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Active against migration causes: Knowledge Transfer & Network Building in Tunisia

Combating the causes of migration, transferring know-how: Hof University of Applied Sciences supports the establishment of scientific networks in Tunisia and teaches knowledge in the fields of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and mechatronics on site. To this end, Prof. Dr.-Ing. Valentin Plenk, Vice President Research and Development at Hof University of Applied Sciences, has now completed a tour of the North African country. The project is supported by the German Academic Exchange Service and is intended to help improve the economic situation in North Africa.

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Valentin Plenk (center) during his visit to Tunisia; Image: Hof University of Applied Sciences;

Tunisia is still struggling with major economic and social challenges after the “Jasmine Revolution” in 2010/11 for more democracy and co-determination. Unemployment is at a consistently high level of over 15 percent. However, the situation is particularly difficult for university graduates in technical and scientific fields, with unemployment at almost 40 percent.

Tackling the causes of migration

In order to improve this situation with regard to possible causes of migration, the Bavarian state government established the project “Tunisia-Bavaria: Promoting the Employability of Young Students” (ALEJE). Over a two-year period, the Free State of Bavaria supported selected universities in Tunisia, among other things through training courses, in making their courses more practice-oriented and improving the quality of teaching. Hardware and software used to train students was also handed over.

Training courses help improve teaching in Tunisia; Image: Hof University of Applied Sciences;

Establishing a permanent network

Now, with “Automation Robotics Network Tunisia” (ARNT), a follow-up project has started that builds on the knowledge already imparted. The program, which is funded by the German Academic Exchange Service with around 40,000 EUR, aims to establish a permanent intra-Tunisian network with German partners and to improve training in Tunisia. The initial focus here is on the areas of automation & robotics, which are particularly needed in Tunisian industrial companies, and on project-based learning. The core of the newly founded network is formed by the staff of six Tunisian ISETs ( ISET Béjà, ISET Djerba, ISET Gabès, ISET Kasserine, ISSAT Mateur, ISET Touzeur) – and the Hof University of Applied Sciences. The Tunisian ISETs are comparable to the German universities of applied sciences.

Tour and conference

To this end, Prof. Dr.-Ing. Valentin Plenk from Hof University of Applied Sciences visited a total of six Tunisian educational institutions during a round trip in the fall and then organized a conference in Sousse in coordination with the Tunisian partners (conference website: https://arnt-kasserine-iset.tn/). About 100 visitors from a total of 12 Tunisian ISETs participated in this conference

During the lectures and practical units in the fields of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and mechatronics, I made an effort to convey didactic ideas for later teaching in Tunisia in particular and to motivate them to be used.”

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Valentin Plenk

He continues: “The advantage is that 20 percent of the curricula in Tunisia can be changed without the approval of the ministries there. That makes it easier if you want to adopt new ideas.” Malek Khadhraoui, director of network partner ISET Kasserine, echoed the positive conclusion: “The technological exchange in the new network increases the professional competences of all network partners and the exchange of teaching models, laboratory experiments and training concepts improves the soft skills of our students.”

We are certainly getting closer to our goal of providing graduates with significantly improved employment opportunities.”

Malek Khadhraoui, Director ISET Kasserine
During a round trip, Prof. Dr.-Ing. Plenk got to know the contact persons of the Tunisian network partners; Image: Hof University of Applied Sciences

Long-term partnership as a goal

Within the framework of the support program, a 5-day training for selected members of the teaching staff of the ISETs in a winter school (École d’Hiver) will follow, during which Tunisian teachers will impart practical knowledge on selected topics to their colleagues. The network, which was launched, will soon be expanded from 12 to all existing 24 Tunisian ISETs. “Hof University of Applied Sciences aims to establish closer ties with selected ISETs in order to build university collaborations in a region where we currently have no partnerships. In the medium term, I am thinking here not only of academic exchange of experience and student exchange, but also of joint research projects,” said Prof. Valentin Plenk.

More impressions of the Tunisia trip

Rainer Krauß

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