From the big picture to close ups: in Zagreb and Vienna the week the European Higher Education Area was launched

Editor’s note: this entry has been kindly contributed by Anne Corbett, Visiting Fellow, European Institute of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). Anne Corbett, author of one other entry in GlobalHigherEd (‘A European view of the new Adelman report on the Bologna Process’ 16 April 2009) is also author of Universities and the Europe of Knowledge (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005).

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As noted in a recent GlobalHigherEd entry by Kris Olds (‘The Global Bologna Policy Forum: a forum for the emerging global higher education and research space?‘ 13 March 2010), the development of the Bologna Policy Forum brings the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) firmly into the international relations domain. But I think it is instructive to know about the politics too, as a minimum to learn how the Forum idea emerged, and how Kazakhstan became the 47th Bologna member (see below); ideally to have a better understanding of what makes European universities tick.

Helped by some fortuitous travel in the Spring of 2010, herewith my snapshots of the recent events in and around the celebrations for the Bologna decade and the second meeting of the Bologna Policy Forum.

On assessing the Bologna decade: First stop Zagreb

When higher education ministers were packing their bags for Budapest and Vienna, I was at a conference at the University of Zagreb, along with Bologna’s most articulate philosopher, Pavel Zgaga (and occasional GlobalHigherEd contributor – see ‘Bologna: beyond 2010 and over the Ocean – but where to? On new Bologna reports and C. Adelman’s last essay‘, 11 May 2009). Further details on the conference (UNESCO Chair Round Table: “Processing the Bologna Process: Current Losses and Future Gains”, 5-6 March 2010) are available here.

At the conference, a former president of the Austrian rectors’ organisation who was a Bologna player in the early days, expressed astonishment at the progress towards a European higher education area over the ten years. ‘Whenever three or four rectors are gathered together, let alone rectors’ organisations, we sign a declaration. We don’t necessarily expect to hear more of it.’

To cue, a Croatian professor with a big public reputation explained why so many policy initiatives in his experience are doomed. ‘We have lived under Moscow, Belgrade, Zagreb and now we have to live under Brussels. We know about sabotaging government initiatives’. He hoped that ‘this new policy for the management of knowledge’ which ‘infantilised’ true scholars would be ignored.

One plus one is never two in the light (Picasso)

So what does engagement with Bologna, rather than sabotage, look like? Recognising the challenge over recent months, some academics at the University of Zagreb decided to try and confront the grumblings. They formed a group which ranged from researcher to vice-rector level, working with the UNESCO Chair for Governance and Management of Higher Education, Pavel Gregorić (pictured to the right), who has a PhD from Oxford. They had the support of the rector, Aleksa Bjeliš.

The result: two days of discussions in Spring 2010 bringing together academics concerned with evidence of change as well as the arguments; politicians who had initiated Croatia’s Bologna law of 2002 and its subsequent amendments; some of the relevant officials; and a few of us foreigners.

Zagreb, Croatia’s largest and most scientifically productive university, has seen some painful confrontations in the past. Founded by the Jesuits in 1669, it was a player in the 18th century conversion to the secular and scientific values when Maria Theresa, Empress of Austro-Hungary broke with the Jesuits in the 18th century, and her despotic son, Emperor Joseph II went to promote the Enlightenment. In 2009 it was out-sitting sitting-in students who believe ‘Education is not for Sale’ – widely written  as ‘$A£€’. And in between it has faced such traumatic events as the break-up of Yugoslavia and (re-) establishing a nation.

Bologna confrontations in this conference were, however, of the fruitful kind. All recognised that they were engaged in a process which takes them into an EHEA. The questions were how and what they could do to shape outcomes. Some of the evidence was positive. Within the university, drop out rates have fallen significantly where newly structured courses have been introduced, and there appears to be benefits from a greater concentration on teaching, taking some quality-oriented thinking from Bologna. They made it sound like a demonstration of Cliff Adelman’s concept of an ‘accountability loop’ which emerges from a linkage of course reconstruction, quality assurance and credits (see my entry ‘A European view of the new Adelman report on the Bologna Process‘).

