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European funded project brings modern teaching and learning methods to Moldova

Six Moldovan universities, four universities from the EU and six associated partners from Moldova currently work together to introduce new teaching and learning methodologies and methods to the Moldovan academic staff and students.

The competitiveness of Moldovan students is diminishing; the employability rate is decreasing. One way to mitigate this negative trend is by improving quality of higher education study programmes and introducing new teaching and learning methodologies and methods to Moldovan Universities.   

That is the philosophy behind the project “Introducing Problem Based Learning in Moldova: Toward Enhancing Students' Competitiveness and Employability”/PBLMD project. The aim of the project is to improve the quality of teaching and learning methodologies and higher education programmes in Moldova - while enhancing their relevance for the labour market and disadvantaged groups in the society. 

It is a national, capacity building project funded by the Erasmus+ programme Capacity Building for Higher Education. The project involves students, academic staff and higher education institutions in five countries: Moldova, Great Britain, Germany, Sweden and Denmark as well as Moldovan key stakeholders. 

From October 2015 to October 2018, these project partners work together to develop and implement six study programmes for Moldovan and international students. 

At universities in Moldova teaching is still very teacher-centred and focused on the transmission and recall of knowledge from teacher to individual students. The new, redesigned study programmes will be based on and introduce new teaching and learning approaches: student-centred learning, active learning and Problem-Based Learning (PBL).

Need for change

Aalborg University in Denmark, AAU, is the principal applicant and lead partner of the PBLMD project. The project coordinator is Dr Romeo V. Turcan, associate professor of International Business and Entrepreneurship at AAU: 

Romeo V. Turcan

”Our overall aim is to improve the quality of higher education programmes in Moldova so they become more relevant for the labour market, also internationally - and more accessible for disadvantaged groups in Moldova”, says Romeo V. Turcan. 

Romeo was born and raised in Moldova and also went to school there. His higher education took place in Riga, Latvia (Eng. Diploma) and in Glasgow, Great Britain (MSc and PhD). He was introduced to Problem-Based-Learning for the first time when he started visiting AAU in 2007 as a lecturer. 

The need for change in Moldovan higher education, which includes new student-centred PBL, active teaching
and learning methodologies, was among the conclusions in an earlier EU-funded project that Romeo V. Turcan coordinated. The project is called “The structural TEMPUS project - Enhancing University Autonomy in Moldova”/EuniAM.  Applying for the PBLMD project was a natural follow-up, Romeo V. Turcan explains:

”The findings from our EUniAM project showed that the overall quality and efficiency of higher education institutions in Moldova was declining: Moldova has 29 universities (for a population of 3 million), of which 19 are state universities. On average, the number of students declines with 5-9% per year due to a large exodus of prospective students going off to study in the EU". 

Quality and employability of graduates were also declining, according to the EUniAM project. On average only 20-22% of graduates were able to find a job immediately after graduation: 

“All this demonstrated that the teaching, learning and research infrastructure was poor, and to mitigate these trends to a degree prompted the development of a project on enhancing teaching and learning methodologies and methods”, Romeo V.Turcan explains.

Organising the project

Romeo V. Turcan discussed his idea with colleagues and the management at AAU, who supported it. And when he pitched the idea to the rectors of six state universities in Moldova, that the EUniAM project recommended to keep in the higher education sector in Moldova after rationalisation, restructuring and modernisation of the sector, the response was positive. 

Together with the future national coordinator of the project, Romeo V. Turcan met with each rector personally and discussed the idea of the project in detail: 

“Each rector accepted to become a member of the project consortium, assigned a lead contact person at each university and selected one of the existing BSc programmes as a pilot to get redesigned in the project”. 

Furthermore, Romeo V. Turcan approached colleagues from the Royal Institute of Technology and the University of Gloucestershire – already partners in the EUniAM project – and the University of Siegen as a new partner, who also expressed an interest in the idea. The chosen EU partners are similar to AAU, as they all have a long tradition of implementing student-centred teaching and learning and offer a good mix of problem-, enquiry-, and project-based learning methodologies and methods.  

