TUNING USA: Echoes and translations of the Bologna Process in the US higher education landscape

As noted in two earlier GlobalHigherEd entries (‘Bologna: beyond 2010 and over the Ocean – but where to? On new Bologna reports and C. Adelman’s last essay‘ by Pavel Zgaga; ‘Tuning USA’: reforming higher education in the US, Europe style‘ by Susan Robertson) the US-based Lumina Foundation is sponsoring an action-oriented project (TUNING USA) on the relevancy of Europe’s Tuning process for the US higher education system. Lumina is working in association with the states of Indiana, Minnesota, and Utah.

As noted on the key Tuning website (run by Bologna Process follow-up group members at Universidad de Deusto and Rijksuniversiteit Groningen but sponsored by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Education and Culture):

TUNING Educational Structures in Europe started in 2000 as a project to link the political objectives of the Bologna Process and at a later stage the Lisbon Strategy to the higher educational sector. Over time Tuning has developed into a Process, an approach to (re-)designing, develop, implement, evaluate and enhance quality first, second and third cycle degree programmes. The Tuning outcomes as well as its tools are presented in a range of Tuning publications, which institutions and their academics are invited to test and use in their own setting. The Tuning approach has been developed by and is meant for higher education institutions.

The protection of the rich diversity of European education has been paramount in Tuning and in no way seeks to restrict the independence of academic and subject specialists, or undermine local and national authority.

Tuning focuses not on educational systems, but on educational structures with emphasis on the subject area level, that is the content of studies. Whereas educational systems are primarily the responsibility of governments, educational structures and content are that of higher education institutions and their academic staff.

As a result of the Bologna Process the educational systems in all European countries are in the process of reforming. This is the direct effect of the political decision to converge the different national systems in Europe. For Higher Education institutions these reforms mean the actual starting point for another discussion: the comparability of curricula in terms of structures, programmes and actual teaching. This is what Tuning offers. In this reform process the required academic and professional profiles and needs of society (should) play an important role.

The Tuning process is a fascinating lens through which to examine multiple dimensions of global regionalisms (including interregionalism) and the transformation of higher education. It is through ‘echoes’ like TUNING USA that the process unfolds in all its complexity. One component of this is the translation process, with new translations of the Tuning process emerging (e.g., see Anne Corbett’s take on this in ‘A European view of the new Adelman report on the Bologna Process‘). As Corbett notes, and as is evident in European policy debates, these translations feed back across the Atlantic to key centres of calculation (especially Brussels), helping to legitimize the Bologna process, while also generating ideas for its refinement. The feedback process is occurring via workshops on both sides of the Atlantic, the circulation of reports, international collaborative research projects, and also the consumption of complementary forms of communication including this illuminating 10 minute video titled Tuning: A Tale of Adventures in Learning (link to it via the title in my sentence, not the screengrab below):

In this context it is worth thinking about how the Lumina Foundation has translated Europe’s Tuning process, and how this “Indianapolis-based, private, independent foundation” is pushing forward its US-focused reform agenda through the use of Tuning, though adapted (hence the state-based pilot projects) to take into account the unique nature of the US higher education landscape.

The “echoes” noted in the Zgaga report (Looking out: The Bologna Process in a Global Setting) continue apace, making any examination of Bologna’s field of influence and relations a rather complicated yet entirely worthwhile endeavor.

Kris Olds

 

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5 thoughts on “TUNING USA: Echoes and translations of the Bologna Process in the US higher education landscape

  1. Kris, important topic, thank you. For those interested in other admnistrative aspects, I wrote about a completely different aspect of Bologna late last year – the Process’s eventual effect on alumni relations in European higher education. The posting is a mini-interview with two experts who work in international strategic development for higher education:

    http://www.alumnifutures.com/2009/11/bologna-alumni-relations-one.html

    It seems to me that people in the US not already involved with international student flows, or with curricular and governance reform, remain completely unaware of Bologna or the changes it brings to Europe.

    I will post the second part of my mini-interview on the topic on Monday (February 1, 2010) FYI.

    Thanks.

  2. Thanks for the comment and link Andy…I know people are grappling with the alumni relations issue in European institutions (and not just universities (e.g., the European Commission is thinking about it too)) so thanks for the pointers!

  3. Pingback: Global regionalism, interregionalism, and higher education « GlobalHigherEd

  4. Pingback: Searching for the Holy Grail of learning outcomes « GlobalHigherEd

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