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.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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:

~~

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

~~

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:

~~

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:

~~

~~

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

Students: hitch up to Europe

Editors’ note: Anne Corbett‘s entry below was originally published in Open Democracy (19 January 2011). Our thanks to David Hayes for permission to repost it here.  Anne Corbett’s previous entries in GlobalHigherEd include ‘From the big picture to close ups: in Zagreb and Vienna the week the European Higher Education Area was launched‘ and ‘Fit for purpose’ within ‘Elephants in the room, and all that: more ‘reactions’ to the Bologna Process Leuven Communiqué’. Her views, inspired by the recent student protests across Europe, and in England in particular, contrast in interesting ways with Peter Jones’ 2009 entry ‘Was there a student voice in Leuven?‘.

Kris Olds & Susan Robertson

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Must the British student protest, and the wider debate it is inspiring, remain insular? It is curious that while those in other parts of Europe have watched with horrified fascination the fate of the London government`s tuition-fees policy, British students and commentators appear to ignore related events across much of the continent.

This is a pity, for a complex and relevant story is being played out in the Europe of higher education, where many of the issues which provoked students to take to the streets in 2008-10 parallel those now animating their British counterparts: budget cuts, efficiency reforms, new ways of cost-sharing and of managing degrees, tuition-fee rises, privatisation, and selective strategies for excellence. European governments defend all these proposed changes to the university system as responses to a general context of austerity and global competition.

The ensuing protests – in Spain, in Italy and Greece against reform bills, in France (where lecturers were also deeply involved), in Holland, Denmark and Finland against cuts and/or fees, in Austria, Germany and Croatia where curriculum concerns were to the fore – were reported in the media as national events. Yet they share elements that cross national boundaries.

Among these is opposition to the alleged dumbing-down of the content of courses and degrees. For the protesters in these countries, the main culprit is the European Union’s “Bologna process”, a voluntary intergovernmental initiative launched in 1999 designed “to make European higher education more compatible and comparable, more competitive and more attractive for Europeans and for students and scholars from other continents”. The forty-seven signatory countries are committed to introducing the British-American bachelor-masters-doctorate degree structure, thus moving away from the system where a first diploma is awarded only after some original research has been completed. The opponents of this change see “Bologna” is junk – mere spag bol.

European dimensions

But there is another view. The elected student organisations have tended to see potential benefits in the Bologna process, such as lower drop-out rates and more attentive professors. More broadly, their appeal is that they offer a transnational political platform which allows students as well as politicians to show that cooperation can work across cultural and linguistic boundaries – a practice that has survived and developed over Europe’s last four decades, notwithstanding several political changes and occasional tensions with the European commission (see Universities and  the Europe of Knowledge [Palgrave Macmillan, 2005]).

The common “European higher-education area” which is being created under the Bologna rubric has over 4,000 universities and a student population of 30 million. It extends beyond the twenty-seven EU member-states and their immediate neighbours to Russia and Turkey and microstates like Andorra and the Vatican. All are committed both to instituting the tripartite degree system and to respecting common principles on fair recognition of foreign diplomas and quality assurance.

There are inevitable bumps along the way, especially among leading members. For example, England is recognised as having more world-class universities than its European partners, yet also shorter courses and lighter-weight loads on students; this has pushed British representatives to seek to devise measures which reflect learning outcomes rather than the time-inputs and course length.

This sort of adaptation is likely to continue, not least as Bologna is of great interest in regions beyond Europe. Three projects are underway in the United States to reproduce the process’s “accountability loop”; Australia is trying to meet an unexpected European challenge; southeast Asian higher education is looking at parallel forms of coordination; the Indian sector follows Bologna closely.

But in the European Union, Bologna is not the only game in town. A second and to an extent overlapping European dynamic, reflecting the wider Lisbon agenda / Europe 2020 strategy, sees heads of state and government advance the more instrumental view that – especially in times of austerity and global competition – the primary function of universities is to be engines of growth for the European economy (as well as making a large contribution to social stability). The three pillars of this “modernisation” which most concern universities are autonomy, curriculum and funding.

The European commission’s argument is that autonomy will allow universities to adapt their curriculum to a niche market, whether global or local; and to seek out supplementary (read non-state or private) funding. The argument has no legal force but is persuasive in that the commission can disburse incentive funds and wield institutional resources to strengthens links with other areas of policy (research, regional development and EU neighbourhood).

The student role in all this is represented within the Bologna rather than the commission-centred process. The relevant body is the federative European Students’ Union (ESU, formerly ESIB), whose elected executive has since 2001 been a consultative member of the Bologna process, alongside (for example) the European University Association and the Council of Europe. The ESU’s consistency and good preparation have made it more effective than many national delegations.

Its achievements include (as early as 2001) making clear that ministers and their officials were giving priority to process rather than values, and thus ensuring a commitment to the principle of higher education as a public good; resisting the potential inclusion of higher education within the General Agreement on Trade and Services (Gats); getting access and equity issues onto the Bologna agenda; and, in spring 2010, persuading ministers for the first time to recognise the concerns of protesting students.

The transnational challenge

But so far, an important element is missing from the “Europe of higher education”: a vision to inspire. At two other big moments in European university history, the creation of a Magna Charta for universities (1988) and the founding of the Bologna process (1998-99), some voices were able to transcend national boundaries and make the case that the work of universities and the interests of those within them (and society at large) would be better served by anchoring them more firmly to a European as well as a national dimension.

