The application of the “Church of Cyprus Theology School (THEO)” has been selected for the award of the Erasmus Charter for Higher Education (ECHE). The award was announced to THEO on the 15th February 2017. By applying for this Charter, our institution has committed itself to implementing the activities funded by the Erasmus+ Program in line with the fundamental principles of the Charter and to publish the Erasmus Policy Statement of our institution on our website.
Erasmus Policy Statement (Overall Strategy)
THEO is a newly founded Higher Educational Institution that opened in September 2015 in Nicosia under the auspices of the Archdiocese of Cyprus. At the present time it comprises one Faculty of Theology with 13 first-year and 18 second-year students. Within the next few years THEO plans to open new faculties as well as postgraduate programs.
THEO is still at the early stages of its development but it looks into the future, listens to the needs of the island and tries to fill in the gaps of all cultural or social bridges. At the crossroads of Europe and the Middle East, THEO’s geographical location is optimal for the development of strong and beneficial relations across the borders.
In THEO, we believe that higher education is a power for open-mindedness and positive behaviors and that it makes a significant intellectual and cultural contribution to the world. We are committed to international excellence through the creation of innovative research programs and high quality teaching, within an inclusive academic culture. Besides, THEO seeks to inspire its students and staff to develop their full potential in a dynamic environment. To that end, internationalization, exchange programs and international experience stand as its highest priority.
Through the research activities of its academic staff at European and international level, THEO already maintains strong ties with numerous universities across Europe and the Middle East in various fields (Liturgy, History, and Psychology). Diversity and openness are the key words of THEO’s international strategy. THEO encourages the development of academic-led initiatives and projects, disseminating information about new opportunities and promoting good practices in all aspects of its international operations and strategy. The RIRO was created to institutionalize, support and expand this existing network in close relation and dialogue with THEO academic staff.
The main prerogative of the RIRO is to promote mobility and exchange agreements among partner institutions whose academic staff have collaborated or will collaborate with THEO in the form of visiting lectures, workshops and/or research projects. When a prospective partner university initiates an inter-institutional agreement, its proposal will be first evaluated by the RIRO according to set criteria (i.e. quality assurance, consistency with the programs). Proposed agreements will be reviewed by the devoted Office and eventually be presented to the RIPRC for approval. Each agreement (European and non-European) is to be signed by the Director of Research, registered in the School database and communicated among the academic staff at the General Assembly of each Department.
Partner Institutions are chosen based upon their strategic fit with THEO in terms of academic programs, teaching and research priorities, language of instruction and on the potential that a sustainable partnership model will be achieved, with respect to balancing inward and outward student mobility as much as possible. We look into programs of studies that our students are eligible to attend without difficulties in adapting in the new learning environments. At the present time, THEO is considering a cooperation with a number of Faculties of Theology (mainly Orthodox but not exclusively) located in Europe and participating in Erasmus+ Programs like Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Austria, Germany, France, Finland and third countries’ institutions located in Russia, Lebanon and the US. We also look for partnerships with institutions that offer innovating and unique courses that are not offered by our institution and can complement our teaching programs. In turn this strategy will also benefit prospective incoming students who will have the opportunity to broaden their perspectives by attending our programs. Relying on the basis of a fruitful cooperation, reciprocal trust and a mutual exchange of good practices, THEO seeks for long-term inter-institutional agreements that comply with, not only its own needs as a small and newly founded institution, but with the needs of all potential partners.
Our students are the primary target group for our mobility activities. In the perspective of its 4-year BA program, THEO encourages students’ mobility for studies as well as for placement in the framework of the “Practical experience in primary and secondary schools”, which is a prerequisite for their graduation (duration: one semester). Besides student placement and studies mobility programs, we aim at promoting faculty and staff mobility among the personnel of our School, especially training mobility both for academics and administrative staff that would contribute in enhancing their knowledge and skills and instill in them the motivation and desire to share the outcomes of their experience abroad with their colleagues and students.
Expected impact of our participation in the Erasmus+ Program on the modernization of our institution
THEO supports the EU Modernization and Internationalization Agenda for Higher Education, while the Erasmus Charter for Higher Education is integral to the realization of its institutional goals, plans, strategies and aspirations. THEO is committed to international cooperation first of all through the creation of open-minded citizens of a modern world. Equity, social cohesion and active citizenship are core values expressed in our institutional strategy and define our approach to international engagement. Learning mobility and capacity building projects will contribute to improve staff and students’ skills, modernize our teaching system and in general our institution and create better partnerships between the EU and education systems across the world. Precisely, we are convinced that European and international collaborative partnerships, mobility and cross-border cooperation will enhance creativity and innovation at all levels of education and training. By promoting intercultural dialogue and enhancing communicational skills, THEO students will be better prepared to face the challenges of today’s world and THEO staff will be fully equipped to respond to those needs, dispensing educational material and resources more efficiently and effectively.
The Modernization Agenda for higher education sets five key priorities for higher education in the EU that THEO intends to pursue:
- Increasing the number of higher education graduates
As part of the Europe 2020 strategy, EU leaders have set a target; 40% of those aged 30-34 should have a higher education degree or equivalent qualification by 2020. In THEO we support and encourage this target group to enroll and complete studies that will not only contribute to the fulfilment of their personal aspirations, but also and most of all will help them to find their way in the labor market.
- Improving the quality and relevance of teaching and learning
High quality and relevant higher education is a priority for us. THEO has a rigorous system of internal quality assurance, assessed by Quality Assurance Agencies which make external checks. International cooperation will enable THEO to develop innovating learning approaches and teaching methods that will provide its students with valuable skills like flexibility, adaptability, organization and initiative.
- Promoting mobility of students and staff and cross-border cooperation
In THEO we believe that going abroad to study or get trained helps people develop their professional, social and intercultural skills and increase their potential and efficiency. Developing these forms of mobility schemes and cross-border cooperation will ultimately help to improve THEO quality at an educational level (learning outcomes, teaching methods), in research and in administrative functioning.
- Strengthening the “knowledge triangle”: linking education, research, and innovation
THEO aims at strengthening the ties between higher education and professional activities. THEO BA in Theology includes one semester of traineeship (in educational institutions) for all students. Furthermore, regarding the field of research, THEO aims for implementing a partnership with the Ministry of Education and Culture in order to collaborate with primary and secondary school teachers. Within the framework of the Erasmus+ Program THEO will have access to a wider range of opportunities and will enable it to set up, submit and present new research programs in collaboration with partner institutions around the world.
- Creating effective governance and funding mechanisms for higher education.
THEO is an autonomous institution that made it a priority to focus on innovation and fruitful outcomes at all the levels of its functioning (administrative, teaching / learning, and academic). Through the Program, THEO intends to seek for and provide diversified sources of funding for international projects and research broadening the perspectives at a national level and across the borders.