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The project “Pilot courses in Practice Enterprise to implement the University-Enterprise Cooperation for the development of Caspian Area (PICASP)” was funded by the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EUCEA) within the Erasmus+ programme, in its section on capacity building in higher education.

Its main beneficiaries are the Caspian countries of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Russia, specifically the universities located there. Respectively: Azerbaijan University of Tourism and Management and KHAZAR University, both in Baku; Almaty University of International Business and Caspian University of Technology and Engineering in Aktua; Volgograd State Technical University and Astrakhan State University.

The aim of the project is to create a pilot study program at the above-mentioned universities. The main idea is to abandon the traditional educational model based on outdated assumptions and rigid division between teacher and students. The new pilot program will be based on the best available practices, for the selection of which the European partners are responsible. Strong emphasis will be placed on entrepreneurship and SME management issues.

A priority sector of the project is tourism and therefore issues related to cultural heritage and its protection. This, in turn, fits perfectly with the strategies for diversifying the economic development of the region, whose economy is largely based on the exploitation of fossil fuels.

Carefully selected local economic actors will be actively involved in the framing of the new programme, and their main task will be to provide information on market needs in terms of skills and knowledge necessary for future students.

In turn, the network of European universities (from Poland, Lithuania, Italy and Germany) in this project will support the implementation of pilot courses in Asian partners, verifying their sustainability and implementability in other partner countries. This will have a positive impact not only in terms of economic activity but also in terms of organizing higher education in line with EU standards. Moreover, it will have a positive impact on the economic prospects of the Caspian region as a result of the implementation of the Sustainable Development Policy related to the construction of the New Silk Road.

Although all partners are involved in the implementation of the entire project, its various stages are coordinated by a pair of institutions – one European and one Asian. The Center is pleased to cooperate with the Azerbaijan University of Tourism and Management, organizing the first stage of the project implementation.

This project, like many others, was written before the pandemic and therefore a great emphasis was placed on the mobility of research staff and the organization of internships and workshops in all partner countries. In the present situation we are left with only online meetings and preparing everything possible for the time when we will be able to travel freely again. Which, hopefully, will be soon.