This might be about to change, in great part thanks to the former Dutch minister of education and current president of Maastricht University, Jo Ritzen. In June 2010, he published a book with the alluring title A Chance for European Universities (Amsterdam University Press). This unusual work combines far-sighted optimism with a collaborative approach that made its preparation an open process (a pre-publication version was available on the web). A manifesto alongside the finalised version was signed by some of the most active higher-education ministers of the Bologna decade, including Tessa Blackstone (a founder of the process, and now vice-chancellor of the University of Greenwich) and several policy experts (as one of the latter I declare an interest).

Jo Ritzen’s activities have two main themes. First, and contrary to Europe’s dominant discourse in both the commission and economic think-tanks, that universities are about much more than providing for a global market; to recover some of their past glory, they have to be cherished and empowered as institutions. Second, that Europe is a “shining example” of reducing political costs at the national level, and thus a way of breaking domestic deadlocks.

Ritzen’s book may present students in rather administrative terms (index references are to grants, migration, mobility and student numbers), but he clearly wants to open a Europe-wide debate on the politics of higher education in which the more participants and the greater diversity of views the better. He is the sort of advocate who helps to push an issue along, and his ambition of being elected to the European parliament may increase his visibility further.

The European context of university reform and student protest suggests that some British students at least should consider going comparative and transnational to get this dimension into domestic debate – whether through the European Students’ Union or other sources. Two issues in particular cry out for some cross-national input: how other systems balance the private and public interest, not just on tuition-fees and loans but through tax and wealth-distribution policies; and (crucial for English universities) how to counter the government’s proposed treatment of arts and humanities as a matter of customer choice rather than intrinsic to the function of a university.

Can universities still be called the greatest creation of the European mind? I suggest that British students can help determine the answer.

Anne Corbett

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).

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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

Budapest-Vienna Declaration on the European Higher Education Area

Budapest-Vienna Declaration on the European Higher Education Area
March 12, 2010

1.    We, the Ministers responsible for higher education in the countries participating in the Bologna Process, met in Budapest and Vienna on March 11 and 12, 2010 to launch the European Higher Education Area (EHEA), as envisaged in the Bologna Declaration of 1999.

2.    Based on our agreed criteria for country membership, we welcome Kazakhstan as new participating country of the European Higher Education Area.

3. The Bologna Declaration in 1999 set out a vision for 2010 of an internationally competitive and attractive European Higher Education Area where higher education institutions, supported by strongly committed staff, can fulfil their diverse missions in the knowledge society; and where students benefiting from mobility with smooth and fair recognition of their qualifications, can find the best suited educational pathways.

4. Since 1999, 47 parties to the European Cultural Convention, have signed up to this vision and have made significant progress towards achieving it. In a unique partnership between public authorities, higher education institutions, students and staff, together with employers, quality assurance agencies, international organisations and European institutions, we have engaged in a series of reforms to build a European Higher Education Area based on trust, cooperation and respect for the diversity of cultures, languages, and higher education systems.

5. The Bologna Process and the resulting European Higher Education Area, being unprecedented examples of regional, cross-border cooperation in higher education, have raised considerable interest in other parts of the world and made European higher education more visible on the global map. We welcome this interest and look forward to intensifying our policy dialogue and cooperation with partners across the world.

6.    We have taken note of the independent assessment and the stakeholders’ reports. We welcome their affirmation that institutions of higher education, staff and students increasingly identify with the goals of the Bologna Process. While much has been achieved in implementing the Bologna reforms, the reports also illustrate that EHEA action lines such as degree and curriculum reform, quality assurance, recognition, mobility and the social dimension are implemented to varying degrees. Recent protests in some countries, partly directed against developments and measures not related to the Bologna Process, have reminded us that some of the Bologna aims and reforms have not been properly implemented and explained. We acknowledge and will listen to the critical voices raised among staff and students. We note that adjustments and further work, involving staff and students, are necessary at European, national, and especially institutional levels to achieve the European Higher Education Area as we envisage it.

7. We, the Ministers, are committed to the full and proper implementation of the agreed objectives and the agenda for the next decade set by the Leuven/Louvain-la- Neuve Communiqué. In close cooperation with higher education institutions, staff, students and other stakeholders, we will step up our efforts to accomplish the reforms already underway to enable students and staff to be mobile, to improve teaching and learning in higher education institutions, to enhance graduate employability, and to provide quality higher education for all. At national level, we also strive to improve communication on and understanding of the Bologna Process among all stakeholders and society as a whole.

8. We, the Ministers, recommit to academic freedom as well as autonomy and accountability of higher education institutions as principles of the European Higher Education Area and underline the role the higher education institutions play in fostering peaceful democratic societies and strengthening social cohesion.

9.    We acknowledge the key role of the academic community – institutional leaders, teachers, researchers, administrative staff and students – in making the European Higher Education Area a reality, providing the learners with the opportunity to acquire knowledge, skills and competences furthering their careers and lives as democratic citizens as well as their personal development. We recognise that a more supportive environment for the staff to fulfil their tasks, is needed. We commit ourselves to working towards a more effective inclusion of higher education staff and students in the implementation and further development of the EHEA. We fully support staff and student participation in decision-making structures at European, national and institutional levels.

10. We call upon all actors involved to facilitate an inspiring working and learning environment and to foster student-centred learning as a way of empowering the learner in all forms of education, providing the best solution for sustainable and flexible learning paths. This also requires the cooperation of teachers and researchers in international networks.

11. We, the Ministers, reaffirm that higher education is a public responsibility. We commit ourselves, notwithstanding these difficult economic times, to ensuring that higher education institutions have the necessary resources within a framework established and overseen by public authorities. We are convinced that higher education is a major driver for social and economic development and for innovation in an increasingly knowledge-driven world. We shall therefore increase our efforts on the social dimension in order to provide equal opportunities to quality education, paying particular attention to underrepresented groups.