In another register, a music professor showed a film of students who were in no way selected musical geniuses, and how they had been ‘metamorphosed’ by the experience of preparing an opera. It was he who gave the wonderful quote from Picasso on the potentially creative nature of educational experience that ‘one plus one is never two in the light’.

But there are difficulties associated with mobility and recognition of foreign studies by universities, and scepticism among employers about new degrees.

Some of the academics in the audience blamed the Croatian government’s interpretation of Bologna, punning on the local word ‘bolonja’ which, linked to spaghetti, is junk food.

Under the Croatian law, the University’s Faculty of Law, which is respected across Europe by academic lawyers and political scientists, cannot establish a graduate school in the political sciences. Faculty and research candidates with masters’ degrees from Columbia and LSE, are turned away unless they do supplementary studies, to stretch the masters’ process to two years. The holder of a Yale doctorate avoided trouble when she applied for her post by producing a supplementary and longer thesis in Croatian.

But the politicians and some academics have their complaints too. Too many academics are not being responsible about making the new three-year bachelors degree work; they stay wedded to the long five-year structure.

These would, however, seem to be problems with solutions, given some time, some goodwill, more European exchange of ideas, and factors such as the demographic downtown, that will surely have universities begging for students, be they lifelong learners or foreign students.  What was impressive about this conference was the degree of apparent openness with which these issues were aired, and the evident interdisciplinary, intergenerational mix. It surely could not have happened without the existence of Bologna, or even bolonja.

Die Wissenschaft und ihre Lehre ist frei

Next stop Vienna. Though I have the necessary plastic card I’m not here to dress up in a ballgown to swing through the Imperial Palace, possibly alongside EHEA ministers. I’ve come in part to do some work with Elsa Hackl, a colleague in political science, and author of a pioneering study of how Bologna was born.

After the calm around the Zagreb rectorate, the shabby 1970s political science building of the University of Vienna exudes political buzz. Free coffee is on offer to those who will demonstrate against neo-liberalism. They need to shout ‘Bologna burns’ at ministers, who will be driven past in buses heavily protected by police escorts and helicopter surveillance. Next to coffee vending machines are those ‘spag.bol.’ references in English: ‘Bologna is Junk Food’.

In all the bustle, you might be forgiven for not seeing the brass inscription on the staircase with that great Germanic statement of academic freedom, Die Wissenschaft und ihre Lehre ist freiScience and its teaching are free. That comes from the Austrian constitution of 1867, alongside the constitutional guarantees of religious toleration and the right of all citizens to hold public office. It’s their birthright. So it’s unsurprising that these days ‘free’ applies to cash as well as to conscience and academic freedom. You have to salute the intellectual creativity of protestors in Austria in some universities where variable fees are being discussed of up to 30 000 euros p.a. in coming up with the slogan: ‘We want rich parents for everyone’.

We want rich parents for everyone

Next day by clean and uncrowded U-bahn and bus for the European Student Union (ESU) Summit. The venue provided by the Austrian government is well away from the hectic city centre. Not, I think, that there was much danger of these ESU students joining any wild or unelected crowd.

The ESU Executive, currently led by Ligia Deca (pictured to the left) from Romania, has a reputation for producing the knowledgeable and sophisticated student politicians who are the generation who will make the European Higher Education Area a bureaucratic reality. There are already a number of ESU alumni well placed as officials in national ministries, including at least one director general of higher education. Others have passed through the Council of Europe. Several are on the way to producing good PhDs on higher education in Europe so maybe they are among future philosophers of education. Difficult to imagine they will sink into invisibility.

This year these elected members have had to negotiate between their potentially conflicting positions as key policy players with the Bologna Follow-up Group, and as representatives of national unions. The question has become more acute after weeks in which student protesters in Austria, Germany, Switzerland and Croatia showed some signs of coalescing on criticisms of university working conditions, and national unions themselves have been wavering between turning the other way, and support. The considerable ESU achievement was to dampen down a celebratory mood within the arcane structures of Bologna, and to have ministers say in the Vienna Declaration:

Recent protests in some countries partly directed against developments and measures not related to the Bologna Process have reminded is 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 staffs and students, We note that adjustments and further work, involving staff and students are necessary at European, national, and especially institutional levels to achieve the EHEA as we now envisage it.

