Needs Assessment Project


From the Civic Education Project Newsletter, Volume 1, Number 1, Winter 1994/95

The Civic Education Project is about to launch an ambitious project aimed at assessing the current state of higher education reform in the social sciences, and identifying the most pressing needs of universities in these areas, throughout CEP's 12 countries of operation in Central and Eastern Europe and the NIS.

This new project builds upon the highly successful model of CEP's earlier Book and Journal Donation Assessment Project, which concluded in June 1994. That project, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, was designed to assess the impact and effectiveness of U.S. public and private book and journal donation projects, particularly those directed at higher education and advanced research in Central and Eastern Europe. CEP lecturers, assisted by their students and local faculty colleagues, conducted over 700 in-depth surveys of university officials, librarians, faculty, students and local NGO representatives throughout the region.

The results of these surveys revealed that a lack of follow-through, combined with a diversion of resources, and restrictions on access to donated materials weakened the impact of even the most well-conceived donation programs. Also, and perhaps most importantly, the study revealed a frequent mismatch between the materials available for donation (determined often by supply-side factors such as publisher overstock) and the most pressing needs of the target institutions. (Copies of the final report of this Assessment Project are available from the CEP New Haven office or from the CEP Internet site.)

The new, and larger, Needs Assessment Project is designed to mobilize, once again, CEP's extraordinary resource of 112 faculty teaching at 59 universities in 12 countries (along with hundreds of their students and local faculty colleagues) to gather systematic information that can help Western organizations and governments target their assistance to educational reform in the new democracies of Central and Eastern Europe more effectively. CEP lecturers, who spend a year or more at their host university, develop a substantial understanding of the impediments to reform and work closely with local colleagues who can offer different perspectives on crucial educational issues.

The Needs Assessment Project will focus in particular on the social sciences and related fields. Its goal will be to develop a detailed baseline assessment of the current conditions and most pressing needs of the region's universities in such areas as faculty retraining, curriculum reform, restructuring of degree programs, development of research capacities (both human and physical resources), development of professional associations and networks, and the use and impact of technology, including on-line resources and the Internet.

Although there have been many general studies of and conferences on the situation of higher education in Eastern Europe, little is known from the micro-level about the constraints on educational reform and the progress made by East European universities over the past three years.

The deans, university lecturers, and students who seek to improve social science education are rarely asked what challenges they face, what their greatest needs are, or what changes in government policy, and forms of foreign assistance, would provide the most effective support for their reform efforts.

In order to gain an enhanced awareness of the region's needs, the structure of the project will center on survey research as well as case studies from the region. The study will take place during the 1995-96 academic year. In addition to several hundred surveys of university officials, faculty, students, and others in the region designed to amass detailed quantitative and qualitative data on currrent conditions and needs, the study will include detailed consultations with other Western organizations, both public and private, engaged in assistance to higher education reform in the region.