Making Sense of Euro MOOCs

Note: please link here for the Inside Higher Ed version of this article should you with to print it or share it more broadly.

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Our European MOOCs in Global Context Workshop (19-20 June 2013 @ UW-Madison) went very well, in my biased opinion.  The event was kicked off by a provocative and well-crafted keynote lecture by George Siemens of Athabasca University. As I noted in the workshop webpage:

Siemens developed and taught (with Stephen Downes) the first ever ‘MOOC’ in 2008, and is one of the world’s leading experts on MOOCs. Siemens is an educator and researcher on learning, networks, analytics and visualization, openness, and organizational effectiveness in digital environments. He is the author of Knowing Knowledge, an exploration of how the context and characteristics of knowledge have changed and what it means to organizations today, and the Handbook of Emerging Technologies for Learning. Knowing Knowledge has been translated into Mandarin, Spanish, Persian, and Hungarian. Siemens is the Associate Director of the Technology Enhanced Knowledge Research Institute at Athabasca University, leading the learning analytics research team. Previously, he was the Associate Director, Research and Development, with the Learning Technologies Centre at University of Manitoba. Siemens is also the co-founder of the newly established MOOC Research Initiative (MRI) which is being funded by the Gates Foundation.

An integrated slide/video (with captions) of Siemens’ keynote is available here for your viewing pleasure:

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See below for those of you interested in Siemens’ slides, minus the audio/video element:

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Siemens is a very informed analyst/practitioner/interlocutor regarding MOOCs, and it is a pleasure to engage with a person who clearly sees the pros and cons of the fast evolving MOOCs phenomenon, and especially the importance of viewing them from multiple perspectives (from the pedagogical through to the political-economic). I also recommend that you take a look at his reflections on his talk (‘Neoliberalism and MOOCs: Amplifying nonsense’) via the elearnspace blog, which includes this statement:

In recent presentations, I’ve been positioning MOOCs in terms of the complexification of higher education…. The argument is simple: Much of today’s economy is knowledge-based. In a knowledge economy, we need to be learning constantly. Universities have failed to recognize the pent-up demand for learning as the economy has diversified and society has become more complex and interconnected. As a consequence, the internet has contributed by creating a shadow education system where learners learn on their own and through social networks. MOOCs reflect society’s transition to a knowledge economy and reveal the inadequacy of existing university models to meet learner’s needs.

Following a perfectly timed (weather-wise) reception on the rooftop of our Education Building, we spent a full day engaging with the MOOCs phenomenon from a range of perspectives.  Michael Gaebel of the European University Association (EUA) and I laid some context for the day’s discussions. Michael’s slides are available here:

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It’s worth noting that Gaebel is in charge of the EUA’s task force on MOOCs.

We then heard from representatives of EdX (Howard Lurie) and Coursera (Pang Wei Koh) about the ‘Place of Europe’ in their emerging global strategies. While there was a lot of information conveyed in these two informative talks and Q&A sessions, it is clear that Europe plays a very important part in the global strategies of EdX and Coursera. European universities are increasingly interested in engaging with these two platforms, and in so engaging with the platforms European universities are simultaneously altering the DNA of said platforms.  European universities bring with them particular understandings and approaches to online education, lifelong learning, credit transfer, inter-institutional cooperation, outreach/public service, governance, and capacity building. The linguistic dimensions of the MOOCs on offer have helped these two platforms grapple with multiple language matters both in Europe, but also in the vast post-colonial worlds Europe has footprints in. Indeed there is a structural logic for engaging with European universities in the early phase of truly global platform development as US universities are unilingual.

DillenbourgJune2013We then dug deep into the Euro MOOCs theme via a fascinating talk by Pierre Dillenbourg who spoke about the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne Experience with MOOCs (Situated in the European Context). While we never recorded his talk, see below for his informative slides, as well as another of his presentations from an early June Euro MOOCs summit:

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Linda Jorn (UW-Madison) and Pang Wei Koh (Coursera) ably responded to Dillenbourg’s informative presentation. Dillenbourg and others at EPFL are active and critically engaged practitioners regarding MOOCs. Their work with MOOCs seems to be situated in historic perspective, and taken very seriously regarding course vetting and development and learning analytics. It is no surprise, then, that EPFL is an emerging centre of dialogue and debate regarding European MOOCs. As noted in the photo of Dillenbourg above, their philosophy regarding MOOCs is it is “Better be an actor than a spectator.

A large panel discussions was then held regarding Emerging European Institutional Perspectives on MOOCs. Minister Antonio de Lecea (European Union), Michael Gaebel (European University Association), and Fernando Galán Palomares (European Students’ Union) spoke about the MOOCs phenomenon from their particular standpoints, and then Roger Dale (University of Bristol), Susan Robertson (University of Bristol), and Barbara McFadden Allen (Committee on Institutional Cooperation) responded with insight from equally diverse perspectives.

The final session involved Revisiting ‘Disruptor, Saviour, or Distractor: MOOCs and their role in higher education.’ Some time to digest Siemens’ keynote talk the night before, to get to know each other a little more, and to learn along the way, generated a variety of fascinating (I’m biased, I know, but they were!) reflections on the theme of European MOOCs in Global Context.  Amongst the many important points raised, three stand out in my mind a few weeks later while writing this summary up.

The first is that there is genuine interest in the MOOCs phenomenon in Europe. MOOCs have captured the imaginations, for good and for bad, of key European higher education stakeholders. This interest is partly driven by the US-led MOOCs juggernaut which is generating some angst and concerns in Europe. So yes, there is some concern about an initial U.S. domination of the MOOCs landscape, and the discourse about MOOCs. This said, there are many other reasons the MOOCs juggernaut is generating interest in European quarters. There is, for example, a long history of online/distance education in Europe and the MOOCs phenomenon both supports and destabilizes this movement and these historic players. European institutions of higher education also have advanced digitalization (for lack of a better word) and open education resource agendas underway on a number of levels and the MOOCs agenda has potential to sync in well with these. And European HEIs are being asked to do more and more to enhance opportunities for lifelong learning, and to build ties with alumni, and MOOCs have some potential uses on these two fronts.

Second, the global dimensions of the MOOCs phenomenon articulates in fascinating ways with the both the intra- and extra-dimensions of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA). MOOCs have some potential to encourage virtual mobility across European space, to build understandings of how different European universities approach teaching and learning, and to share research expertise and strengths via open online courses. MOOCs, be they offered via European or non-European platforms, also enable European universities to reach into other world regions, often in languages other than English. In other words, MOOCs have some untested potential to enhance the building of interregionalisms – an agenda that has been underway since the global dimensions of the formalization of an external dimension to the Bologna Process was spurred on, in May 2005, when the Bergen Communiqué was issued. The Communiqué included the following statement:

The European Higher Education Area must be open and should be attractive to other parts of the world. Our contribution to achieving education for all should be based on the principle of sustainable development and be in accordance with the ongoing international work on developing guidelines for quality provision of crossborder higher education. We reiterate that in international academic cooperation, academic values should prevail.

