Since 2000 the Latvian Academy of Culture (LAC in short) has been taking part in the EU’s ERASMUS student exchange programme. We started our participation in the programme with 1 (one) bilateral agreement with a HEI in France, yet in 20 years our list of partner universities have been expanded and in 2020 it includes 119 HEIs representing almost all EU and EEA countries. The number of student and staff mobilities within the KA103 activity has increased from 6 mobilities in 2000 to 124 mobilities in 2019 (including both outgoing and incoming student and staff mobilities) and we are planning to increase the number of mobilities by initiating co-operations within the KA107 activity, as well as by launching several ERASMUS+ Key Action 2 projects. In response to the current situation in the world one of the planned strategic partnership projects is distinctively related to the digitalisation and internationalization processes at the Latvian Academy of Culture, which aims to create and offer open online study courses for a better integration and adaptation for the future international students.
In order to carry out our internationalisation, modernisation and digitalisation goals set out in the development strategy of the Latvian Academy of Culture, we try to embrace and utilize the possibilities to attract funding and share resources in various cooperation projects with cultural organisations and HEIs both on a national and international level within such programmes as ERASMUS+, European Social Fund, European Regional Development Fund and Cohesion Fund, HORIZON 2020, Nordplus, Creative Europe, Latvian State Culture Capital Fund and Riga City Council funding programmes, as well as other local governmental financing instruments. Co-operations with embassies and international culture institutes in Latvia are also developed in the form of donations, investments and funding for the implementation of research and creative projects. In the context of the internationalisation strategy of the Latvian Academy of Culture the financial instrument of Erasmus+ mobility programme plays a significant role in particular.
The internationalization strategy is grounded in the set values of the Latvian Academy of Culture, especially emphasizing the open-mindedness principle, as we are open to explore and embrace the different, the distinct and the diverse. We are approachable and willing to promote cooperation and create synergies. Open-mindedness in behaviour and choice making also determines our growth opportunities. In our development strategy we analyze and plan the engagement and integration of foreign students and international academic staff members into the Latvian Academy of Culture by implementing international study programmes and course modules. Within the European Structural Funds project ‘Development of the Academic Staff of the Latvian Academy of Culture - Investment in Study Quality (No.188.8.131.52.)’ we have carried out foreign language training for the academic staff, as well as develop other activities in relation to international cooperation and development.
The engagement of foreign students is at the moment primarily implemented through Erasmus+ mobility programme. In recent years, the number of incoming foreign students has increased from 20 students in the academic year of 2015/2016 to 50 students in 2018/2019, therefore we have gradually expanded the range of study courses in English, thus giving more and more academic staff members the chance to improve their skills in preparing courses in foreign languages.
In 2020 the Latvian Academy of Culture has developed two international graduate programmes in English - ‘Growth Management and Creative Industries’ and ‘Cultural Heritage Governance and Communication’. Both programmes are developed within the framework of the European Structural Funds project ‘Development of New Study Programmes for the labour market of the cultural and creative industries sector (No. 184.108.40.206/18/A/018)’ in cooperation with Riga Technical University and Vidzeme University of Applied Sciences. An important role in the development of the programme ‘Growth Management and Creative Industries’ is granted to the partners at the University of Aalborg (DE), who have been involved in the initial stages of the programme design. Courses within these programmes will be available not only to the incoming ERASMUS+ mobility students, but will also offer full-time admission to foreign students in 2021. Since 2000, the Latvian Academy of Culture has been implementing an international graduate programme in German ‘International Culture and Media Management’, involving both students and academic staff from Germany as well as other European countries provided their knowledge and ability to study in German and including also incoming ERASMUS+ mobility students from Germany.