I’m speaking on a panel at this ESU meeting with Barbara Weitgruber (pictured to the right), Senior Adviser on International Relations in Bundesministerium für Wissenschaft und Forschung (Austrian Federal Ministry of Science and Research). She has been an influential figure in the Bologna Process over the whole decade, not least for chairing the working group which produced the Bologna policy forum idea in 2007. Those who have worked with her say her attention to detail has been remarkable in keeping the show on the road.

But maybe what makes her special is that she is a doughty exploiter of the geography which has made Vienna – rather than London or Paris – a natural centre for Bologna.  Shades of The Third Man and the Austrian ability to live in a very complex world: Austria, and Weitgruber in particular, appear to have been favoured interlocutors with many of the small Bologna states, especially the newer entrants to the Process.  They often complain about being shut out or misunderstood by the EU ‘bigs’.

Being proud of the European tradition

My last appointment is back at the University of Vienna. This time I see the university in all its Austro-Hungarian grandeur, with the grandest rooms of all set aside for the European University Association (EUA) to present Trends VI. This is the latest and most ambitious of the surveys the EUA and its predecessor have undertaken since 1999 on how Bologna is perceived at institution level. For the first time the EUA is able to include Russia and Serbia in its site visits.

The proceedings are opened by Georg Winckler (pictured to the right), Rector of the University of Vienna and president of the EUA from 2005-2009. Winckler has been portrayed in an academic trade union postcard (as pictured below and to the left) as Louis XIV with the inscription L’Université c’est moi’. But as I’ve noted before, Winckler has an impressive ability to project a long-term vision of the European University [‘Six to be reckoned with at the Bologna conference‘, Guardian, 21 April 2009] and to make Europeans proud of their university tradition.  He is able to synthesise the Humboldtian vision of the research base of the university, the American conception of post-doctoral research as a resource to be nurtured, and the European Commission rhetoric of innovation, opportunity and autonomy, with the condition it is counter-balanced by the Bologna conception of intergovernmental and stakeholder governance.

Here he and Eric Froment, his predecessor as EUA president (2001-2005), do a double act on the dynamics of a European knowledge space.   Mobility remains a priority, especially between degrees (vertical mobility). Taking Commission figures they say that at present 97% of European PhDs have not been employed outside their PhD country, not a recipe for innovative thought. There needs to be closer cooperation between the EHEA and the European Research and Innovation Area. Winckler is concerned about employability. Few attempts are being made to sharpen the profile of the bachelor degree. Froment takes a more cultural stand. The EHEA needs to be recognisably European. If he is saying that Bologna is part of a package, which implies some solidarity, and not a set of tools to enhance higher education global trading, he may have some attentive listeners.

The Trends report itself deserves a serious analysis for which there is not space here. I simply comment that its optimistic conclusions should remind us that these are the views of university leadership. The finding that almost 60 per cent of respondents think Bologna has been ‘very positive’, and 77 per cent say ‘all departments’ have reconsidered curricula, are not necessarily the views of academics at large. Those willing to struggle with teaching and learning issues à la Zagreb too often find the going is tough, especially when resources for extra work are lacking.

But the big message that the Trends survey, and my trip to Zagreb and Vienna convey is that over the Bologna decade, very different local interpretations about what really matters do co-exist with a common vocabulary on European higher education objectives. However since there is a vast diversity of ways in which the Bologna reform is being implemented in different countries, different universities and different departments within the same university, how issues pan out depends on particular dynamics. Success requires strong political commitment within each and every signatory country (see ‘My, how you’ve grown‘, Times Higher Education, 11 March 2010 for a fuller argument).

From a distance what’s happening might seem typically European in its lack of clarity. But the rich mix of cultures, languages and national experience within Europe are generating an intellectual energy which runs counter to much of the doom-mongering about the poor state of European universities outside those at the top of the Shanghai Jiao Tong league, among economists, in particular.

As to the questions I left unanswered above: The Bologna Policy Forum, in addition to its known characteristics, is a neat way of avoiding the definition of Europe’s boundaries. In a first step, in face of persistent requests from Israel and others to join, the Bologna Process relied on the Council of Europe definition of signatories to its Cultural Convention to exclude those outside the continent. At a second stage, the organisers saw that there was not only a demand for membership, but even more a demand for dialogue from others, including the US and Australia and yes, including Ethiopia, so much the better. Hence the Forum.