We see the European Higher Education Area as a partner of higher education systems in other regions of the world, stimulating balanced student and staff exchange and cooperation between higher education institutions. We underline the importance of intercultural understanding and respect. We look forward to enhancing the understanding of the Bologna Process in other continents by sharing our experiences of reform processes with neighbouring regions. We stress the need for dialogue on issues of mutual interest. We see the need to identify partner regions and intensify the exchange of ideas and experiences with those regions.

The Bergen Communiqué then led to the development of a more formal 2007 strategy document titled Looking Out: The Bologna Process in Global Setting: On the External Dimension of the Bologna Process, from which the above quote is taken. And while this statement was issued before George Siemens and Stephen Downes taught the first MOOC in 2008, a read of the Bergen Communiqué and Looking Out will help you see how and why MOOCs might matter to select European higher ed stakeholders. Indeed, just last week the European Commission released a Communication titled ‘European higher education in the world.‘ [For the non-European readers of this entry, a Communication is a paper produced by the European Commission (EC), most often to the key institutions (e.g., Council of the European Union or the European Parliament). It is generally the outcome of a series of initiatives that might follow this sequence: the production of (i) a staff working paper, (ii) the development of a consultation paper that asks for wider inputs and views, and then, if it keeps proceeding it is in the form of (iii) a Communication. The decision to move to this stage is generally if the EC thinks it can get some traction on an issue to be discussed by these other agencies. This is not the only pattern or route, but it does register that issue has wider internal EC backing (that is in the nerve centres of power), and a sense that it might get traction with the Member States.]

As the EUA put it in their summary of ‘European higher education in the world‘, the new Communication:

places emphasis on the broad range of issues that are important for the internationalisation of European higher education. The document, which references the EC’s recent Communications “Modernising Europe’s Higher Education Systems” and “Rethinking Education”, places specific emphasis on how member states and higher education institutions can develop strategic international partnerships to tackle global challenges more effectively.

Among the key priorities outlined is the development of comprehensive internationalisation strategies at national and institutional level. The Commission states that such strategies should cover the following areas:

  • The promotion of international mobility of students and staff (for example through enhanced services for mobility, tools for recognition of studies, better visa procedures for foreign students and emphasis on two-way mobility – into and out of Europe).
  • The promotion of “internationalisation at home” and digital learning (including language learning, using ICT to internationalise curricula).
  • The strengthening of strategic cooperation, partnerships and capacity building (with emphasis on joint and double degrees, partnerships with business and also international development cooperation partnerships).

The EC aims to contribute to the realisation of this strategy through stronger policy support and financial incentives for internationalisation strategies in particular through the future EU programme for education that will be called Erasmus+ (formerly called Erasmus for All). It said the programme, which still needs to be formally approved at the EU level, would integrate external funding instruments and put an end to the fragmentation of the various existing external higher education programmes. It would also link these closer to intra-European cooperation, as the EC said it would provide increased support for mobility to and from non-EU countries through Erasmus+ and the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions (under Horizon 2020). The Commission also outlines measures in the areas of quality/transparency, cooperation and policy dialogue.

It is worth taking note of what is stated on page 7 of ‘European higher education in the world:

While online courses and degrees are not a new phenomenon, the exponential increase in the supply of online education and digital material, as well as the increase in the provision of assessment, validation and academic credit by selected MOOCs (an emerging trend particularly with many HEIs in countries such as the US and Australia) has the potential of transforming higher education radically. New trends in digital education and the emergence of MOOCs should be an incentive for HEIs to rethink their cost structures and possibly also their missions, and engage in worldwide partnerships to increase the quality of content and of the learning experience through blended learning.

Europe must take the lead in the global efforts to exploit the potential of digital education – including the availability of ICT, the use of OER and the provision of MOOCs – and to overcome the systemic obstacles that still exist in quality assurance, student assessment and recognition, as well as funding. This potential and obstacles will be addressed in a future Commission initiative. [emphasis in original]

Third, it is clear that while in some ways MOOCs are a post-national phenomenon given their multiple identities and citizenships of their visionaries, albeit propelled by well resourced U.S. MOOC platforms, the institutionalization and governance dimensions of MOOCs in Europe are only just unfolding in a complex and different (in comparison to the U.S.) state-society-economy context.

For example, we were pleased that Antonio de Lecea, Minister and Principal Advisor for Economic and Financial Affairs Delegation of the European Union to the United States, was able to join us for the entire workshop. Minister de Lecea provided some fascinating insights on the EU’s emerging views regarding MOOCs and broader contextual factors regarding politics, regulatory systems, and debates about important issues like data privacy (a rather topical issue right now!). As de Lecea, Michael Gaebel, Mark Johnson, Fernando Galán Palomares, Roger Dale, and Susan Robertson all pointed out, Europe is inevitably going to take a broader and more strategic approach to MOOCs than what we see unfolding in the U.S. Given this it is important to critically deliberate about the nature of the MOOCs phenomenon so wise decisions can be made by key European institutions.

Indeed it is clear that the message that MOOCs are no silver bullet for revolutionizing higher education, and resolving all sorts of crises and tensions, is being recognized. In short, proselytizing and the hype factor is evident in Europe, as it is here in the U.S., but given what I witnessed with respect those representing the EU, the EUA, and the ESU, not to mention specific European universities (Bristol and École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne), the MOOCs phenomenon is being grappled with in a relatively informed and critically engaged manner. And in doing so, we here in North America, and at UW-Madison, are learning much about MOOCs, as well as Europe, at the same time.

My thanks to all of the participants for their many inputs, and to the many UW-Madison units (the European Union Center of Excellence with additional support via Education Innovation, Division of Continuing Studies, Division of Information Technology, L&S Learning Support Services, Office of the Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning, Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education, Department of Geography) that made this Euro MOOCs event possible.

Kris Olds

On the Expanding Global Landscape of MOOC Platforms

In Brussels, yesterday, Androulla Vassiliou (European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth) announced that the “first pan-European” MOOC platform will be launched on 25 April 2013. As Commissioner Vassiliou put it:

This is an exciting development and I hope it will open up education to tens of thousands of students and trigger our schools and universities to adopt more innovative and flexible teaching methods. The MOOCs movement has already proved popular, especially in the US, but this pan-European launch takes the scheme to a new level. It reflects European values such as equity, quality and diversity and the partners involved are a guarantee for high-quality learning. We see this as a key part of the Opening up Education strategy which the Commission will launch this summer.

This multi-institutional European MOOC platform (available via www.OpenupEd.eu) is to be formally launched at the Open Universiteit in the Netherlands on Thursday 25 April (11:00-12:00 CET).

