Strategic Plan 2017-2022
Department of Political Science and International Relations,
Epoka University’s Department for Political Science and International Relations (PIR) was founded in 2008, being one of the first departments of Epoka University accredited by the Albanian national higher education authorities. The Department’s student body is composed of around 80 students. Each year the PIR enrols 30-35 new students. The PIR offers degrees in three study cycles, including Bachelor, Master, and PhD. The language of all study programs is in English. The studies are fully compliant programmes with the requirements of the higher education in Albania as well as with the Bologna process and European Credit Transfer System.
1. Mission: What kind of study programs does it provide? General approach to education, research and service? Rationale for its existence?
The PIR’s mission is to train a new kind and highly skilled leaders by setting standards in academic content and quality of teaching. Only a short period of time is required to effect great change in this day and age. In this light, the PIR’s faculty and staff are committed to:
· equip students with the skills they need to deal with contemporary issues,
· provide advanced academic training to students, and
· promote research at the highest level.
2. Context: Challenges?
Today's societies face great structural changes. One development, among others, is of central importance: the emergence of new forms of governance within state and society. There is an increased demand for innovative problem solving across all sectors. Facing these challenges, future leaders from all countries and societies, dealing with public affairs in state administration, in business and in civil society need to be better educated and trained. PIR devotes itself to this task. In Tirana, Albania, students are only a short distance away from an extraordinary range of opportunities, many of them tailored to suit the interests of the students and professionals.
3. Vision: Where the Department wants to be by 2022?
By 2022, PIR aims to significantly advance its student numbers and teaching, learning environment, research and management of the department. In doing so, PIR imagines itself in 2022 to the venue for the study of political science and international relations in Albania. To achieve this vision, PIR commits to increase student numbers, maintain and increase the quality of enrolled students, internationalise student body further, strengthen the quality of teaching, learning and research, and increase the satisfaction of our students and staff. This will enable PIR to move to a position where we can differentiate ourselves uniquely and convincingly. This Vision provides the direction and framework for us to make such a transformation by 2022.
4. Sources? Human, financial and infrastructure instruments for the achievement of the strategy.
The PIR possesses 9 full-time academic staff members: One Associate Professor; Four lecturers with PhD degrees; Two PhD candidates; a lecturer and two teaching assistants with master degrees. It also has an administrative coordinator. PIR also engages qualified part-time academic staff. The PIR benefits from University’s allocation of resources for research, including for independent research and for attendance to research conferences. It also benefits from University services such as Admission Office, Registrar’s Office, Library and facilities such as rooms for lessons and seminars, computer labs and study rooms. The department enjoys just enough financial income from students’ fees to be able to afford for its salary and other costs.
5. Achievements from the last period (Since the establishment of Epoka)
Achievements have been made in the students, staff, networks, teaching, research, and brand/market standing. The PIR graduates and alumni have had high employability rate. Number of them has continued their master studies with scholarships awarded by some west European or North American universities. PIR’s Staff members have grown in number and quality. New faculty members have been hired and existing lecturers with masters have obtained their doctorate degrees and a professor with doctorate degree has obtained his associate professorship. Currently, the department size stands with 10 full-time staff members (9 academic and 1 administrative). Of the 10 staff members, 5 are women. PIR’s part-time academic staff consists of lecturers with University Professorship, Associate professorship, PhD degree and PhD candidate. In terms of networks, the PIR has expanded its partnerships with other universities. Its sound teaching quality is one of the academic strength of the PIR and its relevance relies on ability to continue to deliver outstanding education and teaching. The professors completed their PhD studies in Albania, France, Germany, and UK. Substantial majority of academic staff is consisted of members who are fluent in English and proficient in Albanian. The professors specialize in Political Science, International Relations and security studies, Conflict Resolution, Democratization, and Diplomacy. They have managed research projects and published papers in peer reviewed journals with impact factor. Nevertheless, it remains more to be done as regards improvement of research reputation of PIR. The PIR’s brand/market standing or image has been reinforced and enhanced as there has been general improvement of the Epoka University’s and of Albania’s image as the venue for obtaining a quality higher education. The PIR takes pride in these achievements and it gives a confidence that the department will continue to grow and prosper over the next six years.
II. Priority Areas – Themes
Looking ahead six years, this Strategic Plan will provide continuity and reaffirms our continuing commitment to excellence in following five themes:
· Theme 1: Provide a high quality environment for teaching and learning.
· Theme 2: Recruit, educate and graduate a high-quality and diverse undergraduate student body.
· Theme 3: Recruit, educate and graduate a high-quality and diverse master student body.
· Theme 4: Recruit, educate and graduate a high-quality and diverse PhD student body.
· Theme 5: Provide a high quality environment for research.
Theme 1: Provide a high quality environment for teaching and learning.
The PIR provides a teaching and learning environment in line with the contemporary best practices. The teaching consists of lectures, seminars, presentations, projects, essays, exams, internships and quizzes. All of these have helped the students to be prepared better for their further studies and for their career prospects. However, the teaching and particularly learning environment is not at the level expected from the department, as learning opportunities besides the lessons are very limited. The PIR will need to take vigorous steps in the next six years to improve the teaching quality and provide a quality environment of learning for students.
