YEREVAN, Armenia – On May 16-18, 2017, the American University of Armenia (AUA) hosted the final conference of the Tempus PEOPLE (Promoting Educational Organization through People) Project, one of the University’s seven capacity building projects within the EU framework. The conference brought together more than 110 participants, among them human resource managers and specialists from 26 Armenian universities. In attendance were also the staff of the National Erasmus+ Office in Armenia and faculty and staff from 11 project partner universities.
The PEOPLE project was launched in 2013, followed by the kick-off meeting held in 2014 at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain. The EU program country partner institutions included Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, UPC (Spain), Instituto Superior Técnico, IST (Portugal), Royal Institute of Technology, KTH (Sweden). And the Eastern partnership country institutions included Narxoz University, Karaganda State Medical University, and Kazakh Academy of Transport and Communications from Kazakhstan, Ilya State University and Kutaisi University from Georgia, as well as Armenian State University of Economics, Russian-Armenian University and the American University of Armenia from Armenia. Coordination of the PEOPLE project was conducted by Narxoz University with scientific guidance provided by Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya.
The project’s focus was on advancing HR management practices in involved institutions and dissemination of results among institutions in respective countries. Topical workshops, trainings, and focus groups were organized on auditing HR processes and procedures, mapping out competencies of HR managers and staff, and developing strategic plans for each partner institution. The important outcomes of the PEOPLE project included the exchange of best practices in HR processes, creation of HR resource centers at partner institutions, sharing new knowledge with HR managers of local higher education institutes (HEIs), procurement of HR database and document flow software as well as IT equipment, certification of all HR employees in HR audit, overall enhanced capacity built in the HR departments.
The project was invaluable from many learning and knowledge sharing perspectives, most notably for offering a platform to exchange ideas and share experiences through round tables, study tours and workshops with partner universities. The closing conference reflected on the excitement of the success of the project and rewarding experiences that all participants shared.
Opening remarks at the plenary session were delivered by Dr. Armen Der Kiureghian, AUA President; Ms. Lana Karlova, Coordinator of National Erasmus+ Office in Armenia; Dr. Josep Maria Sallant, Secretary General of the Social Council, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, and Dr. Saule Artystanabeva, Narxoz University, Almaty.
Dr. Der Kiureghian spoke about the growth of the University: “During the past four years, our student population has grown from 400 to 2000. Naturally, this has necessitated a sharp increase in staff and faculty hires. As a result, our HR department faced the challenge of a sharply increased workload. In this regard, the PEOPLE project was very timely for us, allowing AUA to enhance the efficiency of its human resources management operations. This was achieved by revising our processes and by implementing HR database and document flow software.”
In turn, Ms. Karlova spoke of PEOPLE in glowing terms: “This project was very successful in different aspects: first of all, it gave a unique opportunity to HR specialists from different Armenian HEIs to participate in the training programs organized by AUA in February-May 2015. Our team from the National Erasmus+ Office also participated in these training sessions and benefited greatly. Most importantly, the consortium of the project worked so effectively and cooperatively that it would be simply a natural progression for them to embrace the next phase as a new project in this very important area for HEIs.”
As articulated by Saule Arystanbaeva, PEOPLE Project Coordinator from Almaty Narxoz University: “The course of the project led to a legislative change in Kazakhstan empowering HR departments in country HEIs, resulting in major outcome at the national level”.
Alicia Berlanga, UNESCO Chair of Higher Education Management in Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, outlined the project’s main steps and achievements in her video message. “The main output of the project was the network of more than 30 HR specialists from EU, Armenia, Kazakhstan and Georgia. Exchanges of best practices have been a core activity during all the stages of the project, the participants of which were trained based on the latest HR trends. The project facilitated smooth implementation of shifting HR processes from the very technical towards the more strategic,” she emphasized.
Anahit Ordyan, the AUA Assistant Vice President, provided leadership to the project throughout its implementation. Acting as a moderator for the plenary session “Country Perspectives on the Development of Human Resources in Higher Education Institutions”, she recognized many accomplishments of the PEOPLE project having a significant impact on the educational systems of the participating countries.
An important venue for hands-on experience for conference participants was provided through three breakout sessions dedicated to “Performance Evaluation” led by Josep Maria Sallant, “New Technologies’ Impact in Human Resources Management” led by Victor Kordas, and “Strategic Planning of Human Resources Management” led by Marta Pile.
The PEOPLE project’s European partners shared their experience on assessing faculty and staff recruitment, implementing competency-based recruitment and applying quality standards’ impact on HR management within the framework of the Serra Hunter program. Dr. Arpie Balian, Professor of AUA College of Humanities and Social Sciences, the moderator of this session, emphasized the value of using 360-degree evaluations for top management, but called attention to other approaches for evaluating different levels of staff. She also invited attention to gender considerations when developing competency-based recruitment guidelines. HR managers from local universities expressed their high appreciation for valuable experience in learning from European partners, in engaging in useful discussions on different HR management topics with their colleagues from EU, Georgia, and Kazakhstan universities.
Arina Bekchyan, the AUA Director of Human Resources, noted: “This project gave us a wonderful opportunity to become familiar with the experience of European universities in the field of human resources, examine modern trends and learn how to best adjust those to our needs and implement in our Universities. We are leveraging the knowledge and skills acquired over three years in our daily work. We are hopeful that this mutually beneficial cooperation established within the framework of the project will continue in the future.”
The conference was covered by Armenian Public Television (H1) and Second Armenian TV Channel (H2), as well as by “Krtutyun (Education)” weekly newspaper and social media.