The global dimensions of the MOOC juggernaut is coming into view, and evolving, very quickly. As noted in these GlobalHigherEd entries:

as well as in numerous other media releases and media stories, select countries and regions are reacting to the fast paced growth of MOOC platforms like edX, and especially Coursera, with initiatives of their own. MOOCs (as currently envisioned) first emerged in Canada, and then were propelled by higher education institutions and firms located in the Bay Area and Boston city-regions of the United States in 2012. Additional MOOC platforms emerged in Milton Keynes in the UK (Futurelearn) in December 2012, Berlin (iversity) in Germany in March 2013Sydney in Australia (Open2Study) in March 2013, and now Europe’s OpenupEd as of this coming Thursday.

In the next week or so I’ll post a proper analysis of the various platforms and their associated developmental logics.  I’ll also update you about the European MOOCs in Global Context workshop (June 19-20) I am organizing here at UW-Madison. It’s also worth noting that Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) is holding a European MOOC Summit in early June.
The global landscape of MOOC platforms is churning very fast, reinforcing the need to engage in some reflective dialogue about this phenomenon.
Kris Olds

The European Higher Education Area: Retrospect and Prospect

We’re moving into the start of ‘prime-time season’ for watchers of development and change related to the Bologna Process (which is fueling the establishment of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA)), and its cousin, the European Research Area (ERA)).  This is because the 2012 Bucharest Ministerial Conference, which will be held in Bucharest, Romania, on 12-13 April, is the setting for two key gatherings that stir up analyses.

First, the 2012 Bologna Ministerial Conference:

is expected to bring together 47 European Higher Education Area ministerial delegations, the European Commission, as well as the Bologna Process consultative members and Bologna Follow-Up Group partners.  The meeting will be an opportunity to take stock of progress of the Bologna Process and set out the key policy issues for the future. The EHEA ministers will jointly adopt the Bucharest Ministerial Communiqué, committing to further the Bologna goals until 2020.

Second, The 2012 Bologna Policy Forum:

organised in conjunction with the Ministerial Conference is aimed to intensify policy dialogue and cooperation with partners across the world. The theme of the third Bologna Policy forum is “Beyond the Bologna process: Creating and connecting national, regional and global higher education spaces”. The Policy forum has four sub-themes, which will be addressed during the parallel sessions, namely: “Global academic mobility: Incentives and barriers, balances and imbalances”; “Global and regional approaches to quality enhancement of Higher Education”; “Public responsibility for and of HE within national and regional context”; “The contribution of Higher Education reforms to enhancing graduate employability”. This year’s edition of the Bologna Policy Forum will be finalised with the adoption of the 2012 Bologna Policy Forum Statement.

In other words, two key events, which occur every two years, will spur on deliberation, debate, and a lot of hard thinking about what has happened, what is happening, and what should happen.

It is too early, at this stage, to analyse how the development process has been unfolding with respect to the EHEA and the ERA. Rather, this entry is the beginning of an attempt to compile the first of numerous reports that will be released over the next 3-4 weeks.  These reports are being prepared by a variety of institutions, and are excellent resources for deepening understandings of some critically important phenomenon related to the globalization of higher education and research.

What I will do, then, is incrementally flag each of these reports, as they emerge. I’ll be updating this entry over time, versus issuing new entries. I will also ‘Tweet‘ when new reports are added to this particular entry.

Happy reading, and if you have any suggested additions, please let me know!

Kris Olds

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22 March 2012


The Global Bologna Policy Forum: a forum for the emerging global higher education and research space?

As our readers likely know, the Bologna Process was launched in 1999 with the objective of constructing the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) by 2010.  One increasingly important aspect of the evolution of the Bologna Process is its ‘external’ (aka ‘global’) dimension.  To cut a long story short, deliberations about the place of the EHEA within its global context have been underway since the Bologna Process was itself launched in 1999. But, as noted in one of our earlier 2007 entries (‘The ripple effects of the Bologna Process in the Asia-Pacific‘), the formalization of an external dimension to the Bologna Process was not spurred on until May 2005 when the Bergen Communiqué included the following statement:

The European Higher Education Area must be open and should be attractive to other parts of the world. Our contribution to achieving education for all should be based on the principle of sustainable development and be in accordance with the ongoing international work on developing guidelines for quality provision of crossborder higher education. We reiterate that in international academic cooperation, academic values should prevail.

We see the European Higher Education Area as a partner of higher education systems in other regions of the world, stimulating balanced student and staff exchange and cooperation between higher education institutions. We underline the importance of intercultural understanding and respect. We look forward to enhancing the understanding of the Bologna Process in other continents by sharing our experiences of reform processes with neighbouring regions. We stress the need for dialogue on issues of mutual interest. We see the need to identify partner regions and intensify the exchange of ideas and experiences with those regions.

eheaextcover.jpgThe Bergen Communiqué led to the development of a more formal 2007 strategy document titled Looking Out: The Bologna Process in Global Setting: On the External Dimension of the Bologna Process and this associated strategy document European Higher Education in a Global Setting. A Strategy for the External Dimension of the Bologna Process, which was approved by the ministers in 2007. It was this strategy document that led to the delineation of five “core policy areas”:

  • Improving information on the European Higher Education Area;
  • Promoting European Higher Education to enhance its world-wide attractiveness and competitiveness;
  • Strengthening cooperation based on partnership;
  • Intensifying policy dialogue;
  • Furthering recognition of qualifications.

Further background information, including all supporting documents, is available on this Bologna Process Follow-up Group website (European Higher Education in a Global Context) which the Bologna Secretariat sponsors.

Since 2007 we have seen a variety of activities come together to ensure that the fourth action item (“intensifying policy dialogue”) be implemented, though in a manner that cross-supports all of the other action items.  One key activity was the creation of a “policy forum” with select non-EHEA countries: see the figure below (with my emphasis) taken from the just issued EURYDICE report Focus on Higher Education in Europe 2010: The Impact of the Bologna Process to see where the inaugural 2009 forum, and its 2010 follow-up, fit within the overall Bologna Process timeline:

The First Bologna Policy Forum was held in Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium, on 29 April 2009, and brought together all 46 Bologna ministers in association with “Australia, Brazil, Canada, P.R. China, Egypt, Ethiopia, Israel, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Tunisia, and the U.S., as well as the International Association of Universities.”

Representatives of the First Bologna forum sanctioned the following statement:

Statement by the Bologna Policy Forum 2009

Meeting, for the first time, at this Bologna Policy Forum held in Louvain-la-Neuve on April 29, 2009, we, the Ministers for Higher Education, heads of delegation from the 46 European countries participating in the Bologna Process and from Australia, Brazil, Canada, P.R. China, Egypt, Ethiopia, Israel, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Tunisia, USA, along with the International Association of Universities and other international organizations and NGOs, have taken part in a constructive debate on world wide cooperation and partnership in higher education with a view to developing partnership between the 46 Bologna countries and countries from across the world.

