BM83: Statement on the future of Student-Centered Learning

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I. Introduction

15 years have passed since the concept of Student-Centred Learning (abbreviated as “SCL”) has been formally introduced as a commitment within the Bologna Process/European Higher Education Area (“EHEA”) through the London Communique (2007). Since then, the Bologna Process has been the main policy forum to promote the concept of SCL in Europe, even though the concept has been promoted as a paradigm of learning systems derived from the constructivist theory long before the creation of the Bologna Process in 1999.

Since 2007, the concept of SCL has evolved horizontally (in terms of the fields of relevant action under the Higher Education (“HE”) policy considered part of the SCL paradigm shift), vertically (with a more in-depth view of what SCL entails and the institutional processes that need to be adapted to ensure the transformative change to SCL) and in terms of scope. Initially, the European Commission and the governments had a stronger focus on the economic advantage of the SCL approach in terms of employability (which helped bring the decision-makers to the table as agents of change). Currently, the holistic view, promoted especially by stakeholders who see the SCL’s rationale as necessary for attaining HE’s mission to develop the student as an active citizen, has gained the upper hand.

Even though there is no formal definition of SCL, and there are still debates about what SCL entails, a definition coined by ESU in 2015 (also used by the Bologna Process Implementation reports) serves as a de facto definition of SCL: “both a mindset and a culture […] characterised by innovative methods of teaching which aim to promote learning in communication with teachers and other learners and which take students seriously as active participants in their own learning, fostering transferable skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking and reflective thinking.” This statement aims to analyse with a critical eye, from a policy and student perspective, the current state of play regarding the promotion and implementation of SCL in Europe in order to assess the ways forward through which ESU can further promote SCL in becoming a reality in all classrooms and Higher education institutions (“HEIs”).

SCL has been a key topic for ESU and the National Unions of Students (“NUSes”) in the last 15 years. As representatives of students, we are inherently inclined to be the ones pushing the agenda the most on adopting an SCL mindset both at the institutional level and system level. ESU has embraced this priority through different means: lobbying for SCL to be mentioned and expanded in ministerial conferences’ communiques, developing projects aimed to further the understanding of SCL and provide tools for its implementation at European, national, and local level, and through monitoring the implementation of SCL by including it in the Bologna with Student Eyes publications. Apart from SCL being a key issue for students and their needs and interests (since, by definition, SCL means adapting the learning environment to their needs) and the fact that changing the learning system from the traditional mnemonic/teacher-centred approach to the competence-based/student-centred approach would be a palpable change stemmed from the European level, SCL also means, for ESU, the necessity of a whole-change approach, that includes other important areas for ESU regarding problems that students face (for example, student participation and social dimension are key enablers of SCL). In this context, SCL is seen as a tool that can transform the inner structures and processes of HE as a whole.

However, even though it is seen as a cross-cutting theme, highly mentioned in EHEA documents, the real impact of SCL in student life is often limited, as several countries are far from implementing the SCL approach. In this sense, the risk is high of putting any reform in the basket of “implementing SCL”, even though it is more lip service than a systemic change. Without a proper usage of what SCL entails, anything can be served as part of an SCL approach, resulting in a lack of beneficial changes for students and the quality of their education. Apart from willingness, SCL requires funding, strategy, organisational reforms and responsible structures.

ESU is committed to pushing for a real implementation of SCL through adequate tools and to regaining momentum in terms of SCL not being taken for granted or seen as a ‘buzzword’ in policy documents, without any follow-up, but as commitments at the European level being translated into action plans and policy interventions that bring actual change in student experiences.
That is why, after having a historical overview of the development of SCL in EHEA, we will assess the status quo of SCL both because of the wide gap between commitments and implementation and because of the new, emerging trends at the European level: micro-credentials, transnational cooperation, European alliances, digitalisation. For SCL to strive, ESU demands that developments in international HE, be it at EHEA, European Union or global level, to be always seen through the lens of SCL.