And how has Kazakhstan got in under the wire?  I can report that at the Magna Charta ceremonies in 2009, ministers and rectors were present with a map showing that they have more landmass than Turkey, long-time Bologna member on the continent of Europe, as calculated west of a certain longitude. I am not quite sure which, and by my map the claim would probably make Iran eligible too.  Who knows? Bologna continues to serve up surprises.

Anne Corbett

Bologna Policy Forum Keynote Speech – Building the global knowledge society: systemic and institutional change

Editor’s note: the speech below was written by Juan Ramón de la Fuente, President and Eva Egron-Polak, Secretary General, International Association of Universities (IAU).  It was presented by Juan Ramón de la Fuente at the Second Bologna Policy Forum, Vienna, Austria, March 12, 2010.

As noted in a recent entry (‘The Global Bologna Policy Forum: a forum for the emerging global higher education and research space?‘), the Bologna Policy Forum is becoming an influential forum for “intensifying policy dialogue” (a phrase used in European Higher Education in a Global Setting. A Strategy for the External Dimension of the Bologna Process, which was approved by the Bologna Process ministers in 2007). Juan Ramón de la Fuente (former Rector, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México) and Eva Egron-Polak crafted this speech to focus discussion for representatives of the 73 countries attending the Forum.

The IAU (whose motto is IAU: For a Worldwide Higher Education Community) contributes to the development of the ‘global dimension’ of the Bologna Process by acting as a member and resource for the Bologna Process Follow-up Group (BFUG) tasked with implementing the European Higher Education Area in a Global Context work programme/action line.

Our sincere thanks to Juan Ramón de la Fuente and Eva Egron-Polak for permission to post their illuminating speech here.

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BUILDING THE GLOBAL KNOWLEDGE SOCIETY: SYSTEMIC AND INSTITUTIONAL CHANGE

1. Introduction

It is a pleasure for me to take part in this Forum.  On behalf of IAU, I thank the three co-organizing countries – Spain, Hungary and Austria for opening a direct window on the construction site of the European Higher Education Area for the outside world.  Allow me also to congratulate the architects and craftspeople building the Bologna Process on its 10th anniversary and for launching and continuously advancing a truly historical transformation in higher education.  May the European Higher Education Area fulfill all of its promise and may its successes and difficulties serve as valuable lessons to others.

I am also grateful to be making these remarks on behalf of the IAU for a second reason.  Of course, many of us are always pleased when this unique international association is given an opportunity to share its views at gatherings of policy and decision makers in higher education.  To do so in this Forum, though, is especially important since it extends the reality of the multi-stakeholder approach taken throughout the Bologna Process to its dialogue with others.  Perhaps more than anything, the process adopted in this regional initiative, must be underlined and applauded for its unique qualities of inclusiveness and consultative nature.

2. The Forum Themes

The overarching theme of Building the Global Knowledge Society – systemic and institutional change and the three themes of multiple expectations, competition and cooperation, brain drain or brain circulation – that have been chosen for this second Forum pose a real challenge.  Each of them is of great importance but in addition, they are intrinsically interconnected and difficult to unpack.

I will focus on only a small portion of the vast and rapidly changing canvas that is frequently called the global higher education landscape, highlighting just three aspects that I believe pose major challenges everywhere.  I will also sketch out briefly how the regional, international and global dimensions are influencing trends and developments for higher education institutions in vastly different circumstances.

IAU, a global association, has about 40% of its Members in Europe, which means that  60% come from outside of Europe with approximately 23% in Asia and 11% in Africa as well as others in North America, the Middle East and in Latin America.  As our Members are from the richest as well as the poorest nations in the world, since they use a variety of languages and following various higher education traditions, IAU is particularly sensitive to the implications of the various trends and developments for these culturally, linguistically and economically diverse constituents.  In our view this diversity represents the world’s greatest resource and history’s most important legacy.

a) Importance of Higher Education and Research

It can be stated without much doubt that everywhere, countries face the same imperative: to raise higher-level employment skills, to sustain a globally competitive research base and to improve knowledge dissemination to the benefit of society.  (OECD, 2009).