12. We, the Ministers responsible for the European Higher Education Area, ask the Bologna Follow-up Group to propose measures to facilitate the proper and full implementation of the agreed Bologna principles and action lines across the European Higher Education Area, especially at the national and institutional levels, among others by developing additional working methods, such as peer learning, study visits and other information sharing activities. By continuously developing, enhancing and strengthening the European Higher Education Area and taking further the synergies with the European Research Area, Europe will be able to successfully face the challenges of the next decade.

13. Our next Ministerial Meeting to take stock of progress and to drive the Leuven/Louvain-la-Neuve agenda forward, will be hosted by Romania in Bucharest on 26-27 April 2012.

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

Euro-Asia university cooperation as a means to enrich academic quality

Editor’s note: The speech below was given by Alistair MacDonald (pictured to the right), Head of Delegation, European Union Delegation Manila. Mr. MacDonald kindly allowed us to reprint his speech below, which was delivered at the Best Practices in University Development through International Cooperation conference, Baguio City, Philippines, 2-4 February 2010.

The conference rationale was framed this way:

Saint Louis University and Benguet State University are organizing an international conference to cap 10 years of fruitful partnership under the Vlaamse Interuniversitaire Raad (Flemish Interuniversity Council)-Philippines Institutional University Cooperation Program. The collaboration between SLU and BSU is the only one of its kind among all the Flemish IUC programs, in that it involves two universities in a single partnership. Despite the differences in structure and development objectives, SLU and BSU worked successfully together in various projects covering Institutional Management, ICT, Library Services, Socio-Economics, and Health and Environment. Thus in this conference, the VLIR, SLU and BSU aim to share best practices in university development cooperation based on the PIUC experience which could serve as a model for other institutions. This will also bring views from all over the globe on the opportunities and challenges of international university development cooperation.

The EU Delegation to the Philippines was established in 1990, as a “fully-fledged diplomatic mission, with the task of officially representing the European Union in the Philippines (in close cooperation with the Embassies of the EU Member States)”. Our thanks to Mr. MacDonald for shedding light on the logics and practices that are shaping the transformation of higher education systems within, as well as linkages between, European and Asian systems of higher education.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

University Cooperation as a Means to Enrich Academic Quality

Remarks by Ambassador Alistair MacDonald, European Union

Baguio, 3 February 2010

Chairman Angeles, Professor Supachai, Fr Hechanova and Dr Tagarino, our visitors from the Vlaamse Interuniversitaire Raad and other distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen – good morning, magandang umaga, gooie morgen.

Thank you for inviting me to join you at the opening of your conference – a conference which is an excellent example of cooperation between the Philippines and Belgium, between the EU and Asia. Having been an academic before I became a bureaucrat, higher education remains a subject very close to my heart. Though I must say, having been out of academia for more than 30 years, that I feel pretty nervous speaking in front of such an audience of university presidents, deans, and professors.

At least that means that I don’t need to convince you just how important higher education is to the future of any country, and indeed how important a role higher education plays in building and cementing international relations and international cooperation. International partnerships are becoming increasingly important in the context of globalisation, and the EU sees higher education as a strategic sector for strengthening our partnership and our cooperation with Asia.

I would just like to look today at two main themes – how we have attempted to strengthen higher education across Europe, through the Bologna process, and how we have sought to promote cooperation with third countries in higher education.

1) The Bologna Process

I should underline first that in the EU, the primary responsibility for education rests with the individual Member States, and in some cases (like in Scotland or I believe Belgium, with the national or regional authorities within these States). But the EU has for many years sought to promote cooperation among European universities, through the exchange of students and faculty or the exchange of best practices, and through joint research and degree programmes. The European Commission, as the executive arm of the EU, has played an active part in developing such programmes .

The foundations of our current efforts in this field were laid back in 1999, when Education Ministers from 29 European countries met in Bologna, and committed themselves to create a European Higher Education Area by 2010, in which students can choose from a wide range of high quality courses and benefit from smooth recognition procedures. Our Education Ministers were concerned to make European higher education more compatible and comparable, promoting free movement across the EU, and at the same time to ensure that it would remain competitive and attractive, both for Europeans and for students and researchers from elsewhere in the world. That was how the so-called “Bologna Process” was born.

Why was it called the Bologna Process? The simple answer is that this meeting was held in Bologna. But at the same time this recognised Bologna’s place in history, as the oldest university in Europe (though not the oldest in the world, which distinction is held in Morocco, I believe). The University of Bologna was founded in 1088, well before Paris, Oxford, etc. My own alma mater, Glasgow University, was a relative latecomer, being established in 1451.

The Bologna Process, from its birth in 1999, had the objective of  making academic degree standards and quality assurance standards more comparable and compatible across Europe, so that :

  • it will be easy to move from one country to the other (within the European Higher Education Area) – for the purpose of further study or employment;
  • European higher education will become more attractive to students and researchers from outside Europe
  • and in particular that the European Higher Education Area will provide us with a high-quality university network, helping to ensure Europe’s future as a stable, peaceful and tolerant community;

The priorities of the Bologna process are:

  • to introduce the three cycle system (bachelor/master/doctorate) across Europe
  • to set standards for quality assurance and thus of comparability;
  • and to facilitate the mutual recognition of qualifications and periods of study
  • all of this through the creation of a European Higher Education Area

Twenty-nine countries signed the Bologna Declaration in 1999 (including Iceland, Norway and Switzerland), but a total of forty-six countries have now joined the Bologna Process, ranging from Russia to the Holy See. The criteria for accession to the process are simple :

  • being a signatory to the European Cultural Convention of the Council of Europe.
  • and giving a clear commitment to the objectives of the Bologna Process, and presenting a reform programme for that country’s higher education system.