We note, with satisfaction, that this Policy Forum has fostered mutual understanding and learning in the field of higher education, and has laid the ground for sustainable cooperation in the future.

We also note that there are shared values and principles underpinning higher education and a common understanding that it is fundamental to achieving human, social and economic development.

We consider that higher education constitutes an exceptionally rich and diverse cultural and scientific asset for both individuals and society.

We emphasize the key role that higher education plays in the development of our societies based on lifelong learning for all and equitable access at all levels of society to learning opportunities.

We underline the importance of public investment in higher education, and urge that this should remain a priority despite the current economic crisis, in order to support sustainable economic recovery and development.

We support the strategic role of higher education in the pursuit and advancement of knowledge and therefore advocate global sharing of knowledge through multi-national research and education projects and exchange programs for students and staff, in order to stimulate innovation and creativity.

We are convinced that fair recognition of studies and qualifications is a key element for promoting mobility and we will therefore establish dialogue on recognition policies and explore the implications of the various qualifications frameworks in order to further mutual recognition of qualifications.

We hold that transnational exchanges in higher education should be governed on the basis of academic values and we advocate a balanced exchange of teachers, researchers and students between our countries and promote fair and fruitful “brain circulation”.

We seek to establish concrete cooperation activities which should contribute to better understanding and long-term collaboration by organizing joint seminars on specific topics, like on quality assurance for example.

The next Bologna Policy Forum will be convened in Vienna on 12 March 2010.

Clearly the pros/benefits of sponsoring this rather complex event were perceived to be significant and the Second Bologna Policy Forum (sometimes deemed the Global Bologna Policy Forum) was held yesterday, on 12 March, at the end of the Bologna Ministerial Anniversary Conference 2010.

The Bologna Policy Forum has grown in size in that 73 countries attended the 12 March forum including the 46 EHEA countries as well as Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Egypt, Ghana, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan [invited to join the EHEA in 2010], Malaysia, Mali, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, Thailand, Tunisia, and the United States of America. In addition the following organizations sent representatives to the second forum: BUSINESSEUROPE, Council of Europe, Education International Pan-European Structure (EI), European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA), European Association of Institutions in Higher Education (EURASHE), European Commission, European Students’ Union (ESU), European University Association (EUA), International Association of Universities (IAU), Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

It is interesting to compare the second official Forum Statement to the one above:

Bologna Policy Forum Statement, Vienna, March 12, 2010

1. Today, the European Higher Education Area has officially been launched. In this context, we note that the Bologna Process of creating and further developing this European Higher Education Area has helped redefine higher education in Europe. Countries outside the area will now be able to more effectively foster increased cooperation with Bologna countries.

2. We, the Ministers of Higher Education and heads of delegation of the countries, institutions and organisations participating in the Second Bologna Policy Forum, held a dialogue on systemic and institutional changes in higher education in the developing global knowledge society.

3. We focussed our debate on how higher education systems and institutions respond to growing demands and multiple expectations, discussed mobility of staff and students, including the challenges and opportunities of “brain circulation”, and the balance between cooperation and competition in international higher education.

4. To address the great societal challenges, we need more cooperation among the higher education and research systems of the different world regions. While respecting the autonomy of higher education institutions with their diverse missions, we will therefore continue our dialogue and engage in building a community of practice from which all may draw inspiration and to which all can contribute.

5. To facilitate policy debates and exchange of ideas and experience across the European Higher Education Area and between countries, institutions and organisations participating in the Second Bologna Policy Forum, we will each nominate a contact person and inform the Bologna Secretariat by May 31, 2010. These contact persons will also function as liaison points for a better flow of information and joint activities, including the preparation of the next Bologna Policy Forum at ministerial level.

6. We welcome the commitment of the European Bologna Follow-up Group to provide expertise on the Bologna Process and the European Higher Education Area.

7. We welcome the initiatives of the institutions and organisations participating in the Second Bologna Policy Forum to promote dialogue and cooperation among higher educations institutions, staff and students and other relevant stakeholders across the world. In this context, we especially acknowledge the need to foster global student dialogue.

8. In September 2010 the OECD will be hosting an international conference on how the crisis is affecting higher education and how governments, institutions and other stakeholders can work towards a sustainable future for the sector. In 2011, a seminar on quality assurance will be organised with the support of the European Union.

9. Cooperation based on partnership between governments, higher education institutions, staff, students and other stakeholders is at the core of the European Higher Education Area. This partnership approach should therefore also be reflected in the organisation of the next Bologna Policy Forum at ministerial level in 2012.

It is too early to determine how effective the [Global] Bologna Policy Forum will be, and some bugs (e.g., the uncertain role of national research sector actors; the uncertain role of sub-national actors in countries (e.g., Canada, Germany, the US) where provinces/states/regions have principal jurisdiction over higher education matters; the incredible diversity of agendas and capabilities of non-EHEA countries vis a vis the forum) will eventually have to be worked out.

This said, it is evident that this forum is serving some important purposes, especially given that there is a genuine longing to engage in supra-national dialogue about policy challenges regarding the globalization of higher education and research. The blossoming of ‘global’ fora sponsored by international organizations (e.g., the OECD, UNESCO), new ‘players (e.g., Qatar Foundation’s World Innovation Summit for Education), key associations of universities (e.g., the International Association of Universities, the European University Association), and universities themselves (e.g., via consortia like the Worldwide Universities Network or the Global Colloquium of University Presidents), are signs that something is up, and that a global higher education and research space is in the process of being constructed.

Over time, of course, the topography of this supra-national landscape of regional, interregional and global fora will evolve, as will the broader topography of the global higher education and research space.  In this context it is critically important to pay attention to how this space is being framed and constructed, for what purposes, and with what possible effects. Moreover, from an organizational perspective, there is no template to follow and much learning is underway. The organization of modernity, to use John Law’s phrase, is underway.

Kris Olds

Celebrating, protesting and reflecting about the 10th anniversary of the launch of the Bologna Process

Deliberations and background documentation are blossoming this week given that the Bologna Ministerial Anniversary Conference 2010 will be held 11-12 March in Budapest and Vienna, and the Second Global Bologna Policy Forum will be held on 12 March in Vienna. As most of our readers know, the Bologna Process was launched in 1999 with the objective of constructing the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) by 2010.

