Policy Co-operation operation and Mobility in the European Higher Education Area

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1 Conference on Student Mobility and Recognition of Study periods Abroad Western Balkans EU Ljubljana, October 2010 Policy Co-operation operation and Mobility in the European Higher Education Area Pavel Zgaga University of Ljubljana 1. Introduction With an occasional celebration in Vienna and Budapest on March 2010, the European Higher Education Area was officially launched. Improved recognition, increased co-operation and eased mobility across 47 countries of the EHEA and worldwide as one of key aims. Where are we today and what would we like to achieve? 1

2 1.1 Higher Education: national vs. European : a decade of converging ( concerting, harmonizing ) European higher education systems. Nine centuries ago, University was born as a universal institution. 19 th Century: the industrial age / the appearance of national states development of national HE systems (national HE institutions). 20 th Century: European divisions divisions in HE systems, qualifications etc. recognition issues. End-20 th Century: European coming together a challenge not only for politicians but also for academia. 2.1 Magna Charta Universitatum, UNIVERSITIES - PARTICULARLY IN EUROPE - REGARD THE MUTUAL EXCHANGE OF INFORMATION AND DOCUMENTATION, AND FREQUENT JOINT PROJECTS FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING, AS ESSENTIAL TO THE STEADY PROGRESS OF KNOWLEDGE. THEREFORE, AS IN THE EARLIEST YEARS OF THEIR HISTORY, THEY ENCOURAGE MOBILITY AMONG TEACHERS AND STUDENTS; FURTHERMORE, THEY CONSIDER A GENERAL POLICY OF EQUIVALENT STATUS, TITLES, EXAMINATIONS (WITHOUT PREJUDICE TO NATIONAL DIPLOMAS) AND AWARD OF SCHOLARSHIPS ESSENTIAL TO THE FULFILLMENT OF THEIR MISSION IN THE CONDITIONS PREVAILING TODAY. 2

3 2.2 The Lisbon Recognition Convention, 1997 Article V.1 Each Party shall recognise periods of study completed within the framework of a higher education programme in another Party. This recognition shall comprise such periods of study towards the completion of a higher education programme in the Party in which recognition is sought, unless substantial differences can be shown between the periods of study completed in another Party and the part of the higher education programme which they would replace in the Party in which recognition is sought. 2.3 The Sorbonne Declaration, 1998 A convention, recognising higher education qualifications in the academic field within Europe, was agreed on last year in Lisbon. The convention set a number of basic requirements and acknowledged that individual countries could engage in an even more constructive scheme. Standing by these conclusions, one can build on them and go further. There is already much common ground for the mutual recognition of higher education degrees for professional purposes through the respective directives of the European Union. 3

4 2.4 The Bologna Declaration, Promotion of mobility by overcoming obstacles to the effective exercise of free movement with particular attention to: - for students, access to study and training opportunities and to related services - for teachers, researches and administrative staff, recognition and valorisation of periods spent in European contest researching, teaching and training, without prejudicing their statutory rights. 3.1 Leuven/Louvain-la-Neuve Communiqué, We believe that mobility of students, early stage researchers and staff enhances the quality of programmes and excellence in research; it strengthens the academic and cultural internationalization of European higher education. Mobility is important for personal development and employability, it fosters respect for diversity and a capacity to deal with other cultures. It encourages linguistic pluralism, thus underpinning the multilingual tradition of the European Higher Education Area and it increases cooperation and competition between higher education institutions. Therefore, mobility shall be the hallmark of the European Higher Education Area. We call upon each country to increase mobility, to ensure its high quality and to diversify its types and scope. In 2020, at least 20% of those graduating in the European Higher Education Area should have had a study or training period abroad. 4

5 3.2 Leuven/Louvain-la-Neuve Communiqué, Within each of the three cycles, opportunities for mobility shall be created in the structure of degree programmes. Joint degrees and programmes as well as mobility windows shall become more common practice. Moreover, mobility policies shall be based on a range of practical measures pertaining to the funding of mobility, recognition, available infrastructure, visa and work permit regulations. Flexible study paths and active information policies, full recognition of study achievements, study support and the full portability of grants and loans are necessary requirements. Mobility should also lead to a more balanced flow of incoming and outgoing students across the European Higher Education Area and we aim for an improved participation rate from diverse student groups. 4.1 The Bologna Stocktaking 2009 (BFUG, 2009) 5

6 4.2 Progress in removing obstacles (BWSE, 2009) 4.3 Easy recognition of credits? (BAFL 2010) 6

7 4.4 Full recognition: two thirds only (BAFL, 2010) 4. Lack of recognition remains one of the main deterrents to going abroad for those aiming at academically meaningful mobility. This is also the conclusion of the Erasmus Student Network PRIME 2009 study, which concluded that only sixty-six percent of the ERASMUS students re-ceive full recognition of their studies abroad. Respecting learning agreements, proper implementation of ECTS and diploma supplements and respecting the Lisbon Recognition convention are just a few of the actions needed to remove this significant obstacle for mobility. (BAFL, 2010, 25) 4.5 Easy recognition of credits? (Trends 2010) 7

8 4.6 Trends 2010: some lessons learnt In universities, study abroad periods are most often recognised at the faculty level, while recognition of degrees takes place in the central office. The older [and larger] the institution, the more likely it is that the recognition may take place at faculty level. Unsurprisingly, the larger the institution, the more likely it is that its students have some problems with the recognition of their credits obtained abroad. While 63% of small institutions stated that none of their students has problems with the recognition of credits earned abroad, the corresponding figure for the largest universities was only 26%. 4.7 Trends 2010: internal obstacles identified Lack of understanding or awareness of the LRC on the part of some academics who hold the view that students study periods abroad must correspond strictly to what they would have done at home. Lack of support by academics for a central office that would process study abroad periods with the associated belief that recognition should rest with individual teachers, departments or faculties. Learning agreements viewed as a burden on academics and not always respected when students come back. They can also be a burden for students, some of whom report that they have to turn to each of their professors individually to confirm their agreement. 8

9 5.1 Still different recognition cultures (2009) Within the EHEA the key point is to ensure that there is more transparency about how the Lisbon Recognition Convention is implemented, the processes involved and the criteria for decisions. Not least, there are still different recognition cultures throughout Europe. One of the biggest challenges we face is to develop a common understanding of the concept of qualifications and of possible substantial differences, i.e. how different qualifications may be without there being valid reasons for non-recognition. The existence of quality assurance mechanisms and the linking of degrees to national qualifications frameworks should also contribute to greater trust in issues of recognition. Bologna beyond 2010 (2009), p The Bologna Process Independent Assessment, 2010 The near EHEA-wide implementation of formal Bologna requirements such as the Lisbon Recognition Convention has been a major achievement. There are different interpretations of the notion of substantial differences and other terms and practices around recognition. While room for interpretation is necessary, this does create uncertainty and requires more attention. If qualifications are described in terms of learning outcomes the process of evaluation and recognition will be simplified and better informed thus allowing fairer judgments to be made. 9

10 5.3 Budapest-Vienna Declaration, [ ] While much has been achieved in implementing the Bologna reforms, the reports also illustrate that EHEA action lines such as degree and curriculum reform, quality assurance, recognition, mobility and the social dimension are implemented to varying degrees. Recent protests in some countries, partly directed against developments and measures not related to the Bologna Process, have reminded us that some of the Bologna aims and reforms have not been properly implemented and explained. We acknowledge and will listen to the critical voices raised among staff and students. 10

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