I should underline that the Bologna Process is not in fact an EU process, but an intergovernmental process, whose membership stretches far beyond the EU. Nevertheless, the European Commission is a full member of the Bologna Process, beside the 46 signatory countries. Consultative members include bodies such as the Council of Europe and UNESCO.

In parallel with the the Bologna Declaration, though, and just one year later, the EU also adopted the Lisbon Agenda, setting the objective that Europe should by 2010 become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth, with more and better jobs, and greater social cohesion.

Underlying these parallel initiatives were two main concerns – we needed to protect and promote European competitiveness, ensuring that our young people would be able to find their place in a caring, sharing and dynamic society – and we needed to encourage academic mobility across Europe, breaking down national barriers.

The Bologna Process has already achieved considerable results. There is clearly a strong commitment at national, regional and institutional levels to maintain this momentum, especially following last April’s Ministerial meeting in Belgium (in Leuven and Louvain-la-Neuve), where the Ministers responsible for higher education in the 46 countries of the Bologna Process met to establish the priorities for the European Higher Education Area until 2020. They highlighted in particular the importance of lifelong learning, of widening access to higher education, and of mobility. And they set the goal that by 2020, at least 20% of those graduating in the European Higher Education Area should have had a study or training period abroad.

At the same time, I have to underline that our educational perspectives were not limited to internal European requirements. The Bologna Ministers also agreed upon an external dimension strategy, focusing on information, promotion, cooperation, recognition and policy dialogue. The EC supports the external dimension strategy through a number of policies and programmes, which I will come to later.

Indeed the international openness of the Bologna Process is a key priority for the EU, especially as there seems to be a great interest in the Bologna reforms from countries outside Europe. Twenty non-European countries attended the first ‘Bologna Policy Forum’, which took place last year in Belgium. This Forum serves as a platform for developing a closer relationship with other regions of the world, and provides an opportunity to promote global cooperation in higher education. The second such Forum will be held in Vienna in March (12 March), and I was very happy to hear that the Philippines has been invited to take part.

2) International academic cooperation

The second main topic I’d like to look at is the manner in which the EU works to promote international academic cooperation, whether through student or faculty exchanges, or through research cooperation, or through inter-university cooperation more generally. Indeed the EU’s policy work in the field of education and training is backed up by a variety of funding programmes implemented by the European Commission. I’m not going to try to be exhaustive here, particularly since I’m sure our colleagues from Flanders will be able to speak of their own experiences under EU-funded programmes in this area, so I’ll just comment briefly on some of our main programmes in this field.

Erasmus Mundus

Just as our flagship programme in the field of student exchanges within the EU is the Erasmus programme – commemorating of course the famous Dutch humanist scholar of the Reformation era, who himself studied and taught in Paris, Leuven, Cambridge, Turin and Basel – so our flagship programme for international academic exchanges is the Erasmus Mundus programme.

Erasmus Mundus was launched in 2004 with a view to promoting the quality, visibility and attractiveness of European higher education by supporting partnerships with non-EU universities in relation to the joint masters’ courses established under the Erasmus progrmme (and including more than one hundred such courses offered by consortia including over 230 European universities). The Erasmus Mundus programme offers scholarships to graduate students and academics from outside the EU to follow these courses, and so far some 6000 students and 660 academics worls-wide have followed these courses. The global budget for the first phase of the programme (2004-2008) was €230 million, 90% of which went into scholarships. In 2005, special regional windows were created under the Erasmus Mundus programme by using additional funds coming from the Community’s development cooperation budget.

Over the period 2004-09, there were about 100 Filipinos who have received such scholarships – and I am delighted to say that all who have completed their training have returned to the Philippines, as ambassadors for European education, just as they were ambassadors for the Philippines when studying in Europe. The returning scholars have also established a very active Alumni Association, with their own website, which also works  to provide information and advice to students thinking of studying in Europe.

Then in 2006 the Erasmus Mundus External Cooperation Window (EMECW) was established, building on the existing Erasmus Mundus programme to promote academic partnerships and institutional cooperation between higher education institutions in Europe and in partner countries, and including a mobility scheme addressing Erasmus-style student and academic exchanges. Under this programme, calls for proposals were organised in 2007, 2008 and 2009, with total funding for Asia amounting to almost €30 million.

A second phase of the Erasmus Mundus programme was adopted at the end of 2008, covering the period 2009-2013, and building on and extending the scope of the first phase. Erasmus Mundus II covers joint masters and joint doctorate programmes, including scholarships for EU and non-European students and academics (Action 1); partnerships between European universities and universities in specific world regions (former EMECW, now Action 2); and measures to enhance the world-wide appeal of Europe as an education destination (Action 3). New elements of the programme are the inclusion of non-EU institutions as full partners in Erasmus Mundus consortia, the offer of full study scholarships to EU students and the extension of Erasmus Mundus joint programmes to doctoral level.

Erasmus Mundus II has a budget of € 950 million, much higher than in the first phase of the programme. The first joint initiatives under the new actions of Erasmus Mundus II started in academic year 2009/10, but the mobility under the new actions will take place as of 2010/11.