For those of you interested in the nature of the transformation of the European higher education system over the last 10 years, link here to access a series of informative reports about the evolution and impact of the Bologna Process. Three of these reports were recently flagged via our GlobalHigherEd Twitter service this way:

  • An Account Of Ten Years Of European Higher Education Reform. New report (PDF) by European Students’ Union: http://bit.ly/ay7gXL
  • Trends 2010: A decade of change in European Higher Education (new report by European University Association): http://bit.ly/aTMVdK
  • New European Commission report focusing on the state of European higher education after a decade of major reforms: http://bit.ly/alIaiy

Some associated media releases (e.g., see the EUA’s ‘A decade of the Bologna Process: Major new EUA report underlines impact of Bologna reforms on Europe’s universities‘) and videos (e.g., see the European Commission’s technical briefing video) have also been rolling out this week:

An anti-Bologna Process movement (Bologna Burns) is also planning a series of demonstrations and alternative meetings between 11-14 March:

In closing, it is worth reminding readers that non-Bologna Process stakeholders are also watching these debates with considerable interest. Why? Because the Bologna Process has concurrently unleashed a series of significant debates and transformations at a range of national (e.g., Australia, US), regional (e.g., African, Southeast Asian) and interregional (e.g., Latin America-Europe; Asia-Europe) scales; a point Pavel Zgaga (one of the 1999 ‘anniversary’ signatories on behalf of Slovenia) made last May in his entry ‘Bologna: beyond 2010 and over the Ocean – but where to? On new Bologna reports and C. Adelman’s last essay‘.

More broadly, then, the emerging global higher education and research space will be impacted by the outcome of deliberations about the future of the EHEA, as well as the linked European Research Area (ERA). It is for this reason that we all need to pay attention to the celebrations, protests and reflections underway in Budapest and Vienna. If the last decade is a benchmark, then the next decade will be associated with further changes, new interregional alignments, and a myriad of expected and unexpected impacts.

Kris Olds

Europe 2020: what are the implications of Europe’s new economic strategy for global higher ed & research?

This week marks the launch of the EU’s EUROPE 2020: A European strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. As noted in EurActiv (‘Brussels unveils 2020 economic roadmap for Europe‘) on 3 March:

The EU’s new strategy for sustainable growth and jobs, called ‘Europe 2020′, comes in the midst of the worst economic crisis in decades. The new strategy replaces the Lisbon Agenda, adopted in 2000, which largely failed to turn the EU into “the world’s most dynamic knowledge-based economy by 2010″. The new agenda puts innovation and green growth at the heart of its blueprint for competitiveness and proposes tighter monitoring of national reform programmes, one of the greatest weaknesses of the Lisbon Strategy.

The European Commission’s plan includes a variety of agenda items (framed as thematic priorities and targets) that arguably have significant implications for European higher education and research. Furthermore several of the plan’s Flagship Initiatives (“Innovation Union”; “Youth on the Move”; “A Digital Agenda for Europe”; “An industrial policy for the globalisation era”; “An Agenda for new skills and jobs”) also have implications for how the EU frames and implements its agenda regarding the global dimensions of both the European Research Area (ERA) and the European Higher Education Area (EHEA). For example, Flagship initiative: “Youth on the move” (p. 11) includes the following statement:

The aim is to enhance the performance and international attractiveness of Europe’s higher education institutions and raise the overall quality of all levels of education and training in the EU, combining both excellence and equity, by promoting student mobility and trainees’ mobility, and improve the employment situation of young people.

At EU level, the Commission will work:
– To integrate and enhance the EU’s mobility, university and researchers’ programmes (such as Erasmus, Erasmus Mundus, Tempus and Marie Curie) and link them up with national programmes and resources;
– To step up the modernisation agenda of higher education (curricula, governance and financing) including by benchmarking university performance and educational outcomes in a global context.

Please see below for a summary of some of the key elements of EUROPE 2020: A European strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth as well as a YouTube video of José Manuel Barroso’s launch of the plan at a media event in Brussels:

See here for the EU’s Press pack: Europe 2020 – a new economic strategy. EurActiv also has a useful LinksDossier (‘Europe 2020′: Green growth and jobs?) for those of you seeking a concise summary of the build-up to the new 2020 plan.

It is also worth noting that EU member states, and as well as non-governmental organizations, are attempting to push their own innovation agendas in the light of the 2020 economic roadmap for Europe. Link here, for example, to a Lisbon Council e-brief (Wikinomics and the Era of Openness: European Innovation at a Crossroads) that is being released today in Brussels. European Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn also spoke at the same event.

The ‘innovation’ agenda and discourse is deeply intertwined with higher education and research policy in Europe at the moment. While the outcome of this agenda has yet to be determined, supporters and critics alike are being forced to engage with this amorphous concept; a 21st century ‘keyword’ notably absent from Raymond Williams’ classic text Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society.

Kris Olds

Debate: Asia vs Europe: which region is more geopolitically incompetent?

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Can regions think and act strategically? In which ways are Europe and Asia geopolitically (in)competent? How does one speak for “Asia” and “Europe”? Why do Mahbubani and Emmott seek to speak for “Asia” and “Europe”? Link here for a National University of Singapore (NUS) webcast of this recent debate, and here for a lecture synopsis.

‘Tuning USA': reforming higher education in the US, Europe style

Many of us are likely to be familiar with the film An American in Paris (1951), at least by name. Somehow the romantic encounters of an ex-GI turned struggling American painter, with an heiress  in one of Europe’s most famous cities — Paris, seems like the way things should be. lumina-13

So when the US-based Lumina Foundation announced it was launching Europe’s ‘Tuning Approach within the Bologna Process’ as an educational experiment in three American States (Utah, Indiana and Minnesota) to  “…assure rigor and relevance for college degrees at various levels” (see Inside Higher Ed, April 8th, 2009),  familiar  refrains and trains of thought are suddenly shot into reverse gear. A European in America? Tuning USA, Europe style?

For Bologna watchers, Tuning is no new initiative. According to its website profile, Tuning 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 education sector. Over time Tuning has developed into a Process: an approach to (re-)design, develop, implement, evaluate and enhance quality in first, second and third cycle degree programmes.

Given that the Bologna Process entails the convergence of 46 higher education systems across Europe and beyond (those countries who are also signatories to the Process but how operate outside its borders), the question of how comparability can be assured of curricula in terms of structures, programmes and actual teaching, was clearly a pressing issue.

Funded under the European Commission’s Erasmus Thematic Network scheme, Tuning Educational Structures in Europe emerged as a project that might address this challenge.  tuning-31

However, rather like the Bologna Process, Tuning has had a remarkable career. Its roll-out across Europe, and take up in countries as far afield as Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) has been nothing short of astonishing.

Currently 18 Latin American and Caribbean countries (181 LAC universities) are involved in Tuning Latin America across twelve subject groups (Architecture, Business,  Civil Engineering, Education, Geology, History, Law, Mathematics, Medicine, Nursing and Physics).  The Bologna  and Tuning Processes, it would seem, are  considered a key tool for generating change across Latin America.

Similar processes are under way in Central Asia, the Mediterranean region and Africa. And while the Bologna promoters tend to emphasise the cultural and cooperation orientation of Tuning and Bologna, both are self-evidently strategies to reposition European higher education geostrategically. It is a market making  strategy as well as increasingly a model for how to restructure higher education systems to produce greater resource efficiencies, and some might add, greater equity.