The applying process

Romeo V. Turcan and AAU and the project partners decided to apply for Erasmus+, the EU's programme that supports education, training, youth and sports in Europe. 

”From a large variety of support programmes that Erasmus+ offers, we submitted the project application to the Key Action 2: Cooperation for Innovation and the Exchange of Good Practices – Capacity Building in the field of Higher Education. Our project application met all the requirements of this instrument, hence it was natural for us to target it", Romeo V. Turcan explains. 

In the applying process Romeo V. Turcan made the first draft, got feedback from the partners, and support from the funding office at AAU. The work on the application started eight months before the submission deadline. 

“It requires a lot of conscious commitment to write such application as it takes a lot of time and effort away from other activities – just consider that the length of our project application was about 120 pages long, which is close to the average. And there is a high level of competition. We received all the funding we applied for, which is very rewarding”, says Romeo V.Turcan.

Erasmus Mundus studerende

Students at the centre

Six pilot bachelor study programmes – BSc in Law, BSc in Public Administration, BSc in Software Engineering, BSc in Business Administration, BSc in Business Administration and Entrepreneurship and BSc in Medicine – will be redesigned at the Moldovan universities implementing student-centred approaches to teaching and learning, PBL or EBL methods. 

“From our experience at AAU, we expect that the introduction of these innovative teaching methods will make these programmes more relevant for business, economy and society, as they bring students closer to the real world, for instance by facilitating and nurturing cooperation between universities, businesses and team work culture. They also encourage cross-disciplinary problem-based research and involve students from non-academic families", Romeo V. Turcan explains.

Support to student mobility

The Moldovan academic staff and university management will also need training, before they use the new methods in their teaching in the new programmes, which will be implemented as of September 2017. To facilitate this training process and to ensure that the new teaching and learning methodologies become part of the universities’ strategic development and continuous update of the staff skills, there is a staff mobility strand built into the project. 

“Each Moldovan partner has the  possibility of supporting 15 staff members going abroad to EU project partners in order to learn these new teaching, learning approaches and methodologies first hand. The EU partners can send five staff members each to Moldova to engage in co-teaching and further training of local staff, and I applied for additional staff mobility to support the project and received an extra 10 staff mobilities for AAU". 

Support to student mobility is also built into the project. Each study programme in the project has 30 student mobilities. Student mobility will commence in the autumn of 2018. It is difficult to say how many students will be enrolled in each of the six programmes, but Romeo V. Turcan expects that there will be a huge interest in the new study programmes from prospective students.

Intense project management

The first year of the programme has been rather intense for Romeo V. Turcan and his fellow partners. It was necessary to design and implement a series of workshops, study visits to and from Moldova, as well as the planning of staff mobility to EU project partners – all aimed at training the Moldovan staff in new methodologies and methods, and support their efforts in redesigning their pilot study products.

Different teaching and learning methods are currently being considered to fit Moldovan higher education, and this has required a lot of research, according to Romeo V. Turcan: 

“At the beginning of the project, we developed a benchmark methodology that has been employed by the Moldovan teams to analyse and compare teaching and learning methods of EU partners as well as critically evaluate our own internal teaching and learning methods. Based on this benchmark exercise, the teams are developing PBL-based, student-centred, active learning study programmes and curricula so they are ready before implementation in autumn 2017”. 

It is a complex project centred around eight work packages that define in details the actions to be undertaken and the deadlines to adhere to by the project partners and project management in order to complete the project. Each work package’s specific objectives and set of activities are geared towards clear defined deliverables: 

“On a regular basis, we involve over 60 academic staff members from Moldova and approximately 20 academic staff members from EU project partners in various project activities. Each Moldovan partner has two development teams: one responsible for the development of the study programme and one for the pedagogical training programme. Each team has a mentor from the EU project partners”. 

Nationally the project is coordinated by the national coordinator with whom Romeo V. Turcan coordinates all activities and plan at the local level. 

