WENR, May/June 2005: Europe
Bologna Trends Report IV Released
The European University Association (EUA) released its fourth Trends report prior to the recent summit of education ministers in Bergen, Norway. The reports are designed to offer a progress update of changes to the European higher-education landscape since the beginning of the Bologna Process in 1999. Trends IV, released in April, covers findings from 29 of the 40 Bologna countries and 62 university site visits. Key findings include:
• A majority of higher-education institutions have adopted and accepted ownership of the Bologna reforms, which in many cases have provided institutions with the impetus to address problems that have already been known to exist.
• The reform process has served as a special opportunity for strengthening institutional coherence, enhancing institutional transparency and coordination, and reinforcing horizontal communication channels, including better distribution of work and resources; more coherent institutional graduate programs; and better integration of administrators.
• The move toward greater institutional autonomy is only slowly gaining ground in Europe.
• Although the structural frameworks of the three-tier Bologna system are now in place in a majority of signatory countries, a greater focus needs to be placed on redeveloping curriculums. First-cycle graduates from institutions in countries that started the reform process early are enjoying greater success in the job market than their peers from countries just beginning to see graduates from three-year bachelor’s programs. There is a need for increased dialogue among academia, professional bodies and industry to ensure that study programs are meeting the needs of the workplace, including appropriate posts in the public sector.
• “Bologna tools,” such as the diploma supplement and especially the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS), need to be more integral to curriculum design rather than tools for translating national systems into a “European language”.
• Most of the costs are borne by institutions themselves. In times of restricted institutional budgets this means that the Bologna reforms are carried out by subtracting resources from other essential functions of higher education such as research.
• According to higher-education institutions, the Bologna reforms have already brought a considerable array of added values and multiple opportunities for enhancing the quality of higher education in Europe.
To date, almost all countries have introduced the structure of the two-cycle system, with the exception of Andorra, the German-speaking Community of Belgium, Hungary, Portugal, Romania, Spain and Sweden.
Students Protest Bologna Reforms
Students were out on the streets of Paris in April protesting higher-education reforms required by the Bologna process.
All French universities are scheduled to have the Bologna system of three-, five- and eight-year studies in place by 2005-06. The non-university sector is in the process of introducing the three-tier structure known locally as LMD (licence, master, doctorat). Student-union protestors are lobbying for “substantial amendments” to overcome “numerous problems,” including “incoherent programs, low student mobility, inequality between establishments and students, and lack of resources.” Students also claim that low-demand programs such as anthropology are threatened with closure by the reforms.
The Times Higher Education Supplement
April 29, 2005
Universities Ranked by Business Journal
Business journal Wirtschaftswoche surveyed 800 human-resources professionals in 600 different German firms, who combined had analyzed the profiles of approximately 120,000 recent graduates. Manheim ranked as the best business school, while the Technical University of Aachen was rated the top school for engineers.
German Embassy newsletter
March 4, 2005
Politics Get in the Way of ‘Ivy League’ Plans
More than a year after proposing an initiative to create an “Ivy League” of universities to invigorate scientific research (see Jan/Feb 2005 issue of WENR), Education and Research Minister Edelgard Bulmahn still cannot muster the necessary political support to launch the scheme.
The plan needs unanimous approval from Germany’s 16 states. Having built consensus for the project in 15 states, Bulmahn failed to gain the support of Roland Koch, prime minister of the state of Hessen. The plan was to be officially approved at an April 14 meeting between Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and the 16 state prime ministers, but it was taken off the agenda after public opposition from Koch. Officially, Koch objects to the plan because it interferes with states’ rights to determine higher-education policy, which may result in money being pulled from other universities to finance the extra funding for the project.
Koch has been accused of using the issue to raise his public profile ahead of fall 2006 federal elections, for which he wants to be his party’s nomination to challenge Schröder. A spokesperson for the education minister said the minister was hopeful that Koch would change his mind. The plan has to be approved by midsummer in order for funding to begin by fall 2006 as planned.
April 25, 2005
Plans For Center of Excellence to Support Bologna Reforms Given Go-Ahead
On April 12, the Federal Constitutional Court unanimously rejected the state of Hessen’s application to prohibit federal funding for a center of excellence to support universities undertaking structural and curriculum reforms related to the Bologna Process.
The Conference of University Rectors developed a plan early last year to establish a center that would be available to aid universities with the introduction of a two-tier bachelor’s and master’s degree structure. The Federal Ministry for Education and Research will contribute 4.4 million euros (US$5.4 million) over the next two and a half years. Twenty universities, which plan to introduce both bachelor’s and master’s programs across the board by winter semester 2007-08, will be given the opportunity to employ experts from the center.
The prime minister of the state of Hessen, Roland Koch, had taken the issue to court, maintaining the plan was unconstitutional because it impinged upon the competencies of federal states.
Academic Cooperation Association newsletter
April 12, 2005
Liaison Office Opens in New York
More American students are expressing a desire to study in another country. Though the number of American students studying in Germany remains relatively low, the 2002-2003 academic year saw a 15 percent increase.
May 6 , 2005
New University Recognized
The Slovak cabinet has approved an Accreditation Committee proposal for the recognition of the country’s fifth private university. Sladkovicovo University will offer programs in public policy, public administration and social work. The four other accredited private universities in Slovakia are Trencin University of Management and three universities in the capital Bratislava: University of Health and Social Work, University of Economics, Management and Public Administration, and the Bratislava Law School.
May 11, 2005
Parliament Rejects Tuition Fees
European ministers of education gathered in Bergen (Norway) in May for their biannual Bologna meeting to assess the achievements of the European education reform movement and to set the direction for the next steps toward the desired goal of a common European Higher Education Area by 2010.