Jean Monnet

Quite apart from the Erasmus programme, and established earlier (in 1990), is the Jean Monnet programme. This specifically supports studies in the field of European integration, and builds on the work of the network of 54 national European Studies Associations. Such associations exist in most of the EU Member States and in several non-EU countries (such as the United States, Canada, Japan, China, India, Korea, Brazil, Argentina …).

The Jean Monnet Programme is intended to enhance knowledge and awareness on European integration, increase the visibility of the EU in the world, stimulate academic excellence in European integration studies, and allow policy-makers to benefit from academic insight. The programme is now part of the Lifelong Learning Programme and funds Jean Monnet chairs, centres of excellence and teaching modules, as well as information and research activities.

Such programmes now exist in 61 countries around the world, with more than 100 Jean Monnet Centres of Excellence, and more than 750 Jean Monnet Chairs. They reach an audience of 250.000 students every year. The highest number of Jean Monnet teaching projects outside the EU can be found in Canada, China, the United States and Turkey.

Research cooperation

Turning to more research-orientated cooperation, the EU has for many years devoted significant resources to supporting applied and pure research in many fields, both within the EU and externally. We are currently implementing the 7th Framework Programme in Research and Technology, covering the period from 2007 to 2013, and with a total budget of over €50 billion. This funding is used to support research, technological development and demonstration projects. Grants are determined on the basis of calls for proposals and peer review, and the selection process is highly competitive. A number of Philippine universities have participated in such programmes, as members of consortia under FP7 and its predecessors – I’m thinking for example of UP, Ateneo, DLS, San Carlos and Siliman.

Apart from our funding possibilities under the Framework Programmes, we have also funded some specific research activities under our classical development cooperation budget. One example is the Trans-Eurasia Information Network (TEIN), addressing the digital divide by connecting universities and research institutions in Europe and Asia by means of high-capacity dedicated Internet networks. Currently the third phase of this programme, TEIN3, covers 19 countries in Asia (China, Hong Kong, Japan and Korea in East Asia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam in ASEAN, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka in South Asia, and Australia). TEIN3 receives an EC grant of over €11 million covering some 60% of the project costs; the remaining funds are provided by the partners on a cost-sharing basis.

3) Conclusion

Ladies and gentlemen, it is evident that a growing concern of policy makers in Europe and around the world is to ensure that our higher education institutions and systems are “fit for purpose” for the 21st century. This is as much a concern in Asia in general, and the Philippines in particular, as it is in Europe. Globalisation makes it essential for universities to open up to international cooperation, to send and receive more students from abroad, and to ensure that the quality of their teaching and research meets domestic needs and international standards.

These concerns are at the heart of the move to establish a European Higher Education Area in the context of the Bologna process, ensuring that higher education in Europe is fully competitive in the global context, and is able to meet the teaching, research and employment needs of the 21st century. Within the EU, the Lisbon Agenda of 2000, and its likely successor the “EU 2020” programme which the Commission will shortly present, have these concerns at their core. Here in the Philippines, with its long tradition of academic excellence, it is no less essential that the Universities are able to respond to society’s needs – producing the teachers, researchers, skilled workers and entrepreneurs that will drive the country forward, at the same time as the Universities keep alight the value of knowledge for knowledge’s sake. And now more than ever, international university cooperation has a key role to play in promoting mutual understanding, mutual cooperation, and mutual respect.

Thank you for your attention, maraming salamat po, en hartelijk bedankt.

ANNEX

Past Programmes in Asia

  • The Asia Link Programme supported regional networking among higher education institutions in Europe and Asia from 2002 until 2006 (and has since been integrated in the Erasmus Mundus). It included support for joint research work, for curriculum development, and for staff and student exchanges. Nine AsiaLink projects have been implemented in the Philippines, with EC funding totalling some €2.6m (PHP 160m) – in sectors as diverse as mathematics teaching, urban planning, agro-forestry, and biomedical engineering.
  • In past years, we have also funded the EU-ASEAN University Network Programme (2000-06) supporting research and teaching cooperation between universities in ASEAN and their counterparts in Europe, and including two substantial projects with Philippine universities, in mariners’ education and in spatial planning.
  • I can even stretch my mind back to earlier programmes in the 1990s, such as our support for the establishment of a European Studies Consortium in Manila, and for an EU-ASEAN Scholarship programme.

Programmes in other regions

And since this is an international conference I would also like to mention very briefly the international cooperation programmes for higher education and training the European Commission implements in the other regions of the world:

  • Tempus contributes to the building of cooperation in the field of higher education between the EU and partner countries in neighbouring regions, namely in Western Balkans, Eastern Europe, Central Asia, North Africa and the Middle East. The latest phase of the programme, Tempus IV, started in 2008. The annual Tempus budget amounts to around €50 million, and individual projects receive funding between €0.5 and €1.5 million.
  • Edulink fosters capacity building and regional integration in higher education in the Africa, Caribbean and the Pacific region and countries. It also promotes higher education as a means of reducing poverty. This programme is addressed only to institutions, hence individuals can not apply. Between 2006 and 2008 the total funding amounted to €14 million.
  • Alfa is a cooperation programme between higher education institutions in the EU and in Latin America, having as objectives to improve the quality, relevance and accessibility of Higher Education in Latin America; and to contribute to the process of regional integration of Latin America, fostering progress towards the creation of a joint Higher Education area in the region and exploiting its synergies with the EU. The third phase of the programme, ALFA III (2007-2013), has an EU budget of €85m.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kris Olds

 

CHERPA-network based in Europe wins tender to develop alternative global ranking of universities

rankings 4

Finally the decision on who has won the European Commission’s million euro tender – to develop and test a  global ranking of universities – has been announced.