II. Current state of play on what SCL entails

Based on the developments mentioned above, it would be understandable for one to believe that the SCL concept did not evolve in recent years. However, even though the core principles and understandings of SCL remained the same due to a lack of revision, it is difficult to argue that the forces shaping HE recently did not have any impact on the policy and practice of SCL.

Firstly, as European HE becomes even more interconnected and cross-border, relying on the capacity to implement SCL at the institutional level proves to be less realistic (despite the lack of national policy guidelines and support). This doesn’t imply that the crucial role of grassroots institutional level agency for implementing SCL lost its relevance, but that the need to jointly develop at national and European levels the processes conducive to making SCL a reality has increased. Only by this, we can ensure that the benefits for students, staff and institutions of the paradigm shift to SCL are attained, and all actors are supporting SCL.

Secondly, the half-implementation or just on-paper implementation of SCL in recent years has influenced the mentality of all stakeholders involved. We cannot expect the support for SCL to be shown exclusively by the theoretical framework, which highlights the positive effects of SCL in the learning system. The discourse of promoting SCL loses momentum when the reforms that pretend to implement SCL have little added value in practice for students. This also happens when systems that declare themselves student-centred are actually failing to achieve the organic features that would lead to SCL. Therefore, ESU asks for a clear delimitation between what falls within the implementation process of SCL, by developing a clear set of indicators related to the implementation of SCL, and what only minorly touches upon the idea of SCL. In this way, also other barriers, such as the fear that SCL would negatively affect the subject-specific knowledge that needs to be transferred to students, would be prevented.

Thirdly, the SCL as a meta-concept is inherently altered by the surrounding policies on HE. Already in 2010, ESU was signalling the effect of austerity funding policies on the implementation of SCL. For example, governments cannot, on the one hand, declare that they promote SCL and, on the other hand, decrease core funding for HE or promote policies that would lead to a decrease in student/staff ratios. Undeniably, governmental policies are not the only ones affecting how SCL is evolving. The changes in student learning patterns, the influence of digitalisation (treated separately below) and the professional development of teachers are all having an impact on the development of SCL as well.

Irrespective of the developments mentioned above, ESU believes that SCL is not only a broad enough concept able to adjust to the current and future realities, but that resilience through reflexive analysis and how teaching and learning processes and environments react to internal and external factors are a built-in feature of SCL. As a reference, in the list of 9 principles of SCL created by ESU in 2010, still valid and applicable today, the first one is the reflexive nature of SCL.

Even though SCL is a broad concept, as mentioned above, it is not to be confused with an unclear one, as it is sometimes happening in policy discussions or policy initiatives. The broadness of the concept of SCL is by no means incompatible with the internal coherence of the concept, as well as the capacity to develop systemic or specific indicators to assess whether SCL is implemented.

As stated in the ESU policy paper on Quality of Education, ESU believes that “SCL as a concept should regain its visibility and be translated onto new educational approaches, different modes of learning delivery and be constantly adapted to the needs of learners”.

Three key issues are emerging in the process of reflecting the current state of play on SCL policy: scope, areas of interventions and tools of support.

In terms of scope, as highlighted by Klemencic in 2017, we agree with the proposition that there are three dimensions of SCL (SCL as a pedagogic concept to foster individual learning, SCL as a cultural frame for developing communities of learning, SCL as a lever supporting learning systems). ESU believes that among those, even though there are issues in terms of implementation for all three dimensions, the key enabler for widespread mainstreaming of SCL is the mindset shift seen through SCL as a cultural frame. In this regard, we can see that SCL is not only a ‘technocratic’ policy-driven endeavour but also a political objective towards changing the role of students in HE as a whole.

