NORTEAS network internationalizing arts students

NORTEAS is a network of Nordic and Baltic theatre and dance institutions of higher education. The network has a long history in working together and includes partners from all the Nordic countries as well as from Estonia and Lithuania. The large size of the network enables taking turns in coordination and allows flexibility for participating in activities and enables the participating universities to explore new perspectives.

Cooperation and defined roles as a key to success

NORTEAS network consists of 15 universities from seven Nordic and Baltic countries (Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Lithuania, Norway and Sweden) and has a rotating responsibility for coordination where each institution leads the network for two years. An annual network meeting gathers the institution’s headmasters and coordinators together to discuss strategic aims and topical thematic issues. A smaller group, Fantastic four, coordinates the network’s financial and administrative matters, and activates cooperation in the network. Fantastic four has one coordinator and three members and it has helped NORTEAS to successfully manage the tasks and to engage partners. “Networking is very beneficial to theatre and dance institutions due to the often small size of the institutions” Jonna Sundberg from Theatre Academy of the University of the Arts Helsinki specifies.

From pilot to permanent - Nordic common studies study model

NORTEAS network launched a pilot in Nordic common studies, where students from all network institutions can apply to a week-long intensive course held simultaneously at participating institutions. “The model for the initiative was adopted and modified from our university’s good practices” Jonna Sundberg reveals. The Nordic common studies courses have proven to attract a diversity of students and to be an important form of internationalization, as especially drama students might experience language hindrances in longer mobility periods. The participating institutions handle the student selection themselves and Nordplus Express mobility funding is used for the students’ mobility.

Strategic focus succeeds good cooperation

After positive results from the Nordic common studies, the network started to focus on more strategic and sustainable cooperation. The next large initiative was themed around children’s theatre in 2013-2014. Lecturers, who normally do not go on international exchange, were enthusiastically involved in the planning, realization and evaluation. The activities started with a theme seminar for lecturers on children’s theatre in Denmark in spring 2013 and during the next academic year many courses around the theme were organized. The year ended with a SUMIN summit in Viljandi, Estonia on the first of June 2014. There one could observe the end results of the theme courses held, watch others’ performances and reflect on them. This initiative was a great way to uplift an important theme to the spotlight at the institutions, but also to the general public that was present at SUMIN.

Positive student experiences and easy collaboration

Short mobility periods can be a terrific stepping stone to an increased interest in a longer exchange period. Jonna Sundberg confirms that “a week’s intensive mobility period at a partner institution abroad often awakes the student’s interest in participating in a longer mobility period”. In their feedback on their experiences of the Express mobility periods, the students regard sharing own experiences and building their networks as the most important things. Students also appreciate the versatile cooperation of the network. For example, the Bubble Land course where special props were made in bubble shape was highly appreciated by the students and would have been very unlikely to realize without NORTEAS. “It is innovations like this that we gain when we share, learn and develop together” says Jonna Sundberg.

Successful cooperation requires joint goals, planning and distribution of responsibilities. It helps to have smaller working groups that concentrate on specific tasks in a large network. Cooperation between the institution’s international and administrative coordinator is important. Jonna Sundberg describes cooperation with Nordic and Baltic colleagues as being natural and open, which facilitates the students’ and teachers’ experience as well as enables successful internationalization.