The successful bid – the CHERPA network (or the Consortium for Higher Education and Research Performance Assessment), is charged with developing a ranking system to overcome what is regarded by the European Commission as the limitations of the Shanghai Jiao Tong and the QS-Times Higher Education schemes. The  final product is to be launched in 2011.

CHERPA is comprised of a consortium of leading institutions in the field within Europe; all have been developing and offering rather different approaches to ranking over the past few years (see our earlier stories here, here and  here for some of the potential contenders):

Will this new European Commission driven initiative set the proverbial European cat amongst the Transatlantic alliance pigeons?  rankings 1

As we have noted in earlier commentary on university rankings, the different approaches tip the rankings playing field in the direction of different interests. Much to the chagrin of the continental Europeans, the high status US universities do well on the Shanghai Jiao Tong University Ranking, whilst Britain’s QS-Times Higher Education tends to see UK universities feature more prominently.

CHERPA will develop a design that follows the so called ‘Berlin Principles on the ranking of higher education institutions‘. These principles stress the need to take into account the linguistic, cultural and historical contexts of the educational systems into account [this fact is something of an irony for those watchers following UK higher education developments last week following a Cabinet reshuffle – where reference to ‘universities’ in the departmental name was dropped.  The two year old Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills has now been abandoned in favor of a mega-Department for Business, Innovation and Skills! (read more here)].

According to one of the Consortium members website –  CHE:

The basic approach underlying the project is to compare only institutions which are similar and comparable in terms of their missions and structures. Therefore the project is closely linked to the idea of a European classification (“mapping”) of higher education institutions developed by CHEPS. The feasibility study will include focused rankings on particular aspects of higher education at the institutional level (e.g., internationalization and regional engagement) on the one hand, and two field-based rankings for business and engineering programmes on the other hand.

The field-based rankings will each focus on a particular type of institution and will develop and test a set of indicators appropriate to these institutions. The rankings will be multi-dimensional and will – like the CHE ranking – use a grouping approach rather than simplistic league tables. In contrast to existing global rankings, the design will compare not only the research performance of institutions but will include teaching & learning as well as other aspects of university performance.

The different rankings will be targeted at different stakeholders: They will support decision-making in universities and especially better informed study decisions by students. Rankings that create transparency for prospective students should promote access to higher education.

The University World News, in their report out today on the announcement, notes:

Testing will take place next year and must include a representative sample of at least 150 institutions with different missions in and outside Europe. At least six institutions should be drawn from the six large EU member states, one to three from the other 21, plus 25 institutions in North America, 25 in Asia and three in Australia.

There are multiple logics and politics at play here. On the one hand, a European ranking system may well give the European Commission more HE  governance capacity across Europe, strengthening its steering over national systems in areas like ‘internationalization’ and ‘regional engagement’ – two key areas that have been identified for work to be undertaken by CHERPA.

On the other hand, this new European ranking  system — when realized — might also appeal to countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia who currently do not feature in any significant way in the two dominant systems. Like the Bologna Process, the CHERPA ranking system might well find itself generating ‘echoes’ around the globe.

Or, will regions around the world prefer to develop and promote their own niche ranking systems, elements of which were evident in the QS.com Asia ranking that was recently launched.  Whatever the outcome, as we have observed before, there is a thickening industry with profits to be had on this aspect of the emerging global higher education landscape.

Susan Robertson

Bologna: beyond 2010 and over the Ocean – but where to? On new Bologna reports and C. Adelman’s last essay

PavelZgagaEditor’s note: this guest entry is by Pavel Zgaga, Professor, Faculty of Education, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. Pavel began his academic career at the University of Ljubljana in 1978. In 1990-92 and 2001-2004 he was a member of the University Senate; in 2001-2004 he was Dean of the Faculty of Education. He is Director of the Centre for Education Policy Studies, a R&D institute of the University of Ljubljana established in 2000. In the 1990s, in the period after political changes in Slovenia, he was engaged for several years in the Slovenian Government. In 1992-1999 he was State Secretary for Higher Education. In 1999-2000 he was Minister of Education and Sports. He was also the head of the working group “Education, Training and Youth” in the negotiation process for Slovenian accession to the EU (1998-1999). On behalf of Slovenia, he signed the Lisbon Recognition Convention (April 1997) and the Bologna Declaration (June 1999). After his return to university he has remained closely connected to the Bologna process.  In the period 2002 – 2003 he was the general rapporteur of the Bologna Follow-up Group (Berlin Report) while in the period June 2004 – June 2005 he was a member of the Board of the Bologna Follow-up Group. He also the author of Looking out: The Bologna Process in a Global Setting (2006) and Higher Education in Transition: Reconsiderations on Higher Education in Europe at the Turn of the Millenium (2007).

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The end of April was again very important for the emerging European Higher Education Area (EHEA): the sixth ministerial conference of the 46 Bologna countries was held in Leuven and Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium. Yet, we are not going to discuss its outcomes (though we will briefly discuss the Leuven/Louvain-la-Neuve Communiqué later), but the “background” lead-up to the conference. In this context, April was not only an important but also a productive month: productive in terms of reports, surveys and analyses on the Bologna Process and higher education in Europe in general which really deserve some attention. Most of them are available at the official Bologna website.

First of all, there is a traditional – and official – 2009 Stocktaking Report (the third in line since 2005), this time on 100+ pages and focusing on progression of the new degree system implementation across Europe, quality assurance, recognition and mobility issues as well as at the “EHEA in a global context” and Bologna “beyond 2010”.