As issues derive from the cultural frame dimension, we see that in some cases, the SCL approach is seen through the lens of the corporate paradigm of HE governance as a shift to consumeristic policies in HE, which cannot be more diametrically opposed to what SCL wants to achieve and in contrast to students. As the biggest status group at HEIs, students must be involved in decision-making processes on all levels. As a result, they must be viewed as equal stakeholders in HE decision-making. Furthermore, it’s always important to underline the key role of HEIs in society and their mission, as well as the essentially democratic and participative nature of the academic community. Apart from the long-established understanding of the role of HEIs in society and their mission, even though consumers are able to influence the service through market expectations and satisfaction, they are in no position to directly shape the ‘service’ provided and are not involved internally in the decision-making processes. This is in contrast to students, who, as the biggest status group at HEIs, form the core of HE and need to be involved in decision-making processes on all levels, thus must not be seen as mere consumers but as equal stakeholders in HE decision-making.

We should continue measuring student satisfaction and pursuing a high degree of satisfaction. However, as highlighted by ESU and conceptualised by Klemencic (2017), SCL is not about student satisfaction but about student agency (seen as freedoms and capabilities) – “the capability of students to participate in, influence and take responsibility for their learning pathways and environments”. Between student satisfaction and student agency, the bridging feature that has been implemented by an overwhelming part of HEIs in Europe is student engagement, where students are involved in the design and decisions of the learning system setting but haven’t been empowered yet to their full potential.

In terms of areas of intervention, our vision evolved over time as well and crystallised into a perspective in which SCL requires intertangled interventions in multi-faceted policy domains. As there are still discussions about the reach of the SCL, we reiterate some core features without the intention to explain them again in detail:

  • SCL as a pedagogical paradigm to ensure student agency

As a prerequisite of ensuring SCL, the usage of learning outcomes needs to be generalised, which is unfortunately still not the case in some countries across Europe. There is a stark difference between prescribing the usage of learning outcomes and developing a system which supports writing of coherent sets of learning outcomes based on what is intended to be realistically achieved and which is supported by ECTS allocation. The former doesn’t imply full implementation of learning outcomes. Learning outcomes should not be written in order to impress potential candidates but should be clear and linked with what is happening in the learning process. Students need to be made aware of why learning outcomes are used and what they mean in order to enable students to understand the rationale of the learning process and to enhance their agency. Consequently, having other documents, e.g., course profiles or course catalogues, ensuring transparency stemming from the ECTS requirements, should be finally institutionalised.

Furthermore, a key feature of SCL is adaptability. Not only may some students not be prepared for an SCL approach, but also, some practices within SCL may not be suitable for them. Putting red tape to demand one-size-fits-all SCL in a teacher-centred education would not help much, as SCL requires a targeted, holistic, transformative approach.

  • Student assessment as an enabler of SCL

How students are going to be assessed in the learning process is one of the main drivers which shape a student’s attitude, as well as the methods used to determine whether they are encouraged to develop transversal skills, social attitudes, critical thinking, learning how to learn etc. ESU believes that assessments should be fair, consistent, and designed based on learning outcomes that need to correspond to the covered curriculum.

  • Teacher initial and continuous development

In order for teachers to have the tools and skills to implement SCL, SCL needs to be at the core of their own development process, together with the ecosystem that fosters SCL, including but not limited to having selection criteria related to the relevant pedagogical skills, training on SCL, periodic assessment procedures. Apart from compulsory initial and continuous professional training, a HE system that does not subordinate teaching to research is needed. Furthermore, in order to fully implement student-centred learning, HEIs need to make sure that students, as well as staff, have full access to adequate and free support services, including psychological counselling and mental health support. Unfortunately, in recent years we have seen little to no change towards valuing teaching equally as research, as promotion and appraisal systems for teachers as well as allocation systems of resources, are highly research-oriented, which leads the incentives for teachers in that direction. Moreover, in recent years, it has become increasingly evident the need and the requirement of continuous training for all teachers, as well as academic staff, to make their teaching more inclusive, anti-discriminatory, and antiharassment and to promote climate change awareness.

