Towards one European HE Area

Nieuws | de redactie
16 april 2009 | Late April, 46 education ministers will gather in Louvain to design the follow-up of the Bologna Process. A debate between students, experts and top civil servants in Utrecht indicated where the outcomes of the conference are heading. “In terms of the structural changes it has brought, the Bologna Process has been a great success,” ESU-president Ligia Deca observed. “Now it is time to make it beneficial for students as well.”

On April, 15 they came to the Senate Hall of Utrecht University to discuss the Louvain Conference and the future of the bachelor-mastersystem in a debate organized by Dutch Student Union LSVb and ScienceGuide.

New Challenges
Ligia Deca, the Rumanian ESU-president, called for a ‘next stage’ in the Bologna Process. “We should go much further than  structural changes. The Bologna Process has been very succesful. We have seen a strong involvement of academic institutions, it has become a reality on the ground. Now, it is time for a next stage in which mobility of students is much more stimulated. We should not just copy the American system. In Europe, we have much more diversity and heritage that we should make our asset.”                                                                                  

Noël Vercruyssen, who has been in civil service for over 30 years, is currently director higher education at the Flemish ministry of Work, Education and Vocational Training. Vercruyssen thinks it is tremendously important to have a dialogue between all countries involved. “We are obliged to cooperate. The challenge is to build a strong higher education area in Europe. The importance of national higher education policies should be decreased. National higher education policies should pay more attention to the international context. Till now, the Bologna Process was very national, with each country implementing the bachelor-mastersystem in their various national context. In the next stage, the process should be more international.”

It is still an open question how the mobility of students can be promoted, as this does not only depend on structure, but also on culture and personal motivation. Structurally, HE-director Ron Minnée of the Dutch education ministry indicated possibilities to facilitate this. “Why don’t we create a period in the study program, for example the second semester in the third year, in which students get the opportunity to go abroad? That way, it will be easier for universities to offer courses to students from abroad that really fit their needs.”

In Louvain, ranking and classification are bound to evoke controversy. Ron Minnée indicated that the Netherlands is in favour of classification in order to promote transparency for students  and universities themselves. Classification would be a method to categorize the more than 4000 European universities without ranking them. Ligia Deca recognized that students are in need to know more about the universities they could go to. But the ESU has quit the commission that was preparing a classification system for the EU.

“We participated on the explicit condition that classification should be used for information purposes of students only. But in Prague, Frans van Vught has clearly said that classification would also be useful for the development of multidimensional rankings.” Noël Vercruyssen could understand the hesitations on the part of the students. shared some of her objections. He emphasized that their participation in the discussions are important., because: “I think it is very difficult to make multidimensional rankings. Classification is very complex, it is not easy to do.”

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