Specific goals for the Theme 1
Goal 1.1. Increase the skills of the academic staff in teaching and learning.
Goal 1.2. Encourage the promotion of the academic staff in their academic titles (from masters to PhD to associate professorship to university professorship) and retain the existing faculty staff.
Goal 1.3. Ensure that PIR possesses policies that relate to socialization of the staff and for integration of the new staff members.
Goal 1.4. Increase the research productivity (i.e. publications with impact factor) of the faculty.
Goal 1.5. Make greater use of adjunct or part-time teaching faculty.
Goal 1.6. Extend the global reach of the PIR by expanding international activities in teaching and learning.
Goal 1.7. Ensure that the faculty has needed access to university infrastructure as regards the teaching, including classrooms, facilities, IT, visualization and others.
Goal 1.8. Ensure that syllabi and course materials are contemporary, multidisciplinary and coherent.
Goal 1.9. Extend extra-curricular learning opportunities for students.
Measures in order to reach mentioned goals under Theme 1.
M1.1. Provide training sessions on active-learning teaching methods for academic staff.
M1.2. Have faculty with University Professorship title; increase the staff members with associate professorship; and assist the staff members with master’s degree to obtain their PhDs.
M1.3. Make plan for annual activities for socialization of the staff and for integration of the new staff members.
M1.4. Launch research programmes with potential for publications and provide training sessions on paper writing and publishing methods and techniques.
M1.5. Study and make recommendations for action on how to make greater use of adjunct or part-time teaching faculty.
M1.6. Apply to mobility programmes such as Erasmus + and have teaching staff and students attend mobility programs with other universities and attend or deliver lessons/seminars in other places.
M1.7. Hold a guidance session annually with full and part-time academic staff members on how to make greater use of technology available for teaching.
M1.8. Update and review the syllabi annually before the end of the year.
M1.9. Maintain and extend the internship program with adoption of annual plan that includes timeline for what to do activities; launch an annual plan for seminar series and open forums; and make the student seminars particularly of those of third grade of master/PhD open to the whole Epoka community.
Theme 2: Recruit, educate and graduate a high-quality and diverse undergraduate student body.
The number of student enrolments to PIR according to Epoka University’s standards has been low, but much better in national terms when compared with other universities in Albania offering degrees in political science and/or international relations. 23 students were enrolled to the PIR’s freshman class in 2016, about 10% year on increase and about 15% international students. Increasingly the entering class has become stronger, with better average and more diverse. Perceived difficulties as regards the “profession” of political scientist or of a graduate of international relations as being “no profession” is often questioned and there are questions in the minds of the potential students as regards the “employability” chances after finishing the PIR. The PIR’s student numbers are second lowest in the Epoka University and PIR aims for higher number of students. Since 2008 the freshmen pool has ranged between 11 and 30. But, even maintaining the current number is not possible without high quality in teaching and research. For the PIR to be able to attract more students we must reach out better to potential students, continue to listen very carefully to our students and enhance student life and student satisfaction.
Specific goals for the Theme 2
Goal 2.1. Offer innovative undergraduate degree programs.
Goal 2.2. Add new undergraduate students, so that the target size of the entering class per year is in the range of 30-35.
Goal 2.3. Enhance the reach to new potential students.
Goal 2.4. Give our undergraduates specialized skills that would facilitate their employment and continuation of their studies in graduate level.
Measures in order to reach mentioned goals under Theme 2.
M2.1. Propose new innovative undergraduate degree programs, including Law and Politics and Political Economy.
M2.2. Cooperate closely with Admission Office; review the points mentioned to visiting potential students; regular update of PIR website; enhance the information at PIR website for undergraduate studies and for this purpose prepare leaflet on Master study programs; produce a video on studying at PIR; and get training on convincing potential students for enrolment.
M2.3. Launch workshop (Lead the Future) for high school students to be held in spring annually.
M2.4. Offer an expanded array of information sessions, trainings, mentoring programs, and forums where the students would be involved in organizing them.
Theme 3: Recruit, educate and graduate a high-quality and diverse master student body.
The PIR provides three study programs at the Master's level: 1. Master of Science in political science and international relations, 2. Master of Science in European Studies and 3. Professional Master in political science and international relations. In 2016, the PIR's new master student enrolment was 6, a small percentage growth. There have been no enrolments in 2016 to Master of Science in European Studies and to Professional Master in political science and international relations. Increasing the master student population and improving the quality of teaching and research at master level are priorities.
Specific goals for the Theme 3.
Goal 3.1. Offer innovative master degree programs.
Goal 3.2. Add new master students, so that the target size of the entering master class per year is in the range of 10-15.
Goal 3.3. Enhance the reach to new potential students.
Goal 3.4. Give our master students specialized skills that would facilitate their employment and continuation of their studies at PhD level.
Goal 3.5. Establish a new scheme for scholarships to the master students in order to attract talented master students from Albania and from abroad.
Goal 3.6. Offer an expanded array of opportunities for master students to be engaged in research projects and publications as an attraction to students to choose PIR for their master studies.