  • Flexibility of learning paths and promotion of life-long learning

As both concepts are extensively reflected upon in policy documents, only a couple of remarks shall be added. Regarding life-long learning (“LLL”), it is important to highlight that a LLL mindset requires support systems for a diverse range of students, from mature students, students with disabilities and students with children/childcare responsibilities, students with other caring responsibilities to those who need remedial activities in order to level the playing field with their peers. In terms of flexible learning, apart from elective courses and stackability of modules, coherence of the envisaged learning paths, as well as a range of counselling systems for students, need to be in place so that students can make informed choices. Furthermore, this includes the permeability between vocational, professional and academic-oriented study programs, in the sense that irrespective of the choice of the learning paths, all types of study programmes should be accessible for all students, and swift recognition systems should be in place for this objective.

  • Meaningful and decisive student participation in all decisions related to learning and learning systems

ESU believes that student participation in developing learning outcomes and evaluating how they were assessed, modes of course delivery, study programme designs, as well as systemic decisions and processes (governance, QA), is a sine-qua-non condition for the correct implementation of SCL. However, it is not sufficient for students to be involved, their involvement needs to have a consequential impact. Tokenism is one of the most significant causes of students not participating in decision-making processes as their ability to influence is limited. Meaningful and decisive participation should be available to all students. In addition, inflexible studies, strict requirements, low or no financial compensation and the burden experienced by students are obstacles to student participation.

  • Catering the needs of a diverse student population – social dimension and SCL reinforcing one another

In order to promote access to HE and the capacity of a diverse student body to quality HE, SCL is instrumental. The diversity of students creates a diversity of needs that must be met by SCL, ensuring adequate support for all those who require it, especially taking into account the vulnerable and disadvantaged students. On the other hand, SCL approaches have to be prepared to embrace diversity and provide resources for supporting the learning paths of disadvantaged students. ESU believes that the link between the experiences of underrepresented students in higher education and SCL at the institutional and national levels is not yet sufficiently structured. Consequently, it is necessary to collect data that the teaching staff should use to better adapt to the learning environment to ensure inclusion. In addition, curriculum, teaching, and assessment designs must always take into account the reality that students come from diverse backgrounds and have different level of knowledge, requirements and needs.

  • Qualifications Frameworks (“QF”) and Recognition

Both QF and recognition processes are adjacent tools which shape the field in which SCL is implemented. We believe QF had a contribution to changing the L&T approach from traditional (mnemonic) to student-centred, based on the promotion of learning outcomes through the National Qualification Frameworks (“NQF”), even when learning outcomes-based programmes were not formally and effectively developed. Furthermore, both QF and recognition processes can promote or hinder flexible learning paths. QF needs to be promoted in a user-friendly manner as a way to increase student understanding of their own qualifications, thus being able to make more informed decisions. Within the recognition area, one of the most non-implemented Bologna commitments is the recognition of prior non-formal and informal learning, despite its role in promoting flexible learning pathways and SCL being obvious.

  • Learning environment and resources

The capacity to implement SCL is crucially impacted by the available resources for students and staff, and at European level the wide gaps between the financial capacity of HEIs and the public funds provided for higher education are not taken enough into account, or even forgotten. SCL in an ultra-modern laboratory is not the same as SCL in a classroom without access to the internet. A reality check is always needed for the public discourse and subsequent actions not to be disconnected from grassroots experiences. From all the barriers to SCL, the lack of up-to-date educational resources and quality educational infrastructure is probably one of the most evident ones. Adapted SCL approaches are oriented, inherently, by the resources in place to develop the learning environment, and investing into developing the resources which underpin the learning environment should be a priority for universities. A student-centred approach also starts with the classrooms in which classes are taught: allowing students to attend classes in facilities that meet their needs is a key factor. Furthermore, the design of the learning environment heavily influences student expectations, flexibility and interactivity. HEIs should not take investment in renovating and adapting existing facilities for granted; it is necessary to create an environment that is safe and can be welcoming to everyone without any discrimination. As students have different needs, it is important to remove any architectural or structural barriers that prevent students from easily accessing the facilities and being able to attend classes there safely. Safe rooms or areas should be created in all HEIs, where everyone can find a moment of quiet and detach themselves.

