Project Overview

The project title: "Developing an innovative European Sport Tutorship model for dual career of athletes"

Acronyms: "ESTPORT"

Project co-funded by: The European Commission, Erasmus+: Sport, Youth and EU Aid Volunteers

Project number: 557204-EPP-1-2014-1-ES-SPO-SCP

Project period: 01/01/2015 - 30/06/2017, 30 months

Promoter and Co-ordinator: UCAM Catholic University of Murcia, Spain - UCAM Universidad Católica San Antonio de Murcia


The University of Malta, MT  -  L-Universita ta'Malta

The University of Thessaly, GR  -  Panepistimio Thessalias

The University in Rome, IT  -  Università degli Studi di Roma “Foro Itálico” 

The University in Leeds, UK  -  Leeds Trinity University

Europa Community Ltd., UK


>> The Project Overview

The general idea of the project is to establish a collaboration synergy in the field of sport for professional athletes and to establish a network among the universities involved and other parties that are related to the sports development, linking this to a tutorial of the athletes so that they can combine their higher education with professional sports. To do so, this project aims at developing a European “Sport Tutorship” model at Universities that will allow high-level students-athletes further develop their dual career across Europe. The ultimate goal is therefore to facilitate, through the Sport Tutorship, the integration of athletes into the University context, by maintaining their sport career performance. The implementation of this project will contribute to improve the quality of good governance in sport, by reinforcing academic development of high level athletes from European Universities in order to enable conciliation between the sport and professional training activities, and ensuring that high-level athletes are offered quality education in parallel to their sport training and acreer.

The requirements placed on students/athletes in contemporary world sport are such that they need to dedicate themselves more and more to achieving excellence. This immediately implies that most athletes’ time is dedicated towards developing their sporting career, with very little time left to develop other aspects of their lives outside their sport. It is relatively recent that initiatives have been developed in Europe favouring the combination of academic and high level athletic activities. The main driving force behind these initiatives was the acknowledgement of the rising pressures that student-athletes have to cope with in order to balance their academic and sporting commitments. Being a student-athlete has become increasingly more demanding at a time when training volume and frequency of competition have clearly intensified. It is not uncommon for a student-athlete to train for 30 hours per week coupled with a fulltime studying schedule, the workload can quickly equate to 40-50 hours per week. This has immediate implications on the lifestyle of the athlete in terms of time management, required effort and commitment to fulfil his or her role both as a student and athlete. Some universities around Europe have started to acknowledge these challenges faced by their student-athletes and have taken some measures in facilitating this process.


Regarding the difficulties to harmonize studies and sports, we can draw the following conclusions:

  • Sport activity has an important impact on the learning process, as it takes time to deal with solvency the learning tasks, which requires the implementation of additional actions to reduce this negative effect.
  • The students face as key challenges for the alternation between studies and sports the need to meet dates of exams, the methodological adaptation or the evaluation system, the drawbacks to being able to work with classmates and the own stress generated by this dual activity.
  • The acquisition of learining strategies to improve the academic performance is seen as a measure to compensate for the limited time available to the student-athlete for studying, especially at the time of the course when sports activity is intense.
  • Students give great importance to virtual resources (classrooms, emails, etc.) in the educational process, because it allows monitoring of the courses, especially during periods when attendance is difficult because they have to prioritise high competition sport.
  • Improving the capacity of planning is seen as one of the most important skills in order to know how to distribute the activities and tasks in the daily schedule, both educational and sport tasks.
  • Optimizing the pre-university information is another factor to pay attention to, as at the time of attending to University, students only have general academic information (degrees, court notes, assignments, etc.). In this regard, it shows the need for more extensive and accurate information, covering other aspects of the academic student life.


To minimize the impact of those challenges, this project contributes to facilitate high-level athletes’ participation in University studies and manage combined sports and education at tertiary level. Oftentimes, the support provided to athletes lacks formal arrangements specific to them and initiatives only contain a limited number of agreements with educational institutions. The educational systems across the EU do not seem readily adapted to the needs of athletes, as sportspeople overall express a need for more flexibility, lighter study conditions and better study advice.