Goal 3.7. Provide new learning opportunities for students.
Measures in order to reach mentioned goals under Theme 3.
M3.1. Propose new innovative master degree programs, including Master programme in Public Policy and Administration.
M3.2. Cooperate closely with Admission Office; review the points mentioned to the visiting potential students; enhance the information at PIR website for master studies and for this purpose prepare a leaflet on our Master study programs; produce a video on studying at PIR; and get training on convincing potential students for enrolment.
M3.3. Launch annual workshop for students from other universities to be held in spring annually.
M3.4. Offer an expanded array of information sessions, trainings, mentoring programs, and forums where the students would be involved in organizing them.
M3.5. Offer scholarship scheme in the form of 50% decrease in the tuition fee for specific category of students, including Epoka graduates, employees of the state institutions in Albania, applicants working at the civil society organizations and NGOs in Albania, and for applicants from neighbouring countries, including Greece, Italy, Kosovo, Macedonia and Montenegro.
M3.6. Include master students in research conducted by the faculty.
M3.7. Establish double or joint degree programs and Erasmus + mobility programs with other universities in Europe.
Theme 4: Recruit, educate and graduate a high-quality and diverse PhD student body.
The PIR offers a PhD study programme in the field of political science and international relations. In 2015, the PIR had its PhD program reviewed by international faculty and by the national accreditation authorities. It went successful. The evaluation was positive and accreditation was received. In 2016, the PIR's doctorate student enrolment was 4. The rate of enrolment is highest at Epoka. To meet the expectations of the PhD students, the PIR needs to be ready to offer quality teaching, research and learning opportunities for doctorate students. Only associate professors can supervise the PhD students and currently the PIR has only one full time staff member with an associate professorship; and each professor can have maximum two candidates for supervision. With these rules in place, the PIR has no internal absorption capacity to meet the needs of all PhD applicants. Therefore, it will need to rely on part-time or external faculty for supervision of PhD students.
Specific goals for the Theme 4.
Goal 4.1. Offer quality teaching and supervision to PhD students.
Goal 4.2. Maintain the level of enrolments at doctorate level, so that the target size of the entering doctorate class per year is in the range of 4-5.
Goal 4.3. Enhance the reach to new potential students.
Goal 4.4. Establish a new scheme for scholarships to PhD students in order to attract talented PhD students from Albania and from abroad.
Goal 4.5. Offer an expanded array of opportunities for PhD students to be engaged in research projects and publications as an attraction to students to choose PIR for their PhD studies.
Goal 4.6. Provide new learning opportunities for students.
Measures in order to reach mentioned goals under Theme 4.
M4.1. Increase the number of associate professorships at the PIR and reach out to external faculty with associate or full professorship and increase the opportunities for co-supervision.
M4.2. Enhance the information at PIR website for PhD studies and for this purpose prepare a leaflet on our PhD study program.
M4.3. Launch annual workshop for master students from other universities to be held in spring annually.
M4.4. Offer scholarship scheme in the form of 50% decrease in the tuition fee for best applicants.
M4.5. Include PhD students in the PIR’s research programs and in research conducted by the faculty.
M4.6. Establish double or joint degree programs and Erasmus + mobility programs with other universities in Europe.
Theme 5: Provide a high quality environment for research.
While over the years number of publications by PIR’s faculty has increased, the number of overall publications and specifically with impact factor is very limited. The faculty benefits from financial assistance provided by the University for attending research conferences, assistance for research projects and the faculty that have had publications receive financial compensation. Despite these incentives, the progress as regards research outputs has not seen growth and does not always compare well with other departments at Epoka. Vigorous research and paper writing efforts will be needed over the next six years to enhance our research and academic standing as a department. Improving our standings in research and publications benchmarks makes PIR to have more welcoming environment in the eyes of students, staff, alumni and stakeholders.
Specific goals for the Theme 5
Goal 5.1. Engage in research and increase the number of research outputs.
Goal 5.2. Promote the PIR research outputs.
Goal 5.3. Encourage the faculty to be active in research networks.
Goal 5.4. Encourage the faculty to share the results of their research with a broad audience.
Goal 5.5. Provide an environment that is supportive of research conduct by the faculty and enhance the teaching – researching balance.
Goal 5.6. Encourage joint research and publications by the PIR’s faculty members.
Goal 5.7. Provide opportunities to faculty members to acquire new skills in research and publications.
Measures in order to reach mentioned goals under Theme 5.
M5.1. Launch new research programmes or research clusters and increases the number of publications (2 papers per faculty per year, one of which with an impact factor publication).
M5.2. Ensure that CVs of the faculty in PIR website include info on publications by PIR faculty.
M5.3. Make a list of research networks and encourage the faculty to become a member and apply for 5 research projects.
M5.4. Increase by 50% number of research conferences attended.
M5.5. Make use of Epoka University's platforms, such as forums, talks, lectures and symposia as a space for scientific exchange and the transfer of knowledge.
M5.6. Launch 5 joint research ideas among the PIR faculty.
M5.7. Provide training sessions on research and publications methods for academic staff once a year and make a review of the Epoka’s Library resources as regards the PIR.