The Stocktaking Report is again accompanied by a Eurydice study Higher Education in Europe 2009: Developments in the Bologna Process.

Within a package of “official Bologna” reports we can also find – now for the first time – a comprehensive study with Key Indicators on the Social Dimension and Mobility provided by Eurostat and Eurostudent (commissioned at the previous London 2007 Conference, and the source of the map pasted in below).

BolognaMapThere are a number of other interesting reports, mainly from various Bologna working parties but we simply can’t check all of them at once. Perhaps we should add a new Eurobarometer Survey (No. 260) on Students and Higher Education Reform which provides very interesting insights on basis of responses from 15,000 randomly-selected students from 31 European countries.

With previous Bologna biannual conferences we learnt that reports and surveys provided by two leading “Bologna partner organizations” – the European University Association (EUA) and the European Students’ Union (ESU) – are always very instructive and may also bring very critical comments. Yet, this year there is no “Trends” report. The fifth one was presented at the London Conference in 2007 and the sixth is planned only for the next conference (to be hosted jointly by Vienna and Budapest in 2010) which will officially declare that the Bologna train has reached its main station and that the EHEA is “finally constructed”. However, in April EUA published another survey, Survey of Master Degrees in Europe (by Howard Davies) which is extremely interesting with its findings about the implementation of the Bologna “second cycle”. On the other hand, a new volume of the Bologna With Student Eyes 2009 report – a presentation of student views on ongoing European higher education reforms – was produced again by ESU.

At this point, a list of new publications is not exhausted at all. We will mention only one more – a monograph which fully deserves not only to be mentioned here but to be taken into a serious consideration. There is a special reason: it is a non-Bologna Bologna study. It is not the “independent review” which the Process put on its agenda for the next year; in Europe it was received in a rather unexpected way. As its author says openly, the title of his monograph “is a deliberate play on the title of the biennial reports on the progress of Bologna produced by the European Students’ Union”: it is The Bologna Process for U.S. Eyes by Clifford Adelman (2009, IHEP) which has been already discussed in GlobalHigherEd by Anne Corbett (see ‘A European view of the new Adelman report on the Bologna Process‘).

Reading Adelman “essay”, as he also calls it, we soon notice that it is more than just a play on the title “intended to pay tribute to student involvement in the massive undertaking that is Bologna”. It is obviously also “a purposeful slap at both former U.S. Secretary of Education, Margaret Spellings’ Commission on the Future of Higher Education and the U.S. higher education community in its response to the report of that commission— neither of which involved students in visible and substantive ways, if at all.” Even more than that, no attention whatsoever was paid in the Spellings’ initiative to developments in European higher education and the Adelman’s conclusion is simple: “Such purblind stances are unforgivable in a world without borders”. Therefore, there is a clear “polemic side of this essay” as we can read in the concluding part of his essay.

This side is, most probably, intended “for U.S. eyes” only. However, when reading Adelman’s essay in the atmosphere of the last Bologna Conference I was really surprised how gentle its melody may sound to “European ears”. One should not forget that both the Sorbonne and the Bologna Declaration contain – besides other important elements – some hidden resentment about the global standing of American higher education, indicative in comments like “Universities were born in Europe”, the stressing of “a world-wide degree of attraction equal to our extraordinary cultural and scientific traditions” and a continuous call that European higher education should increase its “international competitiveness”.

Ten years after the Bologna initiative was raised it is really fantastic for European ears to listen to sentences like this one: “While still a work in progress, parts of the Bologna Process have already been imitated in Latin America, North Africa, and Australia. The core features of the Bologna Process have sufficient momentum to become the dominant global higher education model within the next two decades.” It is not a matter of politeness; there are arguments for such a statement.

zgaga-coverIn fact, it is indeed surprising that such a long time was needed to receive a real response from across the Ocean, from the US. In 2006 when I was working on a study on the “External Dimension” of the Bologna Process (see Looking out: The Bologna Process in a Global Setting) it was already obvious that “echoes” were emerging from all over the world – but not from the US. Referring to Margaret Spellings’ Commission Draft Report I wrote: “Surprisingly, from a European perspective, and probably from a non-American perspective in general, the document does not make any detailed reference to the issue of internationalisation and globalisation of higher education, which is high on agendas in other world regions!” However, on the other side it was already possible to listen to first warnings coming from academic people. I remember Catharine Stimpson who said at the ACA Hamburg conference (Germany) in Autumn 2004: “Ignorance is always dangerous, but the United States ignorance of the Bologna Process – outside of some educational experts – may be particularly dangerous.”

Much has changed within only one year (not only in higher education) – and this change should be now reflected upon, including on this side of the Ocean. We remember Adelman’s previous study (The Bologna Club: What U.S. Higher Education Can Learn from a Decade of European Reconstruction, May 2008) which perhaps already made Bologna more popular in US, but what came as really surprising news for many people in Europe was information about Lumina Foundation plans (in association with the states of Indiana, Minnesota, and Utah) to establish study groups to examine the Tuning process (see Susan Robertson’s entry ‘Tuning USA’: reforming higher education in the US, Europe style‘ on this issue, as well as this Lumina press release).

I have been personally involved in the “European” Tuning process: it has been a truly excellent experience in international collaboration. Adelman is right: if you are working in a group of, say, 15 colleagues who speak 12 different languages and are coming from 15 different academic, cultural, political, economic, etc., environments, then you are really privileged. This has been an extremely productive way of modernizing our institutions, our courses and our work with students. Since colleagues from Latin America and Caribbean joined Tuning, since Tuning was spread also to Central Asia etc., our common privilege has been only increasing. But it should be made clear: the success of Tuning is not because of a supposed “European win” in the “international competitiveness game”; this would be too simplistic a conclusion. In the globalising higher education of today we need partners, as many as possible. Not only to learn new ideas from them but also to watch your own face in mirrors they can offer you. Therefore: Indiana, Minnesota, and Utah – welcome!