From all educational resources, it is important to highlight the role libraries play in SCL and that they should provide enough resources on SCL for students and staff as well. In the middle of the digital transformation, it is worth mentioning that there are still many steps to be taken to ensure students have unlimited access to digital resources and that at the European level, resources are pooled together to create a single space for the European HE library platform. Furthermore, when choosing to make these resources available and use them for teaching, it is important to pay attention to the fact that they should also be created with the needs of students with disabilities, Specific Learning Disorders, Special Educational Needs or neurodivergent students in mind.

  • Student support measures

Access to adequate, quickly accessible and free support services, including psychological counselling, academic counselling and tutoring, career guidance, and mental and physical health support, which not only focus on treatment but also on prevention, are key enablers for ensuring the SCL paradigm’s success. HEI and national policies should not only recognise their relevance and promote their accessibility and quality but should directly ensure the cooperation of teachers and counselling professionals in order to promote student learning pathways and, at the structural level, to improve teaching and learning based on student experiences.

  • Mobility as a twofold driver of SCL

Student and staff mobility supports SCL not only by providing diverse experiences that enrich the learning process but also by serving as a way to promote SCL policies. In this regard, HEIs should actively seek the feedback of mobile students with the scope of improving their own teaching and learning practices.

In terms of tools of support, all the above-mentioned fields should be covered both by fit for purpose (as understood by the ESGs), internal and external QA procedures and national regulations, guidelines and funding. However, in order not to be merely procedural, whole institutional and whole-SCL approaches need to be encouraged. By whole-SCL, we mean using the principles of SCL together since one enforces another, even though some stakeholders would be inclined to support only some components of SCL, as ESU explained in the past.

Nonetheless, promoting good practices is instrumental, such as the European University Association’s Learning & Teaching development programme.

III. SCL and the hot debates in HE policy

As a meta-concept, SCL adjusts to the changing tides of higher education policy because it is a paradigm shift that affects the entire learning system. On the other hand, these trends also have to take into consideration how they feed into the development of SCL. Within this section, we are looking into how SCL lies within the developments of micro-credentials, transnational cooperation in education and digitalisation. Firstly, we need to emphasise that the attention given to SCL in these policy initiatives has been disappointingly low. ESU stands for having an SCL analysis as a transversal filter through which policies are assessed.

On micro-credentials, the work has been taken up by the European Commission, which recently promoted a perspective that translated into the Council’s Recommendation on a European approach to micro-credentials for lifelong learning and employability. As a reaction to the developments, ESU has approved our own statement on Micro-credentials.

Presented as short units of learning with specific learning outcomes, the Council Recommendation highlights the feature of micro-credentials to be learner-centred. It is mentioned that micro-credentials “can also be used to help better orient students and facilitate access to and success in learning and training” and that they lead to more flexibility. Furthermore, SCL is one of the principles of the European approach to micro-credentials, specifically proving for students’ involvement in the internal and external QA processes of the micro-credential.

All these developments which present SCL as an underlying principle are surely welcomed. In ESU’s opinion, SCL in micro-credentials should be seen from two layers: firstly, the general SCL approach that should define any learning process and secondly, the specific focus and design of the micro-credential, which by its short duration should necessarily focus on a limited and coherent set of expected learning outcomes. In this way, micro-credentials need to have built-in pedagogical tools adapted to their specific profile. Furthermore, students’ needs should not be put in the same category as employers’ needs. Even though micro-credentials can contribute to employability, this is not the only and may not be the main objective micro-credential can pursue. Since education is valuable in and of itself and helps students develop personally and professionally, it is important to take into account students’ requirements, boundaries and well-being regardless of the specific aim of micro-credentials as envisioned by states.