As with other meetings, a communiqué was issued to highlight the major findings. The Bergen communiqué states that legislative reforms toward the implementation of the two-cycle degree are largely in place “with more than half of the students being enrolled in it in most countries,” and now is the time to “optimize the impact of structural changes on curricula,” ensuring that changes are consistent across the continent. Other challenges outlined in the communiqué include the strengthening of Europe’s research base by adopting uniform doctoral programs along with the bachelor’s and master’s reforms.
The ministers are also looking for greater progress on academic mobility and global cooperation, including the elaboration of an overarching framework of qualifications throughout the Bologna area by 2010. The framework should comprise three cycles, generic descriptions for each cycle based on learning outcomes and competences, and credit ranges in first and second cycles. Greater progress was also called for in the award and recognition of joint degrees.
The ministers stressed the importance of increasing the attractiveness of the European Higher Education Area to other parts of the world, a process that among other things means “enhancing the understanding of the Bologna Process in other continents by sharing experiences [from] the reform process with neighboring regions.”
The Ministry of Education had its plans to introduce university tuition fees nixed in May, as the Slovak parliament voted against the measure that would have required students to contribute up to 30 percent of their education costs, revising existing laws on student loans.
The introduction of fees met with considerable opposition from left-leaning lawmakers and student representatives. Many of those opposed to the measure argued that the reforms did nothing to address the quality of university education.
May 25, 2005
Degree programs to be Merged Under Bologna Reforms
The Consejo de Coordinación Universitaria (University Coordination Council, or CCU) has published its first set of recommendations on the necessary reforms the Spanish education system must undertake in order to adapt to the European Higher Education Area.
In addition to introducing the three-tier degree system, the council aims to reduce the number of degree programs currently available, particularly in the social sciences and humanities. In the humanities, for example, the general degree would be dropped and art history would be absorbed into a more general history degree. The overall number of degrees would be reduced from 140 to 77 and be in place by the 2008/2009 school year.
Experts who form the different working groups of the council believe that the new programs would be more flexible and compatible with those on offer in the rest of Europe. The council’s recommendations have met with considerable opposition, most notably from humanities students, who have already presented a 6,700-signature petition against the move to the Secretary General of the CCU. A final decision is yet to be made.
May 6, 2005
National University Admissions Exam in the Pipeline
Two international assessment agencies have joined forces to promote and develop a new test that would help universities identify the potential talents and relative strengths of all applicants. Subject to trials this fall, the test could be adopted as a standard entrance requirement that all prospective university entrants must take.
The government has agreed to back the idea, which was recommended by a task force that reviewed university admissions last year, stating that it favors a unified national test instead of individual universities offering their own tests. University vice-chancellors have complained that the present admissions system, which relies on predicted grades, is no longer adequate. Many law and medical programs are already administering subject-specific examinations, such as the new National Admission Test for Law (see Sept/Oct 2004 issue of WENR) to prospective students before offering any places, while Cambridge University requires applicants for selected programs to take “thinking skills” assessments.
A universal test would help universities select candidates for a limited number of places from a pool of students with similar A-level results, or the increasingly large pool of applicants achieving straight A grades. The University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate and the Australian Council for Education Research said in April that they had agreed to develop jointly an academic reasoning and thinking skills test (ARTS). The test is a rival to the American-style aptitude test (SAT) currently being promoted by the Sutton Trust Charity, an organization that has conducted recent research on university admissions in the United Kingdom.
April 14, 2005
Cambridge, Oxford Trade Places in University Ranking
Published in April, the guide includes for the first time a comprehensive list of tuition fees each institution will charge once they are introduced in 2006. It also provides information on the best financial deals in the form of bursaries and scholarships available to students. Most institutions have already released plans to charge the maximum tuition of £3000 (US$5700) in 2006; however, the guide shows there are differences in terms of the financial aid on offer.
Financial concerns aside, the rankings assess teaching quality, staff-student ratios, graduate job prospects, average entry qualifications required, spending per student, the value-added improvement each university gives students, and on the ability to attract candidates from under-represented groups. The guide offers an overall institutional league table, as well as subject-specific tables.
April 19, 2005
Scottish Online Platform Wins Deal to Educate Thousands of Chinese
Interactive University (IU) signed a deal in April with Chinese education authorities to provide online degree programs to at least 5,000 students over five years.
The initiative with the Foundation College of the China Scholarship Council (FCCSC), a department of the Chinese Ministry of Education, will enable students in five Chinese universities to earn degrees online from Scottish institutions. Heriot-Watt, Robert Gordon, Dundee, Stirling and Napier universities are among those that will be involved in delivering courses. IU believes that backing from the Chinese government will be essential to ensure the success of the venture. The FCCSC plans to introduce five more universities to the program over the next three years. Strathclyde University is expected to join the first phase.
IU, which enrolls 50,000 students worldwide, was launched in 2002 by Heriot-Watt University with backing from Scottish Enterprise, an economic development agency. IU describes itself as an interactive bridge between leading Scottish universities and students across the globe who wish to study for an internationally recognized qualification without leaving their home country.
April 24, 2005
GCSE Processing Outsourced to India
Thousands of GCSE examination scripts will be sent to India as part of a new computer marking process this year. The Assessment and Qualifications Alliance (AQA), the largest UK examination board which is operating the new system, said no grading of papers would actually take place outside the United Kingdom. Rather, the exam papers will be sent for processing to India.
Offices in India will be responsible for the data entry of one-word answers scanned and e-mailed to them from the United Kingdom. Those one-word answers will then be run through a computer program, which will do the actual marking. Longer responses will be graded by expert markers based in England, according to AQA.
The Press Association
April 25, 2005