Adelman aims at clarifying “for North American readers, what Bologna is and what it is not”; however, it seems to me that results of his work are broader and that they can generate new ideas not only with American but also with European and, hopefully, global readers as well. (Last but not least: it could be read as a useful ‘textbook’ also for Europeans.) Yet, not in the same line for all; contexts are obviously different. He urges Americans “to learn something from beyond our own borders that just might help us rethink our higher education enterprise” but also gives a mirror to Europeans enabling them to leave working on implementation aside for a moment and to reflect upon what they have been doing so far and where are they going now.

At this point we are back in post-April 2009 Europe. In their Communiqué, Ministers shifted the landmark from Bologna 2010 to Bologna 2020. Its very first sentence makes us realise that the story is not finished. “In the decade up to 2020 European higher education has a vital contribution to make in realising a Europe of knowledge that is highly creative and innovative.” Of course, “over the past decade we have developed the EHEA”; there is no doubt that “greater compatibility and comparability of the systems of higher education” has been achieved and that “higher education is being modernized” but “not all the objectives have been completely achieved” and, therefore, “the full and proper implementation […] will require increased momentum and commitment beyond 2010.”

StocktakingCoverReports and surveys produced and presented in Leuven/Louvain-la-Neuve give additional insights. When one has to mark – in a complex situation like this one – a further way on, it is not so important to factor in has been already been left behind. The real question is a vague path and possible crossroads in the foreseeable future. The 2009 Stocktaking Report openly admits that the deadline to have completed the implementation of National Qualifications Frameworks by 2010 “appears to have been too ambitious” (the Communiqué postponed this task “by 2012”) and that “there is not enough integration at national level between the qualifications framework, learning outcomes and ECTS”. Similarly, “a learning outcomes-based culture across the EHEA still needs a lot of effort, and it will not be completed by 2010”. These deficiencies warn that tasks have been taken perhaps in too formal a manner and that there is quite a lot of further work which demands a conceptual and not only “technical” expertise.

On the other hand, there are a lot of concerns with the employability of new Bachelor graduates after the Bologna first cycle. With regard to the Master – i.e., the Bologna second cycle – and the issue of employability, Howard Davies (EUA) made another crucial comment in his Survey of Master Degrees in Europe: “The Bologna three-cycle system cannot be said to be in place until this process is complete. In other words, until all 46 countries have evolved beyond the position in which the Master is the sole point of initial entry into the market for high-skilled labour.” In short: “the definition of the Bologna Master awaits the full fleshing out of the Bologna Bachelor.”

Of course, students (i.e., ESU in their Bologna With Student Eyes 2009) raise this issue even more critically: “inadequate understanding of the purpose of these reforms has negatively affected students, pressuring them to follow longer periods of study in order to reach a position of sustainable employment”. They are “impatient” as students should be: “Although processes appear to be moving in the right direction, they are doing so at something of the pace of a snail.” They complain on “the level of ‘divergence’ in the perceptions of national ministries, higher education institutions and students themselves”. Their report starts with “Repetition is deeply dissatisfying” (meaning that there is often not much difference between their critical statements of this year and of previous reports) and this is good: students are still here to push rectors and ministers forward.

In their Communiqué Ministers strived to pour some new fuel for the next period. They decided to amend, a little, the organisational structure. In the future “the Bologna Process will be co-chaired by the country holding the EU presidency and a non-EU country”. Thus, the first of the missing elements that Anne Corbett warned about just few days before the last conference (Bologna as “modelled on the EU Presidency system […] excluded 19 countries”; The Guardian, 21 April) seems to be settled, at least partly. On the other hand, in the most ambitious sentence of the Communiqué they set a new mobility target: “In 2020, at least 20% of those graduating in the EHEA should have had a study or training period abroad.” This is absolutely great; however, some more ambitious targets would not harm the future “beyond 2010”.

But it is necessary to warn also about new targets: “Repetition is deeply dissatisfying” students may say. “Action lines” in policy documents necessarily request implementation – and implementation is the really hard job. However, are the open questions about Bologna close to its goal line (2010) just about its “full implementation” – or are they more than that? I would opt for the later: implementation of a given principle always comes into trouble when it is taken just as a matter of a “technique”. What is needed for its “full implementation” – e.g. during the next decade – it is a strong momentum, a (new) vision which hits at the heart of reality. Do we have it?

Bologna has produced world-wide attention and, perhaps, its new momentum and its new vision could also start from this source. Forgetting this fact would be unforgivable in a world without borders: in Europe as well as in the US or any other global region.

Pavel Zgaga

Anne Corbett on the “Six to be reckoned with at the Bologna conference” in Leuven this week

Catch Anne Corbett’s interesting reflections published in the Guardian on this week’s big European higher education event in Leuven, Belgium: the 6th Bologna Ministerial Conference, 28-29th April, 2009.  Let’s see what events unfold once the Conference Communique is put into action.

corbett1

Anne Corbett is Visiting Fellow, European Institute, London School of Economics, and former journalist. Anne  has recently contributed to GlobalHigherEd reflecting upon Clifford Adelman’s report The Bologna Process with U.S. Eyes: Relearning Higher Education in the Age of Convergence.

Susan Robertson