2000 Policy Paper “Guideline on future discussions on European education”
Already for some years ESIB has been paying growing attention to the increasing number of education providers and the establishment of transnational education markets. ESIB welcomes the emerge of European education area. This guideline will be the start for future discussions on ESIB’s visions on European higher education. Since the European ministers of education will meet on the 19th of May 2001, this vision will have to be prepared by the Prague2001 Working Group to be tabled at the spring Board Meeting 2001.
European Education Politics
The Bologna Declaration in 1999 made the creation of a European higher education area a political goal. The signatory countries became more aware of the fact that their education system is part of a European one and take this into account when developing their education policies.
Special bodies have been established to monitor the development of the Bologna process and these increase the possibilities to exchange information. However, student participation is still completely absent. Students are, however, the biggest interest group of higher education and they have a democratic and representative interest organisation on the European level. ESIB – The National Unions of Students in Europe is therefore deeply concerned about the undemocratic practises of the Bologna process and the lack of transparency. In the decision making processes that fall within the co-operation of the governments it is imperative that all interest groups are involved and that the decision making process is transparent.
The term ‘education market’ in itself already forms a distorted picture of education. ESIB strongly opposes to the handling of education as a common market commodity. Education is an investment by society and should be beneficial for both the individual and the society alike. ESIB demands that education preserves its task as a contributor to social equality in society. The main form of higher education must therefore remain free of tuition fees, be of high quality and be accessible to all students eligible for higher education studies also in the future. Transnational education provision must not jeopardise this.
According to ESIB those institutions, which are best equipped to exert it, should make policies.
Thus wherever possible the decision-making process should be close to the people. Since education policies should always first serve the students this aim will often be achieved through nationally or regionally arranged education structures even though higher education also functions on a transnational level.
Commonly Agreed Guidelines for Transnational Education
After the Bologna Declaration, however, countries require more guidance. There is a strong wish and need for commonly agreed guidelines for transnational education provision. The governments’ measures and guidance are seen as insufficient to secure the minimum criteria of education. Common guidelines are needed (for example for the marketing of education abroad).
The legal protection of students requires transparency and the availability of reliable information on the education provided. Students must therefore have information on the provided degrees and the qualifications of the institution.
In an attempt to secure a flow of information on different degree and education systems European co-operation networks have already been set up. ESIB warmly supports this kind of co-operation and wishes it to continue and improve.
The quality of education is the most important tool in reaching the goals set for education. Quality assurance is therefore the most important aim and an absolute precondition to transnational education.
ESIB is especially worried about the quality of higher education when it is being “sold” regardless of the quality and the social responsibility that is connected to the provision of education.
ESIB demands that common rules for transnational education are established. European education politics doesn’t need more declarations. What it needs is small yet concrete decisions and commonly agreed guidelines.
Main Aims of ESIB in European Education
- Publicly funded higher education must remain the main form of higher education in the future.
- Higher education is a public good and must aim to meet the needs of society as a whole.
- The transparency of European education policies must be increased.
- On the European level students must be involved in all the preparatory and decision-making bodies in issues concerning students and this should happen through ESIB.
- All evaluation results concerning education must be public.
- Creation of commonly agreed guidelines to transnational education must be one of the most important political aims of the Prague meeting.