HE reforms: India vs. Europe
India no exception
An interesting title such as 'Reversed Bologna process in
India' invites comments on both the context in India and Europe.
While Europe is implementing the Bachelor master system, there are
also many differences between countries within Europe. Most
countries opt for three year bachelor programmes, but we also see
four year bachelor programmes.
Even more interesting is the difference between countries with
regard to master programmes only. We see one year, two year and
sometimes even three year masters. In this respect there are many
differences between countries, for example, in Germany many masters
are two years, whereas in the Netherlands masters on the same
subject are one year. This in fact may cause problems with regard
to entering the labor market in specific countries. This
specifically links the master students and whether they are also
required to have a specific bachelor degree or not.
Bachelor to labor market
However, as the 'Bologna' 'Bachelor master' system seems to be
Anglo-Saxon, there are also important differences between e.g. the
United Kingdom and United States on the one hand and the mainland
Europe system on the other hand. In the Anglo-Saxon system the
bachelor is a degree with which students directly enter the labor
markets. Many are not pursuing a master degree, and opt for taking
a master's degree later in their career. Bright students going for
a PhD don't even take a master at all. Also in Europe some
governments hoped that many students would go to the labor market
with only a bachelor degree, but in vain.
What India is doing is not an exception, certainly not compared
to the rest of the world, in particular compared to the Anglo-Saxon
system. But it is also in line with the intention of some European
governments to reduce university education for many students to a
bachelor degree. The difference is that some European countries
only allow three year bachelor programmes and India four year
Continental Europe so far hasn't been able to fully harmonize
their university studies and degrees. The challenge for the Indian
government, however, is first to secure quality of their university
degrees, secondly their training capacity and thirdly the societal
relevance of their university degrees. There are many differences
in these respects between universities. But the government is very
active to change this. Several bills have passed in the last years,
and some are still in progress to achieve these goals.
The new systems seem to opt for much more freedom for students
to determine their study path in the bachelor programme than it
used to be. Additionally universities get much more freedom. Some
critics may be afraid that these programmes may offer as much
freedom as American arts colleges, assuming that this would
negatively influence quality, but what is needed in India is more
freedom both for students and universities.
Coming from a historical background where the content, structure
etcetera (the 'syllabus') is centrally determined for all
universities, freedom is needed to better tailor the needs of both
students and the local stakeholders of universities. It is also
evident that the Indian government is more in favor of the
Anglo-Saxon system than the continental system, and perhaps even
more in mainstream trends worldwide.
Frits van Merode and Krista Knopper
Maastricht University, the Netherlands