“Many obstacles still in the way of education mobility”
BRUSSELS – The promotion of mobility of students, teachers and other staff in higher education in the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) has been a central focus of the Bologna Process since its launch. However, still too many challenges and obstacles remain in the way of implementing political commitments and making mobility an opportunity for all. The European Students’ Union (ESU) has helped to draft a strategy paper to overcome these barriers.
The Bologna Declaration of 1999 contained as its goal ‘the promotion of mobility by overcoming obstacles to the free movement of students, teachers, researchers and administrative staff’. Furthermore, in the Leuven-communiqué of 2009, the European Ministers of the Bologna process agreed to the common goal that at least 20 percent of those graduating from the European Higher Education Area should have had a study or training period abroad, with ESU being a main supporter for introducing the benchmark. Many challenges and obstacles are however still standing in the way. Financing, recognition, language & cultural barriers, states regulations within the EHEA and outside EHEA, the quality of study period and many other legal or informal barriers to mobility should be removed and international opportunities related to mobility should be made public.
Therefore, the Bologna Follow-up Group (BFUG) on Mobility was invited to draft a strategy paper, which is expected to give an orientation to Bologna countries on promoting mobility and internationalization in a sustainable way. ESU, as an active member of this workgroup, has a crucial role at bringing student voice at European Level. The aim of this strategy is to address the barriers such as states regulations and financing by fostering the mobility and international competences of the Higher Education Institution’s staff and by introducing new windows to enable non-mobile students to have an international experience “at home”. This strategy has to be adopted and approved by 2012 during the BFUG Ministerial conference in Bucharest.
Mobility as a right
ESU is paying particular attention to the mobility agenda especially by this year in order to react to all actions at European level and avoid politics such as a possible loan scheme for Erasmus program. Because of the clear added value of higher education, ESU believes that mobility is a right for all students. ESU opposes policies that restrict mobility to a small group of students. Changes in the operational environment, in all fields of society and also in the labour market mean that students need to obtain new skills to be able to successfully participate in today’s society after graduation. These new skills can only be achieved in a learning environment, where teachers, students and administrative staff are aware of the international developments and are prepared to take in new information and have academic discussions also in international forums.
Though these gains are substantial, mobility also has potential costs (also costs for mobility and internationalization). Mobility of this sort can be a major contributory factor to the gain or loss of skilled individuals, particularly where such individuals choose to remain resident in the area or country where they have taken up their studies. Brain mobility is not to be treated only from the aspect of brain gain and efforts should be made in order to reduce the negative effects of brain loss. In this respect, the responsibility does not only lie with national governments, in the formulation of policies on brain mobility and in their attitude towards this phenomenon, but also with national and international stakeholders in terms of higher education and societal development.
What is more, when discussing mobility, ESU also takes note of the new developments of the European Union in its strategic goal setting within the Europe 2020 Strategy, especially the flagship initiative Youth on the Move. With the strategy that has already commenced, follow-up discussions and national level scene setting in mind, the ESU has set out concrete priorities for Europe to tackle in the forthcoming decade to secure better learning experience, academic quality and cultural successful policies on study mobility.