Two of the most important instruments for the internationalization processes incorporated in the human resource development strategy of the Latvian Academy of Culture are the engagement of international academic staff members into the study process, as well as the networking and experience exchange opportunities for the local academic staff members with the colleagues from foreign universities in the form of trainings and networking visits. Several funding possibilities are utilized in order to achieve this goal, one of them being the ERASMUS+ mobility programme. The involvement of foreign academic staff members into the study processes of the Latvian Academy of Culture is mainly implemented within the several specializations of the undergraduate study programme ‘Cross-cultural Communication’ between Latvia and countries such as France, Great Britain, Germany, The Netherlands, Sweden, Spain, etc., as most of the professors, who teach speciality courses in these specializations are native speakers of the specific language. The funding for attracting foreign academic staff members is mainly provided by embassies, yet short-term mobilities are also implemented within the framework of the ERASMUS+ programme. Similarly, in other programmes both at the undergraduate and graduate levels the Erasmus+ programme plays an integral part in the implementation of short-term mobilities for foreign experts and lecturers.
The internationalization aspect is also carried out through the integration of artistic work in the study process of undergraduate programmes ‘Stage Acting and Directing’, ‘Audiovisual Art’ and ‘Contemporary Dance’ and graduate programme ‘Audiovisual and Performing Arts’ as several international cooperation and partnership projects are established with cultural and artistic organizations throughout Europe and beyond. Since 2015, the Latvian Academy of Culture has been involved in the Platform of European Theater Academies (PLETA) along with 8 other Performing arts universities in Brussels, Helsinki, Maastricht, Munich, Oslo, Warsaw and Salzburg. The platform was supported by the EU's ‘Creative Europe’ programme from June, 2016 to August, 2018. The aim of the platform is to develop professional opportunities and artistic co-productions exploring ways how different theatre traditions can effectively converse and contribute to the high quality artistic diversity and creativity of theatre art in Europe. A new project proposal has been submitted for the current call for proposals of ‘Creative Europe’. As the result of the project a long-term cooperation within the framework of the ERASMUS+ mobility programme had been established with one of the partners of PLETA.
The internationalization aspect is present in the development of the research activities at the Latvian Academy of Culture as well, for example, academic staff members and members of the LAC Research Centre take part in international conferences and publish their articles in international peer-reviewed research journals. International co-operations are developed through joint research projects carried out together with foreign HEIs, research centres, culture institutions and NGOs. From 2016 to 2019 the Latvian Academy of Culture implemented the international project in the field of humanities and arts 'CoHERE: Critical Heritages: performing and representing identities in Europe' funded by the EU research and innovation programme 'HORIZON2020' together with 11 other partner HEIs (leading organisation: University of Newcastle (UK)). As a partner institution the Latvian Academy of Culture is taking part also in other project proposals submitted under to this programme at the moment. Several bilateral agreements under ERASMUS+ mobility programme have been generated as a result of successful cooperation, as well as several short-term networking mobilities and academic staff training mobilites were carried within the project.
In the next generation of the Erasmus+ programme the Latvian Academy of Culture is planning to get involved in several new activities:
Under the activities of KA107, we are planning to submit projects for cooperation with HEIs in Canada, China and the USA, as the projects submitted in the previous years remained on the reserved list due to insufficient funding:
1. Cooperation with Canada. Since 2008, the Latvian Academy of Culture has established successful cooperation with the Embassy of Canada to Latvia and several projects have been implemented within the framework of the annual International Francophonie Days, including guest lectures at the premises of the LAC by the current Ambassador of Canada to Latvia. Visiting professors from several Canadian HEIs have also visited Riga with their presentations for the students, including experts from the University of Montreal, the Université de Moncton and the Université de Sherbrooke. As a result ERASMUS+ bilateral agreement was signed with the University of Moncton in 2019.
In 2018 the Latvian Academy of Culture launched a new specialisation of the undergraduate programme 'Cross-Cultural Communication (Latvia-Canada/France) with 25 students enrolling in the programme, therefore the need to provide courses by native Canadian guest lecturers was included in the development strategy of the Latvian Academy of Culture and the ERASMUS+ programme is one of the means to achieve this goal.