To address these demands and support a stronger structure to provide a fair access to athletes in sport competitions and into the labour market, there must be a stronger relationship with the educational organisations. Enhanced cooperation and structured dialogue among sport organisations and the academic world could lead to the introduction of small changes that could deliver major positive results across the EU. We therefore foresee an active promotion on increasing the cooperation with education and sport to be created or strengthened and maintained at local, national and European level. Educational institutions should be open for change and should be assisted with guiding principles and potentially structural changes to be able to develop athlete friendly education. This should include human resources who have the skills, knowledge and position to effectively negotiate and implement principles that could assist athletes pursue their dual career ambitions. A broader network could identify and promote educational establishments who have responded to the specific needs of student athletes and enhance the exchange of good practices on a European level.

In conclusion, this project develop a a collaboration synergy in the field of dual career for students-athletes, by developing and implementing a Sport Tutorship programme, so that they can combine thier higher education studies with sports competitions. The ultimate goal is therefor to facilitate, through the Sport Tutorship, the integration of athletes into the University context, by maintaining thier sport career performance. The implementation of this project also contribute to improve the quality of good governance in sport, by reinforcing academic development of students-athletes and sport sfatt, including coaches, tutors and professors.


>> Innovative Aspects of the Project

The Universities provide different types of support for thier elite athletes. We have identified three main areas of support: academic, sporting and also relating to post-athletic career opportunities.

  • Academic support: Extended term-time; Individual study schedules; Alternative access to delivery of courses; Individual tutoring;
  • Sporting support: Scholarships; Professional supporting services; Infrastructure, Elite sport development; Programmes;
  • Post-athletic career: Study grants; Introduction of new programmes; Lifestyle management services.

Where such academic provisions exist student-athletes can benefit from a range of services such as alternative access to delivery of courses for example through e-learning or distance learning, co-ordinate their personal time schedule that allows them to work around their sporting commitment and have other concessions such as flexibility in entry-requirements and permission to attend training camps and competitions during term-time. The problem is that not all Universities have acknowledged these rising needs and the forms of provision towards student-athletes vary a lot across Europe.

  • Some Universities have made considerable improvements in meeting elite athletes’ sporting needs.  By investing heavily in top sport facilities and co-ordinating with Sport organizations to develop elite sport programmes, they make it possible for elite athletes to cope with their sporting and academic commitments more efficiently.
  • Some Universities are also looking beyond the immediate athletic career of elite athletes and are investing in new academic programmes, taking advantage of former elite athletes’ interests as well as labour market requests.
  • Other Universities are offering education grants specifically for retired professional athletes who wish to begin or resume third-level study.


The partners consortium intention is to develop through this project is to integrate in a single "Sport Tutorship" programme all those recommendations and good practice. The high-level sport represents sporting excellence and therefore is considered of interest to the EU and the society, not only by its representative function, but also for its undoubted effect of promotion of physical activity and values associated with it. However, to achieve this, sporting success should be inseparable from academic, social and employment success. We believe this double success, professional and sports, enhances sporting excellence and ensures its effects on society. The consideration of high-level athletes is the result of a long and intense preparation and dedication, which often prevents the construction of alternative life projects that would allow athletes adequate social and labour integration. With this regard, we would like to remark that our project is intended for University students’ high-level athletes to try to respond to some of their education and training needs.

Therefore, based on the above mentioned analysis, our project arise the following aspects:

  • To give the importance of support to students and academic support they receive from staff, the work of mentoring or peer tutoring should be recognised at the top management level;
  • In the frame of combined education and training, there will be a central guidance tutor who can navigate students-athletes to the appropriate service provider in both sports and education and helps them to keep track of their educational process and collaborate with them to solve the problems caused by combining education and sports;
  • The advisor will be supported by a group of experts comprised by the University staff, coaches and professors, as well as stakeholders that appear locally.


For more information about ESTPORT, please see our project overview video