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Similarly, the Tuning Process is regarded as a means for realizing one of the ‘big goals’ that  Lumina Foundation President–Jamie Merisotis–had set for the Foundation soon after taking over the helm; to increase the proportion of the US population with degrees to 60% by 2025 so as to ensure the global competitiveness of the US.

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education (May 1st, 2009), Merisotis “gained the ear of the White House”  during the transition days of the Obama administration in 2008 when he urged Obama “to make human capital a cornerstone of US economic policy”.

Merisotis was also one of the experts consulted by the US Department of Education when it sought to determine the goals for education, and the measures of progress toward those goals.

By February 2009, President Obama had announced to Congress he wanted America to attain the world’s highest proportion of graduates by 2020.  So while the ‘big goal’ had now been set, the question was how?

One of the Lumina Foundation’s response was to initiate Tuning USA.  According to the Chronicle, Lumina has been willing to draw on ideas that are generated by the education policy community in the US, and internationally.

Clifford Adelman is one of those. A  senior associate at the Institute for Higher Education Policy in Washington, Adelman was contracted by the Lumina Foundation to produce a very extensive report on Europe’s higher education restructuring. The report (The Bologna Process for U.S. Eyes: Re-learning Higher Education in the Age of Convergence) was released early this April, and was profiled by Anne Corbett in GlobalHigherEd. In the report Adelman sets out to redress what he regards as the omissions from the Spellings Commission review of higher education.  As Adelman (2009: viii)  notes:

The core features of the Bologna Process have sufficient momentum to become the dominant global higher education model within the next two decades. Former Secretary of Education, Margaret Spellings’ Commission on the Future of Higher Education paid no attention whatsoever to Bologna, and neither did the U.S. higher education community in its underwhelming response to that Commission’s report. Such purblind stances are unforgivable in a world without borders.

But since the first version of this monograph, a shorter essay entitled The Bologna Club: What U.S. Higher Education Can Learn from a Decade of European Reconstruction (Institute for Higher Education Policy, May 2008), U.S. higher education has started listening seriously to the core messages of the remarkable and difficult undertaking in which our European colleagues have engaged. Dozens of conferences have included panels, presentations, and intense discussions of Bologna approaches to accountability, access, quality assurance, credits and transfer, and, most notably, learning outcomes in the context of the disciplines. In that latter regard, in fact, three state higher education systems—Indiana, Minnesota, and Utah—have established study groups to examine the Bologna “Tuning” process to determine the forms and extent of its potential in U.S. contexts. Scarcely a year ago, such an effort would have been unthinkable.

Working with students, faculty members and education officials from Indiana, Minnesota and Utah, Lumina has now initiated Tuning USA as a year-long project:

The aim is to create a shared understanding among higher education’s stakeholders of the subject-specific knowledge and transferable skills that students in six fields must demonstrate upon completion of a degree program. Each state has elected to draft learning outcomes and map the relations between these outcomes and graduates’ employment options for at least two of the following disciplines: biology, chemistry, education, history, physics and graphic design (see report in InsideIndianabusiness).

The world has changed. The borders between the US and European higher education are now somewhat leaky, for strategic purposes, to be sure.

A European in America is now somehow thinkable!

Susan Robertson

A European view of the new Adelman report on the Bologna Process

corbettmadisonEditor’s note: this guest entry was kindly developed by Anne Corbett, Visiting Fellow, European Institute, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). Dr. Corbett is author of Universities and the Europe of Knowledge Ideas, Institutions and Policy Entrepreneurship in European Union Higher Education 1955-2005 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005). Dr. Corbett, a former journalist, is conducting intensive research on a range of issues related to the Bologna Process. She recently spoke at UW-Madison (and is pictured to the right, outside of Bascom Hall).

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As a journalist I long ago learned – yes, journalists can learn – that when one is a foreign correspondent writing about another country, one is also writing about one’s own. One plays a game of mirrors, looking for reflections. So in looking at Cliff Adelman’s new and extended report on the Bologna Process (Adelman, C. 2009. The Bologna Process for U.S. Eyes: Re-learning Higher Education in the Age of Convergence. Washington, DC: Institute for Higher Education Policy), destined for a US policy audience, I’m primarily interested in what it reflects back to Europeans on how to create a European Higher Education Area through the Bologna Process.

A casual reader in Europe, and no doubt Bologna officials, will be impressed by Adelman’s many compliments to his European ‘colleagues’. These include: the view that the Bologna Process has such momentum it will become the dominant global higher education model within two decades (p 3); that it has come up with solutions which are extraordinarily relevant to challenges Americans face (p5) on student learning that and, developing from the fact that it has been ‘a highly reflective undertaking’ (p15) that Bologna demonstrates that if you want to reform higher education systems, ‘the smart money should be on cooperation and conversation’ (p16).

But to stop at that would be to miss the point that Adelman’s interest is highly selective. He is an American education policy expert who has now extended his initial enthusiastic essay on the Bologna Process into a weighty report on European higher education ‘reconstruction’ (p16) replete with tables of national responses on the issues where he would like to see America reform, and with an overall country summary of responses in Bologna’s 46 participating countries.  Since he is one who thought that the recent national commission on the future of higher education headed by Margaret Spellings was ‘purblind’, his focus is on what can be done in the US to improve the student learning experience, the effective credentialing that should register this, and access structures for higher education which allow multiple paths to entry.

So Adelman dives for what he sees as the Bologna Process’ conceptual breakthrough in how to define what students have really learned, and the sought- after embedding of a quality culture. This breakthrough, he considers, consists of the intermeshing of five elements: credit systems (the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System or ECTS), the Diploma Supplement providing an individual record, the commitment to learning outcomes (rather than input), qualifications frameworks, and the quality assurance systems which set evaluation standards and guidelines for institutional self assessment and external monitoring, and the glue which links it to the student, the Tuning project. Tuning has worked with faculty across selected disciplines and some vocational training programmes to define the reference points of a curriculum. This project has attracted three American states to try it out because it is not ‘top down’.

This five-piece package is nicely defined by Adelman as Bologna’s ‘accountability loop’.  Underpinned by his generally spirited writing, his view may succeed in convincing Europeans outside the policy development circle that there is logic, and possibly even improvement, in a process which to many in the academic world has seemed fragmented, and/or abstrusely bureaucratic.

adelmancoverAdelman’s reaction to another part of the package agreed will also be to interest Europeans.  His assessment of Bologna’s most famous innovation, the commitment to undergraduate and postgraduate cycles, won’t go down well with all Bologna governments, but is I believe realistic. It is that mobility will become primarily a postgraduate phenomenon and masters, rather than bachelors, the normal exit point for classical university education.  This is a threat for Americans (and incidentally for the English, Welsh and Northern Irish). But though he seems to think undergraduate degrees will turn out to be predominantly three years, his own evidence shows mixed reactions. Most continental countries have restructured their old long degrees into a bachelor/masters of 3+2 or 4+1 years, whereas most UK-EWNI universities offer predominantly 3+1 degrees outside the professionally specialized fields of medicine and engineering, and if they are to get round this bind, will no doubt have to depend on clever marketing.