Hence, perhaps the most important development in the last couple of decades and a key driver of change is the very importance assigned to higher education as a sector today and the expectation that it can provide solutions or respond to society’s challenges.  There is general consensus that no state, indeed no society, can afford to ignore how well its higher education and research sector is performing.  In an increasingly competitive, globalized economy, nations with the most knowledge-intensive economic base, the greatest capacity for innovation and the most educated population are the most likely to succeed.

It is this link to innovation and knowledge-intensive economic development that explains, at least to some extent, the current love affair with global rankings.  They offer simple answers about research performance of universities, though so far, they generally tend to neglect or fail to measure how well the non-research related mission of higher education is being carried out.

Since 2003, when the first Shanghai Jiao Tong University ranking was first published, the global context has become the reference and research performance the undisputed measure of quality, despite continuous criticism.  The failure, so far, for the most frequently used rankings to recognize that higher education fulfills other goals, is a real danger.  Such goals as the provision of equitable access to enhance social cohesion, or the institution’s commitment in other efforts such as poverty alleviation, conflict prevention, cultural awareness and many other challenges often expressed within the framework of the Millennium Development Goals, cannot be ignored in any dynamic and context-sensitive measures of quality.  Yet, that is indeed the case today.

Building the Global Knowledge Society must be synonymous with building a diverse higher education and research system within and between nations.  It is imperative that we ask ourselves whether our policies, actions and goals serve to push for ever stronger convergence in the higher education and research sector around the world or whether we are preserving diversity and nurturing alternatives.  Can we, given the state of higher education around the world, afford a single reference framework or rather should we not promote the co-development and maintenance of many points of reference in order to do justice to the multiple and varied expectations of HE?

The cost of the race for the world-class university at the top of the shaky ladder may be too high even in the wealthiest of nations, if we forget Martin Trow’s statement that the survival of an elite higher education depends on a comprehensive system of non-elite institutions.  (Trow, 1979)

b) Higher Education Expansion and Growth

This recognition of the importance of higher education is also reflected in the continuous expansion of the sector – at the national level, regionally and worldwide.   HE is not only seen as a key to national or regional competitiveness; it is a key to individual success as well.  Making access to higher education available in an equitable and fair manner to all groups in society is an important goal of public policy in many countries, though the capacity to fulfill that goal and even the political will to do so, vary greatly.

In less than a decade – between 1999 and 2006 – the number of students enrolled in higher education increased roughly by 50% – from about 93 million to 144 million (UNESCO, 2009) and the growth trend appears to be stable for a few years to come.

The IAU maintains a world wide database on higher education which, in 1983 included approximately 9,000 universities and other higher education institutions in 153 countries.  Today, the database has more than 18, 000 institutions in 183 countries.  In one decade, China has doubled the number of HEIs and multiplied by 5 the number of students who are enrolled.  In Ethiopia, in 2000 there were 34,000 students enrolled in higher education, in 2007 this number increased to 120,000. (WERN, 2010)

This growth, however, is uneven and the gaps between nations are huge with participation levels in higher education in some parts of the industrialized world reaching +70% while elsewhere, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and even in South and West Asia they remain around 6 % and 11 %, respectively.   (UNESCO, 2009)

The demand for access is unevenly matched by available places in higher education.  Demand is by far the greatest in developing nations – for example in Nigeria, the estimated system-wide capacity is for 170,000 students; the National University Commission reports that last year, 1 million candidates applied (WERN, 2010).  At the same time in Japan, just last month, two private universities announced they will close their doors due to lack of student applications.

New delivery modes using Information Technologies, international mobility and cross border education, private provision and institutional mergers, networks and partnerships as well as other mechanisms provide some of the answers to these diverse and complex challenges.  However, they bring their own specific difficulties, unless they are developed in real partnerships, respecting the immediate and longer term needs and interests of each partner.

c) Funding of Higher Education

Without a doubt, funding and investment is a universal key and constraint in the search for solutions.

