27 year old Marta Rodrigues is the new Policy and Project Officer of EURASHE. Get to know her better through this interview, where she shares her views about EURASHE, inspirations, and interests.

Hello Marta, could you introduce yourself to the EURASHE network, who are you?  

In a few words, I am motivated by building relations and links between people. As an empathetic person, I enjoy meeting new people, places and cultures and value the potential of learning from others. I have graduated in Sociology from the University of Porto, the city where I lived most of my life. I have always been fascinated by social change and the mechanisms developed by societies to adapt more and more quickly to new situations. My studies in Sociology are the scientific basis for the identification and understanding of such transformations, in the light of theoretical currents, as well as methodologies and techniques applied to social sciences. Without a doubt, my academic background continues to play a central role in my life! 

What experiences from your previous jobs will help you in this new role? 

My overall professional experience is pretty diverse: it goes from policy and projects at local, national, EU and Euro-Mediterranean levels, to public, private, non-profit and international organisations. After I finished my MA in Sociology and a thesis focusing on modalities of social exclusion, I started working on project development in the area of youth, social inclusion, and social economy. I came back to project development later in Higher Education and Research in Barcelona, where I worked in the area of political diplomacy and bilateral relations between Portugal and Spain (particularly in Catalonia). From there, I moved to Brussels where I dedicated myself to EU policies on disability and social inclusion. More recently, I had experience in policy and advocacy for social affairs and local and regional development. All of this is briefly summarized in knowledge and experience on relevant policy areas, EU policymaking processes, the functioning of international organisations and relationships with members. I believe I can build on these previous experiences for making the most of my current role. 

After a few days in EURASHE already, how do you see the organisation?  

EURASHE has been making History in the Higher Education Area, being part of several memberships and partnerships, and one of the organisations of the E4-Group. Membership’s commitment is, in my view, one of the biggest strengths of this association, alongside the large involvement in many relevant topics as higher education, research, vocational training and quality assurance. 

Professional Higher Education has a high potential contribution to building back better towards Recovery and Resilience in Europe! I perceive EURASHE as unique in the sense that it is leading work and representing universities of applied sciences, university colleges, polytechnics and national and sectorial associations of higher education institutions. 

What are your main goals as the new Project and Policy Officer? 

As the new EURASHE Policy and Project Officer, I am eager to get my hands dirty! My goals are to meet the objectives of the projects EURASHE plays a role in and promote effective improvements in the areas of action. Also, to contribute to the EU policymaking process in the area of Higher Education, while proving the added value of being EURASHE’s members. 

Under a co-creation process – together with the Secretariat, members and project partners – I aim to work towards fairer and resilient digital and green transitions that will influence our next generations! 

What are the first tasks you are working on?  

Concerning policy, I have been updating myself on the EU policy developments in the area of Higher Education, skills, research and innovation, particularly the Bologna structures, the Digital Education Strategy and the upcoming EU strategy in support of universities. As part of this policy update, I have been representing EURASHE in online and physical events on the role of HEIs in innovation, quality assurance and skills development. Together with EURASHE Secretariat and its members, I have been contributing to the development of a renewed EURASHE strategy. Moreover, and since my start, I have been digging into projects EURASHE is currently involved as a partner to learn and contribute to them and have an outlook. It has been challenging but exciting to be so entrusted with the day-to-day work of the association. 

EURASHE is embarked on a few European projects. What is your most important message for the project Partners?  

My main message to project partners is to trust that our involvement and outputs can, indeed, impact and improve the functioning of HEI, and VET sectors, the Quality Assurance System, and learning acquisition and skills development! 

What are the main challenges facing Higher Education Institutions?  

Higher Education was one of the sectors particularly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, Higher Education Institutions have proven their capacity to adapt to challenges as digitalisation and the need to develop and implement innovative pedagogies for the upskilling that fit this “new reality”. In this context, such institutions also encompass the challenges related to the inclusion of students from disadvantaged backgrounds, while also guaranteeing the support and mobility of researchers and educational staff. There is further work to do in this area, where PHE institutions play a key role in upskilling and contributing to fair green and digital transitions. In this sense, Higher Education, VET and training systems need to be further adapted and strengthened to support lifelong learning. 

Tell us, what is your biggest inspiration? 

My parents are my biggest inspiration! I thank them for my education, mainly for teaching me to respect others and that effort always pays off! Also, the power of societies to rapidly adapt to new circumstances. 

How does a perfect day for you look like?  

A day at the beach or visiting a beloved or a new place can definitely, change my mood and boost my energy! To make it perfect it would be shared with loved ones! 

A wish? 

I wish positive ideas and political commitments are activated and turned into real actions for providing better opportunities both for people and the planet. 

A song? 

“Esse Olhar Que Era Só Teu” – Dead Combo