in 'The structural TEMPUS project - Enhancing University Autonomy in Moldova' (EUniAM project which ran from 2012 to 2015). The consortium wanted to use momentum and keep working together, so Aalborg University once again took on the role as coordinator and gained funding from Erasmus+ from October 2015 to October 2019.

The project 'Introducing Problem Based Learning in Moldova: Towards Enhancing Students' Competitiveness and Employability' (PBLMD project) had Aalborg University as main applicant and they coordinated the project from beginning until the end.

PBLMD was an Erasmus+ Capacity Building Project that through introducing and implementing Problem Based Learning in higher education study programmes in Moldova aimed to improve the teaching quality and the learning methodologies. This should enhance the higher education programmes’ relevance for the labour market. Moreover, the higher education programmes should improve their relevance for disadvantaged students in society through including them into the teaching and learning environment.

Like starting a new business

Romeo V. Turcan, Professor at Aalborg University, had experience from other EU funded projects when he, and the consortium, applied for a capacity building project in Moldova.

“It is like starting a new business. You have an idea, you build a team, and you write down your ‘selling points'”, Romeo V. Turcan explains.

Before applying for an Erasmus+ grant, you need to organize the consortium with international partners who will engage in the project. Again, Romeo V. Turcan compares this to creating a business:

“Normally one person is the key person who assembles the team. As main applicant, I was responsible for the other partners in the project to commit to the project and deliver results. Actually, being a partner is taking the passenger seat and being the main applicant is taking the driver’s seat.”

The PBLMD project

  • 'Introducing Problem Based Learning in Moldova: Toward Enhancing Students’ Competitiveness and Employability' is a three-year Erasmus+ Capacity Building project
  • The project period was October 2015 – October 2019 (the project was prolonged one year and therefor lasted four years) - The consortium consisted of four European Universities, six Moldovan Universities and five Moldovan associated partners
  • The PBLMD project had a special mobility strand making it possible for students from Moldova to travel to the project partners for studying
  • The PBLMD project had a special mobility strans making it possible for academic staff from Moldova and partner countries to visit each other for training, teaching, experience and knowledge exchange
  • The project was built on findings from the 'Enhancing University Autonomy in Moldova' (EUniAM project)
  • Moldova used this Capacity Building Project in the application for EU membership: "One of the major accomplishments of the higher education system in terms of introducing innovative teaching methods was the implementation of the project “Introducing Problem Based Learning in Moldova: Toward Enhancing Students’ Competitiveness and Employability” (PBLMD), funded with the European Union support under the Erasmus+ program..."
  • The PBLMD project was selected by The European Education and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA) to offer a training on October 26, 2021 based on the achieved results during the CBHE (Capacity Building in Higher Education) Virtual Fair. The project was selected among projects that were implemented during 2015-2020.

What is in it for Danish institutions?

At first glance, it might seem modest what Danish higher education institutions can achieve from participating in an Erasmus+ Capacity Building Project. However, building capacity abroad also pays off for Danish institutions.

“Normally you would think it is a one-way street where you build capacity in another country, like Moldova in this case. It was not a one-way street – we at Aalborg University learn so much about the model (Problem Based Learning, red.) and how it can be implemented. The strengths and limitations of the model really became clear, and by working with implementation on a daily basis, we can revise and enhance our own method and model. We can enhance our own capacity and ways of thinking – we improve as well”, Romeo V. Turcan elaborates.

The project actually resulted in an enhanced model of Problem Based Learning published as a book chapter. The grant from Erasmus+ came to an end and so did the consortium’s official Capacity Building Project. But the impact of the project continues.

“The capacity is already built and it should keep going. They don’t stop using the PBL-method (Problem Based Learning red.) just because the project is officially over. The impact of this is huge and continues.”

Romeo V. Turcan underlines his point by mentioning that the results and impact of the PBLMD project funded by Erasmus+ are used by Moldova in the application for EU membership.

Capacity Building Projects in Higher Education

A capacity building project in higher education is a transnational collaboration between institutions in higher education in EU. The projects aim to support the modernization, quality and accessibility of higher education in partner countries (countries outside the EU program). The project must contribute to both social and economic development abroad and focus of the project is therefore on one or more country(s) outside the EU program.


'Introducing Problem Based Learning in Moldova: Towards Enhancing Students' Competitiveness and Employability




Erasmus + (Støtteprogram for almen uddannelse, erhvervsrettet grund- og efteruddannelse, ungdom og idræt) » Erasmus+

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