The quantitative expansion, albeit uneven, that we have witnessed everywhere, is not easy to achieve if quality is to be retained and if the sector is to continue to perform well in both education and research.  Thus, funding is, not surprisingly, the third factor that exerts pressure and sets the direction for change in most systems and for each institution of higher education.  Of course, adequate funding is the main, but not the only requirement for successfully expanding the system while maintaining high quality.

In general terms, funding has not kept pace with expansion in OECD countries and even less so in developing nations.  The public support as a proportion of all HE funding has dropped.  All over the world new schemes and funding approaches, as well as new sources of financial support for higher education and research, are being introduced or called for.   The average proportion of public funding of total tertiary education funding fell by 6% between 1995 and 2004, in OECD countries decreasing in 22 out of 28 members for which data was available. (Salmi, in OECD, 2009)  Other reductions are most likely in the future, given the current levels of public spending deficits.  The recent UK announcement that public funding per student for teaching will drop a further 4.6% when two waves of efficiency savings were already announced, does not bode well. (UUK, 2010).

In many developing nations, the share of their overall wealth spent on higher education is similar to that of industrialized nations because the costs per student, in comparison to other levels of education are so much higher.  When this is already the case with low participation rates, the likelihood that public spending can finance the needed expansion, is small.  Yet, just to remind ourselves of the distinct realities in the global context, even if nations in sub-Saharan Africa spend between 4-11 times more per student than they do on secondary students, expenditure per student in U.S. dollars converted using purchasing power parities (PPPs) is situated somewhere between $1,000 and $3,000 per student in these same countries, while it can be as high as $15,500 in Austria and Denmark or up to $18,000 in Kuwait.  (UNESCO, 2009)

The growth of the private higher education sector is one of the responses, especially in the developing world, bringing with it new challenges of quality, equity of access, range of disciplines, etc.  Today 30% of global higher education enrollment is in the private sector and it is the fastest growing part of the sector worldwide.  (Altbach in UNESCO, 2009).  But keeping track of these developments is rather challenging since it is becoming next to impossible to draw clear lines between public and private institutions as public universities privatize.  Just one example of this: when student contribution covers 47% of the overall cost, can we still speak of public education? This is now the case of many public universities in the USA (Rhodes, 2010).  IAU has just launched a Research Essay competition on this theme, calling on scholars to investigate the privatizing trend in the public sector.

These funding figures relate to the educational mission of higher education, as does the growth of the private sector, but research is an even more prized and a more expensive aspect of the sector.  The mechanisms being adopted to fund research also bring about systemic and institutional transformation and appear of the greatest strategic importance.  The economic development value placed on research and innovation is huge, as are the investments required to stay on top of the competition.

In most parts of the world where investment in research is being made – and this is by no means everywhere – Competitive Funds of one type or another are the most popular mechanism used.

However, given the simultaneous and opposing trends of expansion/massification on the one hand and the decrease in available funding on the other, research funding schemes also serve to concentrate research capacity and steer systems towards institutional differentiation.  Examples are too numerous to cite but they include the Excellence Initiative in Germany, the Apex University initiative in Malaysia, the highly competitive Research Centers of Excellence Program in Singapore, or the Campus Excellence program in Spain among many others.

These are, for the most part, national instruments.  They, perhaps more than any others, are creating a new landscape, reinforcing hierarchies within systems and helping to structure networks both regionally and globally.  How such research capacity concentration (already high in a global context) will impact on other HEIs within the national systems and between countries needs to be considered, especially given the knowledge based economies that most nations are striving to build.  If the teaching and research nexus is what creates high quality universities, can we, in a mass higher education system concentrate research in only a few institutions, a few nations, or only in some regions? How will the various parts that make up the global landscape, benefit or not, from this movement?

3. Regionalization, Internationalization and Globalization

This brings me to the last part of my comments and, against the background of IAU’s slogan ‘Building a worldwide higher education community’, I would like pose a few questions to see whether current trends of regionalization, internationalization and globalization are bringing us closer or further away from this ideal or from the Global Knowledge Society.

The mere fact that this second global forum is taking place demonstrates that even regional efforts such as the Bologna Process are developing in a context of a global or a worldwide referential system of knowledge creation and dissemination.  HEIs are central actors in regionalization, internationalization and globalization.  They are subjects of regional or international developments but they are also shaping them through their own regional or global strategies.

