Advocacy Establishment for Students through Ombudsman Position (AESOP)
Background: The implementation of the Bologna system in Azerbaijan has ushered in a new era of students’ involvement in their own educational decisions. Now students have the responsibility to take initiative in managing their academic careers, but they lack the resources to deal with problems arising along the way. Unfortunately, Azerbaijani universities have not developed consistent or democratic systems for student advocacy in administrative issues (specifically including academic appeals, disciplinary appeals, complaints, emergency financial aid requests, or health-related concerns). When universities overlook these issues, they neglect to protect students’ rights.
This project will learn from the experience and best practices of European universities in the area of student advocacy, specifically including the common practice of employing a “neutral” (free from other work responsibilities or conflicts of interest) ombudsperson as a resource who can listen to student issues and direct them through appropriate procedures to resolve them fairly, consistently, and efficiently. The project will implement its findings in Azerbaijani universities through the creation of a Student Advocacy Office in each university headed by a full-time, trained ombudsperson who will offer training and support services.
This project will improve the administration of the Azerbaijani partner universities, enabling them to implement the Bologna Process not only as a formality but in the full sense of the spirit of the Process, giving students access to the democratic processes that are used to make decisions about their education.
Objective: Development of Student Advocacy Offices in Azerbaijani universities will remove obstacles to the academic process and effectively protect students’ rights.
- Written materials (training guide, website) on student advocacy systems created
- Student Advocacy Office (SAO) established in each university in agreement with internal university procedures
- Ombudsperson from each university trained
- Key staff and faculty from each university trained on student advocacy procedures and SAO functions
- Hold kick-off meeting with all partners
- Conduct needs assessment (survey) in Azerbaijani partner universities
- Identify best practices in the area of student advocacy and ombudsperson offices based on the experiences of the EU partners
- Prepare and e-publish training materials in student advocacy for Azerbaijani universities
- Prepare guidelines on students’ rights and responsibilities
- Prepare guidelines on administrative and academic staff rights and responsibilities
- Establish Student Advocacy Office in each Azerbaijani partner university
- Run pilot training program in student advocacy for faculty and administration of one Azerbaijani partner university
- Disseminate results on project website for the benefit of all universities in Azerbaijan and the region
- Run training programs in student advocacy for students and staff in all Azerbaijani partner universities
- Manage quality control and monitoring of project
- Ensure sustainability of project (Student Advocacy Offices continue to function through universities and offer services)
- Organize final meeting