However a European should not be tempted to treat Adelman as the Bologna Bible. There are many crucial aspects of Bologna outside his range of interests. The main one is that he does not consider universities as research institutions. Yet it is the concept of universities as teaching and research institutions which underpins Europe’s 1200 or so traditional universities, a concept admittedly muddied by the EU’s labeling of most higher institutions as universities whether or not they do research.

Such a comment is not made simply to evoke issues of amour propre in defining what universities are. One of the factors which got the Bologna Process going, in 1998-1999, was the desire by its promoters to get (the main) European universities better recognized globally as scientific institutions in the broadest sense. And this fitted well with the EU aim in an age of globalization to convert its member states to knowledge economies, in which research is naturally one of the keys.

I conclude with two other points. First, despite his references to the 46 countries of Bologna Europe, he has in fact taken an EU-centered view. The 23 major languages referred to are just EU countries. The scale of a European higher education area is defined in terms of EU Commission statistics, that is  4000+ universities and 16 million students. Yet the emerging EHEA is likely to contain somewhere near 25-30 million students since it includes 19 non-EU members, among them Russia and Turkey. Issues of educational, economic and political diversity will be of increasing concern when – or might it be if ?– the Bologna governments declare formally that they have established a European Higher Education Area, the target date for which has recently slipped from 2010 to 2020.

In the second place, although confusing the EU and Bologna Europe (which is actually Council of Europe ‘Europe’) might be a question of interpretation, it is also a political issue. The Bologna Process has been designed so that while guidelines can be created at European level, and political momentum has been, implementation depends on national higher education-government forums.

Before we can talk of an Age of Convergence as Adelman does, we need to know how far the Bologna Process has the assent of all 46 nations to not only put in place Bologna structures, but to implement the qualitative issues evoked here – to make accountability loops work, to make trans-continental social dimension a reality, and to give further dynamic to Europe’s collective research achievements. I personally do not believe that Bologna’s most dramatic achievement will have been to bring students out in the street, whatever current banner waving is going on to smash this ‘neo-liberal’ project. There will be compromises which cloud the structurally pure line Adelman describes.

But that, as they say, is the beginning of another story. We will know a little more about that in the coming days when the 46 ministers and the Bologna stakeholders meet at the Sixth Bologna Conference taking place in the Belgian university towns of Leuven and Louvain-la-Neuve on April 28-29.

Anne Corbett

University associations and the enhancement of capabilities for a globalizing era

prague21march20091I recently returned from Prague, where I attended the 5th annual conference of the European University Association (EUA).  It was very well run by the EUA, professionally hosted by Charles University (Universitas Carolina), and the settings (Charles University, Municipal Hall, Prague Castle) were breathtaking.

My role was to contribute to EUA deliberations on the theme of Global Outreach – Europe’s Interaction with the Wider World.  I’ll develop a summary version of my presentation for GlobalHigherEd in the next week once I catch up on some duties here in Madison.

Some aspects of the meeting discussions complemented some recent news items (see below), as well as our 9 March entry ‘Collapsing branch campuses: time for some collective action?’ The thread that ties them all together is capability.

At a broad regional scale, the EUA, and its many partners, have had the capability to bring the 46 country European Higher Education Area (EHEA) into being. Of course the development process is very uneven, but the sweep of change over the last decade, brought to life from the bottom (i.e. the university-level) up, is really quite astonishing, regardless of whether you agree with the aims or not.

Now, capabilities in the case of the EHEA, relates to the capacity of universities, respective national ministries, the EU, and select stakeholders to work towards crafting an “overarching structure”, with associated qualifications frameworks, that incorporates these elements:

  • Three Degree Cycle
  • The European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS)
  • The Diploma Supplement
  • Quality Assurance
  • Recognition [of qualifications]
  • Joint Degrees

Ambitious, yes, but the distributed capabilities have clearly existed to create the EHEA, as will become abundantly clear next month when the Ministerial Conference is held at Leuven and Louvain-la-Neuve in Belgium.

columbiauCapabilities have also been evident this week in the case of Columbia University, which just announced that it was opening up a network of “Global Centers”, with the first two located in Beijing and Amman. As the press release puts it:

While some U.S. universities have built new branch campuses and degree-granting schools abroad, Columbia is taking a different path. Columbia Global Centers will provide flexible regional hubs for a wide range of activities and resources intended to enhance the quality of research and learning at the University and around the world. The goal is to establish a network of regional centers in international capitals to collaboratively address complex global challenges by bringing together scholars, students, public officials, private enterprise, and innovators from a broad range of fields.

“When social challenges are global in their consequences, the intellectual firepower of the world’s great universities must be global in its reach,” said Kenneth Prewitt, vice president of Columbia Global Centers and Carnegie Professor of Public Affairs. “Columbia’s network of Global Centers will bring together some of the world’s finest scholars to address some of the world’s most pressing problems.”

And in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Prewitt had this to say:

“We’re trying to figure out how to go from a series of very strong bilateral relationships and take that to the next phase, not replace it,” said Kenneth Prewitt, director of Columbia’s Office of Global Centers.

As the world becomes more interconnected, many of the most pressing issues of the day are best approached not within a bilateral framework, but by groups of scholars and researchers from diverse backgrounds bringing their expertise to bear in novel ways, Mr. Prewitt said.

See a brief slideshow on the Amman center here, and download the inaugural program launch poster here

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The Columbia story is worth being viewed in conjunction with our previous entry on ‘Collapsing branch campuses’ (an indicator of limited capability), ‘NYU Abu Dhabi: realizing the global university?’ (an indicator of strong capability, albeit enabled by the oil-induced largesse of Abu Dhabi), and a series of illuminating entries by Lloyd Armstrong in Changing Higher Education on the Columbia story and some associated entries on ‘modularity’ in higher education and research:

As Armstrong notes:

“Modularity” is an ill-defined concept as used in discussing globalization of the modern corporation, in that it may mean very different things to different organizations at different times.  Generally, however, it has to do with breaking a process into separable blocks (modules) that have sufficiently well defined inputs and outputs that the blocks can later be fit together and  recombined into a complete process. “Globalization” then has to do with accessing resources world-wide to produce those modules in the most effective and efficient manner.