Lastly, we believe that the main obstacles can happen in practice, where ESU presents several pitfalls – the risk of commodification, incoherence in terms of when micro-credentials can be useful instead of a traditional full degree, how a micro-credential is recognized alone and within a study programme, possible additional burden for students and excessive fragmentation of their learning path, divergent practice in accepting stackability or students’ lack of guidance for creating their own learning path. All these pitfalls need to be addressed by a policy to ensure that micro-credentials don’t have any harmful effects on students.

Regarding transnational cooperation, the first dimension is the revamping of joint programmes, especially as a part of the European strategy for universities. In this case, the European Approach for Joint programmes, approved by the ministers of HE in Yerevan in 2015, explicitly mentions ESG Principle 1.3, which promotes SCL. However, it is important to point out that ensuring SCL in a joint programme is definitely not an easy task, and the topic hasn’t been discussed in policy forums in accordance with its importance. For joint degrees to be student-centred, an organisational approach needs to be taken. That means that institutional policies need to be adapted to become compatible with the delivery of the joint programme. In this regard, the involvement of students in drafting the inter-institutional cooperation agreements, which serve as a basis for the development of the joint programme, is crucial to aim for student-centred policies for the drafting, implementation, monitoring, assessment and review of the manner in which the joint programme is delivered. Creating coherent and efficient inter-institutional overarching frameworks and structures is necessary for having the capacity to create the SCL environment, and different institutional practices and cultural differences need to be addressed without any negative effects on institutional standards for SCL. In many cases, what is forgotten is exactly the context in which the joint programme is delivered – the learning environment or the student support systems. Having different teachers from different HEIs delivering the content is just a part of preparing a joint programme and definitely not enough to create the holistic learning environment needed for an SCL approach.

An even higher degree of convergence is present in the inter-institutional transnational agreements, creating networks of HEIs such as European University Alliances (“European Alliances”). Since European University Alliances are highly promoted by the European Commission and have become the norm in the sense of the typology of inter-institutional cooperations, we would focus on them, bearing in mind that the references are generally applicable.

From the call launched by the European Commission, it would seem that de jure SCL is an essential part of building up a European Alliance. The call requests the applicant HEIs to “integrate SCL approaches and innovative pedagogies” and create a system where “Students at all levels are empowered to customise their own flexible curricula, choosing where and what to study, within the confines of pedagogically sound and logically structured study programmes”. However, even though one would expect these requirements to follow in practice as well, that is unfortunately not the case in many European Alliances.

So far, European Alliances don’t take up the promise in regard to the transformational shift in students’ experience. If the reduced number of mobilities can be explained by the outspread of the Covid-19 pandemic, other measures could have already been taken for the European Alliances to be a shared academic community, not only a community of the selected few in the HEI management.

As ESU mentioned several times, for the European Alliances to have the enabling framework to be student-centred, meaningful democratic student participation needs to be ensured within the newly created structures, which need to be connected to the local representative student bodies. Even though a little normative progress happened, through ESU’s lobby, with student involvement being mentioned in the Council Recommendation, we are still far from making sure that student participation is not tokenized and students have a similar say in the Alliances matters in a corresponding way to the HEI governing bodies. Secondly, what is the additional layer specific to a network and distinguishing it from a simple cooperation agreement, the creation of the shared community, is starkly missing. For many students enrolled in HEIs who have been members of the alliances for three years already, nothing has changed, and they see no impact of the alliance. Even though their focus should be on learning and teaching, other priorities are pursued. The promised flexibility is low and doesn’t bring much to the already existing frameworks, and a bold internal alliance-level QA system is not developed. For the Alliances to have the expected and relevant impact, much more emphasis needs to be put on shaping the learning environment and ensuring students have access to resources and support systems from other members HEIs.

