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Posted on Sep 23, 2018 by in Special Issue - ICH & HE |

By 3 Walks and ENCATC




Side event to the Third Meeting of the Stakeholders’ Committee for the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018 (EYCH 2018)

Venue: Hotel NH Milano Congress Centre GARDENIA Meeting Room (6th floor) Strada 2a, 20090, Assago Milan – Italy

Date and time: 5 December, 2017, 17.30-18.30

The Round table “Learning on intangible heritage: building teachers’ capacity for a sustainable future” took place on 5 December, right after the Third Meeting of the Stakeholders’ Committee for the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018 (EYCH 2018) organised in Milan alongside the European Cultural Forum. The session counted with the participation of 28 people, including teaching faculty and representatives of different stakeholder groups, such as government officials, community heritage workers, heritage bearers, communities of practice and other stakeholders on topics related to intangible cultural heritage (ICH) (see the list of participants in Annex 2).

Higher education programmes on ICH: state of the art and challenges

GiannaLia Cogliandro Beyens, ENCATC Secretary General, welcomed the participants and presented the framework in which this roundtable was organized – the UNESCO-ENCATC project “Learning on intangible heritage: building teachers’ capacity for a sustainable future”, implemented by ENCATC under UNESCO’s Participation Programme 2016-2017.

Dr. Cristina Ortega Nuere, Director of 3Walks and Scientific Director of the Project, then presented the provisional results of the mapping and analysis of current programmes offering postgraduate, graduate and undergraduate studies related to ICH in Europe.

While intangible cultural heritage is already integrated in some courses for students of heritage studies, there is a great need for strengthening this component in the teaching and curricula of universities focusing on other related topics, such as cultural management, cultural studies, arts management, or similar.

Roundtable: How to further embed ICH in higher education programmes?

The speakers in the roundtable were:

  • Sneska Quaedvlieg-Mihailovic, Secretary General, Europa Nostra
  • Erminia Sciacchitano, Policy Officer – Culture – Heritage, Economy of Culture -European Commission – Directorate-General for Education and Culture
  • Helena Drobná, Programme Specialist at UNESCO/Culture Sector
  • GiannaLia Cogliandro Beyens, Secretary General, ENCATC

The floor was then opened for the audience to engage in the debate. Some of the ideas raised during this open debate are highlighted here below, in the form of recommendations and ideas to be further reflected on.

Some notes about the current situation

As pointed out by Helena Drobná, Programme Specialist at UNESCO/Culture Sector, – and as confirmed by the mapping carried out in the framework of this project – the situation in the field of education with regard to ICH – and to cultural heritage more generally – is to a certain extent similar to the one lived with cultural management education at the end of the 90s’, and more recently with cultural diplomacy and international cultural relations. In the words of Drobná, “The discourse in the field is running much faster than the course. At the moment, if you want to adapt to the discourse, you are offering something that does not exist yet, but it develops. There was in the 90s’ big hesitation because no one knew what a cultural manager could do, then programmes mushroomed, some of them died and there is now a kind of stable situation. With regard to ICH, UNESCO is trying to intervene at all levels: primary, secondary and tertiary education, as well as vocational training. The idea is to integrate into many different areas – how do you connect to health? How do you connect to agriculture? This is partially a question of language and partially a question of examples, of finding the ways to cross the borders”.

But the small presence of ICH is not only visible in the education field. As highlighted by Sneska Quaedvlieg-Mihailovic, Secretary General of Europa Nostra, there is an overwhelming focus on tangible cultural heritage in the actions of, and among the key stakeholders involved in the celebration of, the EYCH 2018. In her view, “the mapping shows that there is still much to be done, but this responds simply to the fact that the process of recognition of ICH is a recent one (…) [therefore], there is a lot of work to do to embrace integration between tangible and intangible cultural heritage”.