Now, in some future entries we will be exploring the uses and limitations of concepts like scale, networks, chains, modularity, and so on.  But what I’d like to do now, is think in a n-1 way, and beg the question: do universities have the capability to think beyond their comfort zones (e.g., about modularity; about academic freedom in distant territories; about the strategic management of multi-sited operations; about the latest advances in technology for capacity building abroad or international collaborative teaching; about double and joint degrees; about the implications of regionalism and interregionalism in higher education and research), especially when their resources are constrained and ‘mission creep’ is becoming a serious problem?

Most universities, I would argue, do not. Columbia clearly does, as does NYU, but few universities have the material, political, and relational (as in social and cultural capital) resources that these elite private universities do.

Perhaps the EHEA phenomenon, the role of the EUA in shaping it, can generate some lessons about the critically important dimension of capability, especially when universities are not resourced like a Columbia.

euaplenary1The framing and implementation of ambitious university visions to internationalize, to globalize, at a university scale, arguably needs to be better linked to the resources and viewpoints provided by associations and consortia, at least the better staffed and well run ones. There are other options, of course, including private consultants, ad-hoc thematic expert groups, and so on, but the enhancement of capabilities is evident in the case of the EUA, especially with respect to the construction of the EHEA on behalf of its constituent members, the creation of fora for the sharing of best practices, and the creation of new institutions (e.g., the EUA Council for Doctoral Education). It might be worth noting, too, that the EUA clearly benefits from having the European Commission‘s backing on regarding a variety of initiatives, and that the Commission is a key stakeholder in the Bologna Process.

The other side of this equation is, though, the need for universities to actually engage with, support, feed, draw in, and respect their associations. Given the denationalization process, associations and consortia are also being stretched. Some are having to cope with resource limitations vis a vis mission creep, and the uneven involvement of certain types of member universities. I might be wrong, but it seems as if some sub-national, national and regional associations around the world have a challenging time drawing in, and therefore representing, their better off universities.  This is a problematic situation for it has the potential to generate ‘middling zone’ outcomes at a collective level.

Yet, is it not in the interest of higher education systems to have very strong, effective, and powerful associations of universities? And if the elite universities in any system do not look out for their system, versus take the university view, or a segmented view (e.g., a selective association or consortia), the broader context in which elite universities operate may become less conducive to operate within.

euasummaryThe globalization of higher education and research is generating unprecedented challenges for universities, and higher education systems, around the world. This means we need think through the evolving higher education landscape, and the role of associations and consortia in it, for the vast majority of universities simply cannot act like Columbia University.

If capabilities are limited, then associations and consortia have the capacity to enable reflective thinking, and broader and more powerful university voices to emerge.  Indeed, it might also be worth thinking through how all of the world’s associations and consortia relate (or not) to each other, and what might be done to transform what is really a national/international architecture into a more global architecture; one associated with strategic inter-association and inter-consortia dialogue and sustained collective action.

And in a future entry, I’ll explore how some universities are seeking to enhance capabilities via the creation of new joint centers and experimental laboratories with distant universities and non-university stakeholders. While this process has to be managed carefully, the bringing together of complementary resources (e.g., human and otherwise) on campuses can unsettle, though with positive effects, and thereby build capabilities.

But for now, I’ll close off by highlighting the International Association of Universities’ (IAU) 3rd Global Meeting of Associations of Universities (GMAIII) in Guadalajara, Mexico, 20-22 April 2009. This event is shaping up to provide plenty of food for fodder regarding the capabilities issue, as well as many other topics. University associations are being tasked, and are tasking themselves, to enhance capabilities for a globalizing era. Yet, for many, this is relatively uncharted terrain.

Kris Olds

Mapping out Europe’s progress towards a knowledge-based economy

erareportcoverThe European Commission’s Directorate-General for Research has just published an informative and data-laden report titled Science, Technology and Competitiveness Key Figures Report 2008/2009. As the press release notes, the main findings are:

1. Research is a key competitive asset in a globalised world.

Major S&T players have emerged, notably in Asia. Knowledge is more and more evenly distributed with the EU now accounting for a share of less than 25%. The ERA must become more attractive, open and competitive on the global scene.

2. The overall EU R&D intensity is stagnating but this hides diversity at the national level.

All EU Member States have increased their expenditure in R&D from 2000 to 2006, which shows their commitment to the Lisbon strategy. However, GDP experienced the same rate of growth over the period, which meant that R&D intensity stayed at around 1.84% since 2005. Between 2000 and 2006, 17 Member States, mainly those which are catching up, have increased their R&D intensity, but 10, representing 47% of EU GDP, have seen their R&D intensities decrease. Japan has increased its R&D intensity from 3.04% to 3.39%, Korea from 2.39% to 3.23% and China is catching up fast, going from 0.90% to 1.42%.

3. Private Sector Investment intensity still too low.

The main reason for the R&D intensity gap between the EU and its competitors is the difference in business sector R&D financing, which decreased in the EU from 2000 to 2005 while it increased substantially in the US, Japan and China. This is mostly due to the smaller size of the research-intensive high-tech industry in the EU. Building the knowledge intensive economy requires structural changes towards higher R&D intensities within sectors and a greater share of high-tech sectors in the EU economy. This requires framework conditions that favour the development of fast-growing high-tech SMEs, the development of innovation-friendly markets in Europe and cheaper access to EU-wide patenting.

4. Excellence in research: a growing pool of researchers a still lower capacity of knowledge exploitation than competitors.

The number of researchers has grown twice as fast in the EU as in the US and Japan since 2000, even if the share of researchers in the labour force is still lower. As regards impact of research, the EU still ranks as the world’s largest producer of scientific knowledge (measured by publications), but contributes less than the US to high impact publications.

5. An increased attractiveness to foreign investments and S&T professionals.

The EU has been attracting a growing share of private R&D investments from the US despite the rise of Asia as a new R&D location. In 2005, US affiliates made 62.5% of their R&D investments in the EU and only 3.3% in China. It has also been attracting a growing number of S&T professionals from third countries.

This 169 page report is a multi-scalar mapping of sorts; a distillation of the agendas and impacts associated with efforts to (a) integrate the European Research Area (ERA), while also (b) deepening collaborative relations with select geographies of the global research landscape. As some sample figures from the ‘international’ section of the report indicate, this is indeed a very uneven global research landscape on a number of axes, yet a fast changing one too.

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Science, Technology and Competitiveness Key Figures Report 2008/2009 should be read in association with Europe’s new (2008) Strategic Framework for International Science and Technology Cooperation, as well as the very important Council ‘Conclusions concerning a European partnership for international scientific and technological cooperation‘ (2 December 2008).

In addition, please recall our 4 August 2008 entry (‘Globalizing research: forces, patterns, and collaborative practices‘), which also refers to some related research reports.

We’ll be returning to the topic of the global dimensions of the ERA over the next few months, and we’re also planning a series of entries related to regionalism, interregionalism, and the complex relationship between higher education and research.

Kris Olds