2. Cooperation with China. A strong cooperation with HEIs in China is implemented within the undergraduate programme of the LAC 'Contemporary Dance'. In recent years, several visiting professors from China have carried out workshops and developed project performances with the students of contemporary dance, as well as in return the LAC has operated as the host institution for contemporary dance students from China (short-term mobilites), while the professors of contemporary dance of the LAC are annual participants of contemporary dance festivals in China. In 2017, an ERASMUS+ bilateral agreement was signed with the Beijing Dance Academy. A cooperation agreement has also been signed with the Confucius Institute at University of Latvia and since 2016 based on the agreement several visiting professors have visited the Latvian Academy of Culture and carried out language courses in Modern Chinese.
3. Cooperation with the USA. In 2019 the Latvian Academy of Culture launched a new specialisation of the undergraduate programme 'Cross-Cultural Communication (Latvia - Anglophone Cultures), thus significantly expanding the previous specialization of the undergraduate programme 'Cross-Cultural Communication (Latvia-United Kingdom). Up until now visiting professors and field experts from the USA have visited the Latvian Academy of Culture within the framework of the Baltic- American Freedom Foundation (BAFF) programmes in such fields as museology and theatre art. The LAC has also regularly hosted Fulbright scholarship recipients. Within the next generation of the Erasmus+ programme we are planning to apply for the KA107 activity in order to further develop cooperation with HEIs in the USA.
4. Cooperation with Kazakhstan. In 2019 the Latvian Academy of Culture established a cooperation with the Kazakh National Academy of Arts and based on the agreement the first student mobilities have already been implemented in 2020. In case of a positive experience we are planning to expand this cooperation within the next generation of the ERASMUS+ programme.
So far under the Key Action 2 activities of the ERASMUS+ programme, the Latvian Academy of Culture has taken part as a partner organisation in several 'strategic partnership' and 'sector skills alliance' project applications. One of them 'FilmTerm' has been approved and received funding. This year, two more projects have been submitted in both of these activities with the Latvian Academy of Culture as a partner organisation. As a leading organisation the Latvian Academy of Culture is planning to submit one strategic partnership project next year together with HEIs in France and Finland.
The Latvian Academy of Culture is currently in the process of creating a new development strategy for the time period 2021-2026 and the ERASMUS+ programme will be allocated a significant place in the new strategy in regard to the internationalization and digitalisation processes at the Latvian Academy of Culture.
We are planning to take active part in the KA103 activities (including mobilities for the incoming and outgoing students in the form of studies and internships, as well as mobilities for academic and administrative staff members) for the entire duration of the next generation of the ERASMUS+ programme (2021-2027).
The current situation in Latvia and abroad in regard to COVID-19 pandemic and forced distance learning at the Latvian Academy of Culture could benefit to the internationalization processes and encourage academic staff to develop digital literacy skills and create high-quality online courses, as even before force majeure not everyone had the opportunity to engage in physical mobility. Ensuring a high-quality distance learning process and developing the tradition of online courses is also one of the goals of the development strategy in regard to digitalisation and modernization. At the moment these aspects are implemented within two European Structural Funds projects - Development of New Study Programmes for the labour market of the cultural and creative industries sector (No. 220.127.116.11/18/A/018)’ and ‘Development of the Academic Staff of the Latvian Academy of Culture - Investment in Study Quality (No.18.104.22.168.)’ - yet the development of online study courses for foreign students is an activity which we are planning to carry out in a strategic partnership project to be submitted in the next application period of the ERASMUS+ Key Action 2 activity together with partners from Finland and France.
Within the next generation of the ERASMUS+ programme (2021-2027) we are planning to focus on the promotion of blended mobility and short-term mobility opportunities for both incoming and outgoing students in order to increase the total number of mobility students and further explore the possibilities of the ERASMUS+ programme.
The planned schedule for the KA107 and Key Action 2 activities:
In addition to the planned schedule, two project proposals have already been submitted in the 'strategic partnership' and 'sector skills alliance' project call with the Latvian Academy of Culture as the partner organisation (leading organizations - Wrocław Culture Center and the University of Tartu). The LAC has proved itself as a reliable partner and will continue to be involved as a partner organisation in other project proposals, as well as is planning to lead a project in the academic year 2021/2022.