By the end of February, EducationUSA will publish over 40 country profiles with student advising trends from Europe and Eurasia. The EducationUSA Trends Report seeks to empower US institutions by uncovering the stories and insights of advisers in the European Higher Education Area (EHEA-46). From Reykjavik to Vladivostok: Student Advising Trends from EducationUSA explores the impact of the Bologna process on US student mobility and how EducationUSA advisers are joining forces with US institutions to reinvigorate transatlantic student mobility. Offered in this article are a few snippets from the report.
Trends from EducationUSA Europe and Eurasia
Several important regional trends and strategies emerged from the report. Each country profile highlights the specific challenges and opportunities that exist in terms of bolstering educational cooperation (and competition) with Europe and Eurasia. Highlights include:
- The Bologna process and debate among US higher education institutions have fuelled student concerns about the acceptance of three-year bachelor degrees in the United States. Evaluating Bologna-compliant credentials on a “case-by-case” basis is not forthcoming and many prospective students perceive this as a barrier to US study. However, after two to three years of mild enthusiasm, students are showing renewed interest in the United States. Now is an opportune time to further refine admissions policies.
- Competition from countries with lower living costs and university tuition fees is intensifying. In an option-rich environment, such as Europe, students are attracted by “the ease of an application process” and financial aid.
- Advising “Generation Y, the Millennials”: EducationUSA advisers are serving a new generation of clientele. Media-hungry students are attracted by visual and web-based informational content in their own language. There is a need for unbiased and promotional video and virtual outreach for study in the United States.
There is broad consensus among the EducationUSA network in Europe and Eurasia about several emerging needs and critical action steps:
- The changing role of advisers: EducationUSA advisers are national experts with a wealth of country-specific resources. They serve as critically important points of contact for accredited US institutions. For prospective students, EducationUSA is providing increasingly specialized and skill-building services while allowing their virtual advising activities to meet general information demands. Get involved: Accredited US institutions may promote their scholarships and programs via the “EducationUSA Weekly Update,” a new newsletter circulated worldwide. Send two paragraphs of such content and a picture to [email protected]  and reach all EducationUSA centers in 170 countries.
- Improving outreach: Advisers are increasing their use of technology and calling for more creative and effective marketing and promotional tools. More often, advisers are traveling on outreach to high schools and universities and need new informational material. Get involved: EducationUSA advisers in Europe assisted over 300,000 students in 2007. Students are attracted by thematic webinars (such as sports scholarships), DVDs, DVCs, promotional give-aways and video clips. If your institution can create unbiased material, it will have multiple uses. Contact [email protected]  for ideas.
Trends – Republic of Serbia:
Although Europe in general experienced a decrease in the number of students selecting US colleges and universities, Serbia experienced an increase of more than 10 percent (Open Doors 2007). Unlike many countries in Europe, Serbia remains outside the European Union. The mobility schemes outlined in the Bologna process are somewhat offset by the EU visa regime for Serbian students, presenting US colleges and universities with a unique opportunity for student recruitment. Graduate students in particular are attracted to US opportunities for assistantships and tuition waivers. Undergraduate student-athletes are highly attracted to the US education system as an opportunity to participate in athletics and obtain a world-class education. Financial aid opportunities remain the determining factor in the decision process. In the last year, the International Advising Center assisted more than 50 students to enroll in undergraduate and graduate programs that offered more than $1,677,000 in financial assistance provided directly from the institutions. In recent months, students have become concerned about the transition to three-year diplomas and how this change will impact access to US higher education opportunities. Access to information from US educational partners concerning three-year degree programs is rapidly becoming the major challenge for advising in Serbia and needs to be addressed if US colleges and universities wish to maintain their leading position among the Serbian graduate student population.
Trends – Czech Republic:
US education is still valued for its high quality higher education; however, students perceive administrative and financial barriers, especially in comparison to Europe. Advantages of study in the United States must be more broadly, intensively and creatively promoted. Bologna-related reforms are close to being fully implemented into the higher educational system of the Czech Republic. Most universities have received the Diploma Supplement Label and issue diploma supplements with ECTS credits. The three-year bachelor degree has become the most common undergraduate program. Students interested in graduate study in the United States feel uncertain and confused about the acceptance of their degrees for graduate admission. The educational advisor can only recommend that they contact universities and verify individual policies regarding bachelor degree recognition. There is certainly a need for a clearer message regarding the three-year bachelor program from the Czech Republic. Other EU countries are becoming more and more attractive study destinations through the elimination of barriers such as EU degree recognition, the possibility to work without limits, free travel across borders, and free tuition or generous financial assistance. Vertical mobility (bachelor’s degree in one country and master’s in another) is increasingly popular and enhanced through the Erasmus intra-European mobility program.
European Mobility under the Bachelor/Master Architecture: First Results
In 2007, European study in the United States dropped 2 percent to approximately 83,000 (Open Doors, 2007). Growth in the popular Erasmus program also stagnated in 2006 and 2007. Germany, Finland, Denmark, Norway, Netherlands, Spain and others experienced a slowdown in growth (see chart). With these new data, it appears that Europe is learning that Bologna-compliant systems do not automatically imply an increase of cross-border student mobility. Institutions have to consider specific mobility measures when implementing bachelor and master’s degree programs, including implementing flexible curricula (with windows of compulsory mobility), improving transatlantic recognition and developing integrated study programs such as joint degrees. In Germany, for example, there are new trends towards shorter stays abroad and more compulsory mobility at the graduate level.
EducationUSA Europe has its finger on the pulse of change in the European Higher Education Area. The EducationUSA Trends Report offers country-specific opportunities to engage with the network. US institutions are invited to take part in the largest higher education conference in Europe, EAIE (September 10-13 th). Contact [email protected]  for information on being represented in the EducationUSA Gateway exhibition.
“Many problems related to student mobility are not caused by Bologna but Bologna seems to reinforce the problems” (Dr. Siegbert Wuttig, DAAD, February 1, 2008).
Authors: Wes Teter, EducationUSA Europe Coordinator, US Department of State; Elizabeth Chung, Executive Director, www.iacbg.org  ; Jakub Tesar, Educational adviser, www.fulbright.cz/  and Ágnes Vajda, External Relations Manager, www.iie.eu 
From Reykjavik to Vladivostok: Student Advising Trends from EducationUSA
EducationUSA Trends Report 2008 (end of February): www.iie.eu . Contact [email protected]  or an EducationUSA center for outreach opportunities: http://www.educationusa.state.gov/centers/ .B