At AAU, Romeo V. Turcan has Financial accounting support dealing with all financial and formal reporting, and project management support dealing with daily operations and coordinating activities between EU project partners and the national coordinator. 

“Efficient coordination, communication and delegation of responsibilities as well as transparent decision making are key factors for the successful implementation of the project”.

A steering committee is essential

The project is governed by a steering committee that is formed by one representative from each project partner. The steering committee is responsible for approving the work plans and respective budgets, following and monitoring the project to ensure that the project’s activities are carried out as set out in the Grant Agreement.

At the same time, ongoing project evaluation and quality assurance are ensured by two external quality auditors. 

Associated partners, such as the Ministry of Education in Moldova, Agency for Accreditation and Quality Assurance, business associations and other key stakeholders, are pivotal to the success of the project. Romeo V. Turcan states: 

“As necessary and as applicable, they support the development process of the study programmes making sure they are relevant and fit for the purpose”.

How to get started

Even with the best planning and management, the first phases of a project of this size will be very time consuming. It is important to be aware of this factor from the very beginning, states Romeo V. Turcan: 

“The success of a project is actually ensured during the application process. This is when the problem identified is translated into a project opportunity.

During the application process, a vision for the project is developed, envisioning where the project should be in three years’ time, how to get there and what outputs and outcomes can be expected and how to ensure sustainability after the project ends. 

This is when you share your vision with your potential partners to build mutual trust and affirm their commitment, which is vital to the success of the project.

When the project implementation starts, the vision for the project allows the partners to design detailed action and implementation plans with detailed guidelines as well as respective and specific deliverables”. 

“Efficient coordination, communication, delegation of responsibilities and transparent decision making are the key tools that support the process. And of course all the above is impossible without personal conscious commitment”, Romeo V. Turcan underlines. 

About the PBLMD project

Designs and implements six Bachelor programmes at six higher education institutions in Moldova:

  • BSc in Business Administration (BSc-BA, AESM)
  • BSc in Information Technology (BSc-IT, TUM)
  • BSc in Law (BSc-Law, MSU)
  • BSc in Public Administration (BSc-EPPA, USARB)
  • BSc in Entrepreneurship and Business Administration (BSc-EBA, USC)
  • BA in Medicine (BA-MED, SUMPh) 

The total budget of the project is €1,544,760, of which €657,275 is for student and academic staff mobility. The project runs for three years from October 15th, 2015. 


A consortium between four EU and six Moldovan universities and six associate partners in Moldova is formed:

EU partners are:

  • Aalborg University (AAU), Denmark
  • Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Sweden
  • University of Gloucestershire (UOG), the UK
  • University of Siegen (USIEGEN), Germany. 

Moldovan partners are:

  • Academy of Economic Studies of Moldova (AESM)
  • Balti State University “Alecu Russo” (USARB)
  • Cahul State University ”Bogdan Petriceicu Hasdeu” (USC)
  • Moldova State University (MSU)
  • State University of Medicine and Pharmacy “Nicolae Testemitanu” (SUMPh)
  • Technical University of Moldova (TUM). 

Associate partners are:

  • Ministry of Education (MoEdu)
  • Moldovan Association of ICT Companies (ATIC)
  • National Agency for Quality Assurance and Accreditation (NAQAA)
  • National Agency for Quality Assurance in Professional Education (ANACIP)
  • National Council of Student Organizations of Moldova (NCSOM)
  • Organisation for Small and Medium Enterprises Sector Development (ODIIM).

AAU is the principal applicant and lead partner of PBLMD project. Romeo V. Turcan is project coordinator:  Romeo V. Turcan, rvt@business.aau.dk, http://personprofil.aau.dk/116727

Project websites

About Capacity Building for Higher Education

  • Under Erasmus+ ”Den internationale Dimension”.
  • Understøtter projekter, der bidrager til kapacitetsopbygning på videregående uddannelsesinstitutioner og i lande uden for Europa.
  • Tilskud søges centralt hos EU-Kommissionen.
  • Næste ansøgningsfrist er i foråret 2018. 

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Senest opdateret 24. januar 2024