A trend shaping more generally the development of SCL is digitalisation. Initially seen as a panacea (i.e. cure) for all the problems regarding SCL, it is now, especially after the covid pandemic, clear that digitalisation is not a one-size-fits-all solution. The use of digital tools can for sure enhance the SCL, but only if digitalisation is not seen as a goal in itself but as a tool intentionally devised to be implemented with the scope of promoting SCL. We recall and support ESU’s recent contribution to the consultation of the Commission regarding the development of digital education, which adds to ESU’s statement on digitalisation. We underline the following key messages regarding the use of digitalisation in HE with an eye to SCL:

  • digital tools are needed to counterbalance fake news dispersed through digital means and to promote critical thinking.
  • digitalisation is much more than using an online platform for learning
  • institutions should evaluate the effects of digital learning as it has been implemented and build upon the students’ perspective. 
  • SCL needs to be assessed directly through open and anonymous feedback, focus groups and involving student representatives and student unions, more than using learning analytics. 
  • students falling behind because of the lack of digital skills or because they couldn’t  adapt their learning style to the use of digital tools should be supported through  remedial activities 
  • digitalisation requires support systems in place (including adapting the ones offered on-site, when applicable) and a special focus on mental health 
  • several student categories, such as students with disabilities or neurodivergent  students, require additional support to fully access the digital environment or  alternatives if an adaptation is not possible 
  • increasing assessment due to data collected from learning analytics bears a risk in  influencing the learning behaviour of students and increases the risk of pressure to  perform 
  • whenever data is used in educational processes, such as through learning analytics,  including the help of Artificial Intelligence (AI), ethical standards must be followed,  ensuring all students are fully informed and avoiding third-party profit from data 
  • the digitalisation of exams should be seen as a tool to further the range and possibilities  of exam designs in the sense of SCL and not lead to surveilling students through simply  designed mass exams (e.g., through proctoring)  
IV. Policy arenas and ways ahead

As a paradigm shift, ESU considers that SCL still serves its purpose, and its broad vision can encompass the new tendencies and challenges from within European HE. ESU believes a cornerstone of SCL is its ability in order to fulfil its goal of helping students achieve their goals, taking into consideration their needs and improving the quality and outcomes of the learning process.

Even though there is no formal definition in place, ESU believes the concept of SCL is outlined enough to promote a coherent and holistic implementation of SCL. However, together with bringing back SCL at the forefront of the European policy agenda, we need to continue to create both guidelines and indicators that serve for implementation and for assessing national reforms.

At the Bologna Process level, we call on the Bologna Follow-Up Working Group on Learning and Teaching to look more into the understanding of SCL and to develop comprehensive and extensive indicators on the topic. Furthermore, we believe SCL should be considered a key commitment in EHEA and follow the approach of the Thematic Peer Groups, with countries submitting action plans on SCL. In this way, not only can we contribute to the mainstreaming of SCL, but we can also grasp the national understanding and approaches that would serve as a peer-learning process to improve SCL at the European level. Should more concrete indicators of what SCL entails would also prove useful for more systematic monitoring of SCL implementation across EHEA.

The European Union definitely has a role to play as well. Since 2011, when the Agenda for the Modernisation of Europe’s HE Systems was approved, the European institutions saw centring programmes on students’ learning needs as a core transversal topic. This was also mentioned in the recent European strategy for universities. ESU believes that the European Union should embrace more clearly and explicitly the SCL paradigm as it was understood and developed within the Bologna Process, of which it is a member. Furthermore, ESU calls on the Commission to have a student-centred transversal approach when building the new European Degree label since SCL has become an essential part of the European understanding of the learning system. Building upon the ESG 1.3 would be, in this regard, the starting point.

The clarifications we made for the European Alliances are applicable to the initiative to create a legal statute as well. Irrespective of the format, a legal statute would need provisions that protect against the backdrop of student participation since student involvement is a core compulsory element which fosters SCL. The ecosystem can be complemented, and its development supported if data on SCL would be collected and promoted through the proposed HE Observatory and developed criteria for SCL for structural grants involving innovative learning and teaching would give stimulus to the cause.
The story of SCL being implemented across Europe is still being written. Even though we would consider that it is not necessary anymore to argue why SCL should be implemented, students and student unions need to keep the attention of decision-makers on SCL to move from formal recognition in European policy documents to full implementation in classrooms.



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