Win-win: VHL Erasmus+ project with Kosovo
In the Western Balkans there is very limited infrastructure and almost no education in the field of (waste) water treatment. Consequently rivers are being polluted by the emerging (dairy) industry. Van Hall Larenstein University of Applied Sciences (VHL) is specialized in both dairy technology and sustainable water technology. Within the framework of VHL's Centre of expertise of Water Technology VHL was asked in 2015 by a Dutch NGO and a company to become involved in projects in the Western Balkan to set up an infrastructure for education, applied research and collaboration with the local food/ dairy and water treatment companies to help solve the problems.
VHL contributed to these projects with her expertise in education and applied research at the request of local companies, the University of Mitrovica "Isa Boletini" (UMIB), and Dutch organizations and companies. Soon it became clear that for the further development of the expertise of both staff and students of UMIB and VHL, a more intensive collaboration between universities would be crucial. For this an ERASMUS+ project has been developed and it started in 2016. It has offered the Dutch and Kosovo students and staff the opportunity to exchange knowledge and experiences. The Dutch and Kosovan students have worked together with the Dutch and Kosovan companies to develop innovative solutions for the problems in Kosovo. A total of 3 teams of Dutch Food technology students supported by Kosovan students, and supervised by the Dutch and Kosovan lecturers have analyzed the production processes of different dairy factories in Kosovo and have done suggestions for optimizing them. This has resulted in clear economic benefits for the companies involved. At the same time Dutch environmental students have analyzed the waste water flows and have designed and installed a waste water treatment unit. And thus helped solving the pollution problems.
Starting in 2019 Dutch and Kosovan staff, Masters students and “MBO” and BSc.- students will work together to develop new products from whey and so further enhance the economic possibilities of the dairy industry and solve the related environmental problems.
By joining the work of the Dutch students in Kosovo and taking courses in The Netherlands the Kosovan students have developed their professional competences. As a result most of the students involved now have a (part-time) job for a dairy company next to their studies. Both students and staff of UMIB have learned how to work in a competence based educational context and have develop additional educational and technological skills. The staff has taken home the skills to further improve and develop their own programs in Food-and Water technology.
Another result of the ERASMUS+ project is the establishment of a joint venture between 2 of the Dutch students that were in Kosovo and a Kosovan Dairy Company, together with a Dutch Dairy company they are going to introduce a traditional Kosovan dairy product to Dutch market. Because Kosovo cannot export dairy products to the EU, the Kosovan company will prepare peppers and export them to The Netherlands, the Dutch company will combine these with a cream and produce a dairy spread. Thus enhancing the labor market for both Kosovan and Dutch workers!
All in all it has been a great opportunity to work in a country where all interventions of staff and students for both the Dutch and Kosovan companies can make a real difference in solving concrete problems. This ERASMUS+ project has enhanced the existing collaboration between universities and companies and has supplied a broader base for further collaboration in the Balkans, both for education and applied research for Dairy Technology and Water technology!