The project 'Higher Education as a Generator of Strategic Competences' (Hegesco) addresses the needs of the main groups of higher education (HE) stakeholders who are interested in the employability of graduates. Based on several project reports, higher education institutions have been provided with empirically based evidence for planning their curricula, strategies and general orientations. Employers have been provided with evidence how skills, qualifications and job descriptions are developed, identified, interpreted, adapted, transferred, selected and rewarded. Policy makers at the national and European level have been provided with evidence on the implementation of the Bologna process. Higher education graduates learnt and reflected on their higher education learning experiences and the importance of other determinants of their career success. The scientific community have been provided with the Hegesco large scale survey database, which together with the Reflex database presents one of the largest graduate employability surveys in Europe and worldwide.
In all of its activities, the project addresses two broad questions that were already initiated in the Hegesco project’s predecessor – the 'Reflex' project (short for Research into Employment and professional FLEXibility): “Which competences are required by higher education graduates in order to be better equipped for the world of work and active citizenship?” and “How should higher education institutions best contribute to the development of these competences?” These two questions present a general framework for further surveying requirements in the labour market, the match between acquired and required competences, the general characteristics of higher education institutions, such as academic or vocation orientation, and the role of different learning and teaching modes. The findings of the Hegesco project are based on a large scale survey with a gross sample size of more than 30,000 graduates, and qualitative interviews among employers and HE institutions from five partner countries. The empirical work that has been conducted in Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, Slovenian and Turkey is compatible with the results of the Reflex project, which enables a cross-country comparison of 19 European countries elaborated in the following main project results:
a) Report on the Large-Scale Graduate Survey: Competencies and Early Labour MarketCareers of Higher Education Graduates;
b) Report on the Qualitative Analysis of Higher Education Institutions and Employers in Five Countries: Development of Competencies in the World of Work and Education;
c) Methodological recommendations and consideration tools for HE stakeholders;
d) An international conference, entitled DECOWE (Development of Competencies in the World of Work and Education), held at the University of Ljubljana from 24-26 September, 2009, which has coined a base for self-regulated networks focused towards skill development.
The project consortium integrates the work of six partner countries. The main initiative and a key integrative role in the Hegesco consortium was played by the University of Ljubljana (Slovenia), which is with its 56,000 students is one of the largest academic units in Europe. ROA (Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market at the University of Maastricht – the Netherlands) as a coordinator of the REFLEX project was the lead partner responsible for implementation of the large scale survey. And an additional four other partners from Lithuania, Hungary, Poland and Turkey, whose key members include Bologna promoters, deans, professors and researchers, who played an important integrative role with projects related to employability issues. This was largely manifested at the DECOWE international conference (Development of Competencies in the World of Work and Education; see www.decowe.com ).
The project’s sustainability will be safeguarded in the future by maintaining two web portals as a state of the art knowledge base for the development of employability aspects and competence development of HE, providing a conference related to Reflex follow up surveys, promoting research focusing on methodological improvements and new target groups, and strengthening policy dialogue, which will contribute towards the modernisation of higher education.