As it was also expressed by the Secretary General of Europa Nostra, “the roundtable brought the topic of the role of universities back to the table of the debate” that had been held during the day at the Third Meeting of the Stakeholders’ Committee for the EYCH 2018.

Some initiatives in place

By way of example of the efforts towards the integration between tangible and intangible cultural heritage, since a couple of years ago, Europa Nostra awards are also being received by ICH projects. UNESCO, on its turn, has developed training on the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, which are available at least in two languages on their website. They are accessible for free to everyone to use them[1].

Some participants in the audience also explained some initiatives being promoted for the further insertion of ICH into higher education programmes. Agostina Lavagnino, representative of the Lombardy Region, presented a case study: the creation of a regional ICH inventory, which has been used by the Design Department of the Polytechnic University of Milano as a tool for students, who developed exhibitions starting from intangible elements, combining the tangible and the intangible. This is an example of cooperation between universities and other key stakeholders for the awareness-raising and safeguarding of ICH.

As explained by Mirena Staneva, Expert on Programs and Projects at the Regional Centre for the Safeguarding of ICH in South-Eastern Europe (UNESCO Category 2 Centre), a university network is going to be created in 2018. Its goal is to map the universities in South-Eastern Europe who are teaching ICH, as well as to create an information exchange network between universities, for them to share information on how they teach ICH. Finally, the network will try to pool the resources of the universities and use them to collect and analyse information about the policies in place in the field of ICH.

Challenges and opportunities

With regard to the insertion of ICH in the educational field, Andrew Murray, Director of EUNIC, highlighted the need to take the conversation to the university level. That, he continued, due to the fact that ICH is such a transversal discipline, intersecting with architecture, anthropology, arts, etc. However, at this moment, the issue of (too much) specialization can become a real obstacle, given the current development status of the field. With very specific BA or MA programmes, “students are afraid that they are specializing in something that is too rare, or even non-existing in terms of job market. There is a need to open the market for people who are already in the educational system, so that niches are created where professionals on ICH or cultural heritage are needed, and hopefully in the future that can lead to the development of BA programs”, he expressed. Interest in specialised MA degrees not only in ICH, but in cultural heritage in general, is still very low. A participant put the example of his university getting less than 100 clicks on programmes in cultural heritage after BA level, of people “potentially” interested on pursuing such a programme.

From the side of opportunities, Sneska Quaedvlieg-Mihailovic, from Europa Nostra, pointed out the huge potential for cross-border cooperation, since universities, particularly within Europe, are already collaborating among them and there is room for more collaboration. Furthermore, universities are willing to help and further enhance collaboration – Sneska put the example of the Catholic University of Louvain, which was asked to be a “leading university partner” for the EYCH 2018 and willingly accepted. She also highlighted how much we can gain from having UNESCO, the EU and European institutions working together on some policy and strategic recommendations, as this UNESCO-ENCATC project is a proof of.

As a further challenge, Erminia Sciacchitano, Policy Officer at the EU’s Directorate-General for Education and Culture explained that the EU always walks “on the edge of subsidiarity”. That can be particularly problematic in the field of education – more than in the field culture –, with the EU not being able to design the curricula or determine the kind of contents that should be included. That is why there is not explicit reference to this from the side of the EU, but this is being worked in other ways.

As a final recommendation, Sneska Quaedvlieg-Mihailovic, from Europa Nostra, reminded that in autumn 2018 some policy recommendations are expected to be developed for ministries of culture and education within the European Initiative no. 8 “Skills for Heritage: enhancing education and training for the traditional and new professions”[2]. She suggested that recommendations emerging from the mapping could be translated also, within this initiative, into concrete actions for a holistic, integrated approach to tangible and intangible cultural heritage in universities programs. “It is important to take advantage of this momentum, when universities are going to cooperate more and there is a willingness from the EU to bridge education and culture, to pass some important messages on the necessity of more coherence in programmes and more cooperation between universities”, Sneska added.

[1] For more information, check

[2] For more information, check