How institutions, countries and even regions, insert themselves into the global system depends on many factors including the choices made with regard to the cooperation-competition continuum, one of the themes to be addressed in this Forum.

Competition can be a path towards strength and excellence.  It can, however, be a path towards exclusion.  The cost of exclusion from the global system is very high indeed and for that reason we must ensure that the conditions required for competition to be a positive force not only exist but prevail.

The few indicators I mentioned earlier clearly demonstrate that in terms of capacities – human, financial, scientific, linguistic etc. the playing field is definitely uneven and the starting blocks for the competition are clearly not aligned.

IAU’s international policy statements always call attention to this reality, and exhort cooperation and partnerships that respect the different conditions and urgencies that drive policy development and institutional strategies around the world. We argue that ethical considerations of fairness and justice are also essential, but often absent in the process of higher education and research internationalization.

Internationalization is an important policy for higher education leaders: the most recent global survey undertaken by IAU on internationalization of higher education in 2009 shows that 65% of HEIs assign a high level of importance to the process and furthermore that it has increased in importance over the past 3 years.  The vast majority also view student mobility as a central aspect of internationalization, as does the Bologna Process.  At the same time, Brain Drain is identified as the most important risk of internationalization by HEIs in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.  (IAU, forthcoming)

Certainly, part of the rationale for mobility is linked to internationalization – exposing students to different cultures, new ways of knowing, etc.  Equal parts though can also be assigned to the ‘demand and supply’ mismatch, and to the increasing ‘privatization’ of higher education including in the public sphere to which international students, in a growing number of nations, bring much needed revenue.  In Canada, for example, international students are reported as bringing 6.5 Billion CAD$ to the economy and create 83,000 jobs (Kunin, 2009). In the UK, it is reported by UUK that personal, off-campus expenditure of international students and visitors amounted to 2.3 billion pounds in 2007/08. (UUK, 2009)

In addition, international students, especially at the graduate level represent a huge part of the knowledge creation workforce in many universities of industrialized nations. For all these reasons, while mobility trends and patterns are changing, the importance of the phenomenon and the competition that surrounds it continue to grow.

Given the growing importance of highly educated people and of research and innovation for economic development, it is clear that no nation can afford a brain drain, or a sustained exodus of its teachers, researchers, lecturers, medical doctors, nurses, etc.

Can we hope to create a worldwide community of higher education if we compete at all costs for the best and the brightest, without developing compensatory mechanisms and or those that ensure that true circulation of the intellectual resources takes place among nations?  A recent US study indicates that about 40% of the science and engineering work force with doctorates in that country is foreign born.  The report goes on to state that the US ability to continue to attract and keep foreign scientists and engineers is critical to the country’s plans for increased investment in R & D.  (Finn, 2010)

There are numerous causes for the brain drain and they include a variety of both academic and non academic/scientific issues ranging from research infrastructure, academic freedom, salary levels to political stability, safety, discrimination as well as quality of education for children, etc.  Of course, taking up opportunities and enjoying the freedom of choice is a right of each individual, but the consequences for the sending nations and the impact on their capacity to join the Global Knowledge Society of tomorrow must be considered however, when mobility programs are designed and offers made.  So far, the search for effective ways to use the scientific and professional diaspora has not been without problems.  Thus the primary strategy to combat the brain drain remains the creation, through support, development, cooperation and capacity building partnerships, the conditions that will allow students and scholars to remain or return to their home institutions where they are indispensible to the future of their nations.

The growing competition for the best and the brightest brought the brain drain phenomenon to focus in Europe in the relatively recent past.  For some nations, the exodus has been going on for much longer and the impact has been devastating – indeed in proportion to the magnitude of the exodus –  Yes, China and India exemplify cases of brain circulation, but China and India are not typical examples; their sheer size as well as recent economic growth rates place them outside the norm.

4. Final considerations in guise of Conclusions

What can we learn from the European efforts to build a Higher Education Area? What can we, as non-Bologna Process participants, bring to the debate?

