Summary of the project

Comprehensive goals


HERD: Higher Education for Social Cohesion – Cooperative Research and Development in a Cross-border area


01. June 2011. – 30. November 2012. 


Higher education for social cohesion


The investigated cross-border area is characterized by common history of economics, society and education. However, the inescapable political and economic path of the last decades resulted not only in a disadvantaged, peripheral status but such a degree of social inequality, cultural diversity, regional fragmentation and general distrust that prevented it from sizing opportunities and challenges.

As member states of the EU, the area was given the possibility to solve this situation, although it is apparent that a dynamic engine is necessary for development. Since higher education is capable of providing such an inspiration in several European regions, we have been examining the role of higher education in the region’s social and economic transformation and the degree to which expanded higher education is capable of answering those regional social demands that it is inspired to undertake. The current research project interprets the role of higher education in terms of its function in supporting social cohesion, its contribution to establish common social knowledge that is based on recognizing and harmonizing individual and collective interests and the ability for cooperation.

The concept of social cohesion is part of that social-theoretical tradition that states that the cooperation of members of a society, the conscious engagement of individuals, groups and organizations, the recognition of their mutual dependence and the acceptance of ignoring short term self-interests as norm are all able to decrease the effects of structural and cultural diversities present in ever complex societies. The public sphere has established a pressing need for re-defining the functions of higher education, thus the social-theoretical concept of social cohesion became an up-to-the-minute slogan used by international organizations and it turned into a firm belief that the dual and interacting aim of higher education is to increase individual and collective well-being.

This teleology is interpreted through the effective and adequate answers given to the problems of local societies due to its local and regional embeddedness. Although economic welfare is a chief component of well-being, it is unable to develop it alone, thus achievement in higher education is definitely determined by non-economic factors as well.

This raises numerous important questions:

  • The type of training goals fulfilled by the different levels of restructuring higher education; the degree to which the short term goal of training labor force fulfills the holistic concepts of achievement that targets graduates’ well-being; or whether institutional utilitarianism is capable of overcoming its momentary economy-driven self-interest in the region.
  • To what degree does it ensure the admission of a wide range of social groups, that is, to what extent is it capable of reducing the effect of disadvantaged external conditions, how much does it restructure the region’s society and transmit prosocial norms towards that society?

During our research, we wish to examine the degree to which higher education fulfills this expectation with the help of various dimensions of achievement in an area at social and economic disadvantage.




Rationale and background

There have been scientific, research contracts between the sociologist’s workshops at the cross-border area for decades. We started to establish contact before joining the European Union primarily with research teams at higher educational institutions in Romania with Hungarian tutorial language that were interested in education research. CHERD was established in 2007 and since then, it has been coordinating such cooperation activities. We have been connected to the University of Oradea and Partium Christian University at research-level since 2005, for example, the role of higher education in young people's integration in the EU. The aim of our institution's research projects was to investigate the opportunities of tertiary education in the area at the Hungarian and Romanian border. We wished to reveal whether the institutional network fulfills its related function by meeting regional social demands. Our research projects were conducted in several phases 2002-2003.

Objectives (general and specific) 

There are two main goals of the research. First, we wish to describe and assess the transformations in the higher education area following the Bologna process and second, we wish to offer local, regional and nation-wide policy solutions for these problems.

Cross-border character and  impact

The examined area is a historical, geographical unit. There are numerous social phenomena in this latent intellectual-cultural unit. The main problems are the situation of the area's society and that the parts of the area are seperated from each other. Within the target area, there can be big variety between the micro-regions. There are differences in the indicators of economic development, school system chances, social security and public culture as well. These factors lead to a huge migration in the area. These are the result of the interest in the achievement of educational benefit primarily. Cooperation is based on sibling settlements, thematic associations and the Euro regions as well. Project work is ensured with the participation of both partner institutions at research teams and workshops. Our project contributes to the strengthening of cross-border cooperation and the promotion of more efficient higher education.

Target groups:

The primary target groups include students at the partner institutions.

 The aim of the project is the common development of higher education in the cross-border region. Students at the higher educational institutions of the area belong to the direct target group in the following order: Baptist University, BBTE Department of Szatmárnémeti, Kölcsey Ferenc Reformed Teacher Training College, College of Nyíregyháza.

 Although the research is conducted among the cross-border region's students, the decision-making organizations are also realized beyond the project. The cross-border region's employers may also serve as additional target groups, as we conduct a survey among them as well, and we strengthen the relation between labour-market characters and higher educational institutions.

Short summary of the project activities, responsible partners and timeframe:

We wish to examine the labour market, assess social capital, social-structural challenges, the developing potential of the region and the educational and occupational opportunities in the region as well.

Enumeration of the activities



1. project promoter activity

1. project promoter activity

2. management activity

2. management activity

3. communicational activity

3. communicational activity

4. research activity

4. research activity

Project results:

We organize six workshops to summarize the results concerned and to review  additional research activities. At these workshops, we wish to discuss results with research teams' participation in a researcher, expert circle. Research teams summarize their results in partial studies, from which altogether six studies are to be born.

We organize a conference to inform the wider public about the aims of the project. The analyses will be bilingual (Hungarian-Romanian) and we wish to publish them in volumes (2 conference volumes, 2 volumes of studies), and we aim to publish those in English, too. Besides, we prepare vocational recommendations for higher education politicians.

Sustainability of the project:

The validation of recommendations formulated in the course of the project means the maintenance of project results. University of Debrecen aims to apply the results revealed in the course of the research in the program of teacher’s training. These new elements will affect students as well. 

The partner organizations declare that from private resources, the results are insured in the next five years. The project's vocational, financial and organizational sustainability will be assured.  The two organizations undertake to keep a regular contact above, at common meetings, conduct additional common analyses concerned, and prepare a common study. The partners will assist the Center of Higher Education Research and Development institution under the maintenance period.