First of all, looking at Europe from the outside, there are numerous aspects that inspire admiration and from which lessons could be learned elsewhere.  I will only cite three that are linked to the process rather than to the more structural achievement of Bologna reforms.

  • Voluntary, incremental process to which ministers are politically committed
  • Multi-stakeholder and inclusive approach that includes a strong role for students and is flexible and subject to continuous monitoring
  • National and regional funding sources are available to provide incentives and supports for progress making.

As we meet here within the framework of a regional process of transformation, we cannot ignore that it is the global dimension or to some extent the broader process of globalization that acts as the real catalyst for  this meeting.  Furthermore, this globalization catalyst is exerting pressure in Europe to reach out to non European partners just as we seek to learn from your experiences in Europe.

But globalization is fundamentally a different process.  Instead of removing borders and barriers by decision, often by consensus, and with equalizing measures, as is the case in regionalization or regional integration movements, globalization is fueled by the power of capital flows, the market, information and communication technologies and competition that create strong interdependencies.  It lacks the checks and balances that act as a safety net and minimize the negative consequences.

So among the fundamental questions we need to ask is whether removing borders for trade, for the mobility of capital and people on a more global scale is contributing to the removal of borders or barriers between the rich and the poor, between those who know and those who have no access to knowledge; whether by removing borders the quality of life  improves for the many or if, on the other hand, this process leads to an even more rapid spread of negative consequences such as environmental degradation, health pandemics and economic meltdowns, while increasing the gaps between people and making the barriers for entry, even to the Global Knowledge Society, that much higher.

In a forum on higher education, these questions are essential for various reasons: because it is our responsibility as teachers and researchers to examine critically, the various trends and question them with detachment and objectivity while educating our students to do so as well.  But also because we need to avoid the negative aspects of the process, and put in place those much needed safety nets, when,  as is increasingly the case,  higher education institutions are adopting globalizing strategies.  That is why it is important to keep in view the unexpected and unwanted consequences that such developments may bring and to listen to higher education stakeholders from other parts of the world.

The Global Knowledge Society is a highly positive concept.  Can we build it using competing regional blocks? Can it be built without the global South?  What must we do to ensure that people of all nations participate not merely as subjects but as empowered actors whose contribution enriches the global space?  How far do we wish to see higher education become merely an export sector or an instrument of economic and political diplomacy, rather than a sector that can serve as models for new types of collaborative relations and innovative partnerships?

I look forward to taking part in this Forum and debating these and related issues that may serve to bring us closer to realizing the Global Knowledge Society ideal.

Thank you.

Juan Ramón de la Fuente and Eva Egron-Polak

References

  1. Altbach, P.G., Reisberg, L. and Rumbley, L.E., (2009) Trends in Global Higher Education: Tracking an Academic Revolution, WCHE, Paris: UNESCO.
  2. Finn, M.G. (2010) Stay Rates of Foreign Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities 2007, Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, USA.
  3. IAU. The Third Global Survey on Internationalization of Higher Education, Paris: IAU (forthcoming)
  4. Rhodes, Frank H.T. (2010) in Weber, L.E and Duderstadt, J.J. (eds). University research for Innovation, Glion Colloquium Series No 6, London: Economica.
  5. Roslyn Kunin & Associates, Inc. (2009) Economic Impact of International Education in Canada: Final Report, prepared for Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada.
  6. OECD. (2009) Education at a Glance 2009: Global Indicators Paris: OECD Publishing, France.
  7. Salmi, J. (2009) in Higher Education to 2030, Volume 2 Globalisation, Paris: OECD Publishing, France.
  8. Trow, Martin and S. Gordon, (1979) Youth Education and Unemployment Problems: an International Perspective, Carnagie Council on Policy Studies in Higher Education. USA.
  9. UNESCO, (2009) Global Education Digest 2009: Comparing Education Statistics Across the World Montreal: UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Canada
  10. Universities UK, (2010a) Making It Count: How Universities Are Using Income From Variable Fees, London: Universities UK.
  11. Universities UK, (2009b) The Impact of Universities on the UK Economy: Fourth Report, London: Universities UK.
  12. World Education News and Reviews, (WENR) January/February 2010 Volume 23, Issue 1, http://www.wes.org/ewenr/10feb/africa.htm

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