Sunday, March 29, 2009

What U.S. Higher Ed Can Learn From European Reforms

UNESCO has been negotiating a series of regional conventions on the recognition of credentials from institutions of higher education. The Lisbon Convention, signed in 1997, was for the European region. The European Commission notes:
The Bologna Process aims to create a European Higher Education Area by 2010, in which students can choose from a wide and transparent range of high quality courses and benefit from smooth recognition procedures. The Bologna Declaration (pdf format) of June 1999 has put in motion a series of reforms needed to make European Higher Education more compatible and comparable, more competitive and more attractive for Europeans and for students and scholars from other continents. Reform was needed then and reform is still needed today if Europe is to match the performance of the best performing systems in the world, notably the United States and Asia.
In this process, the Europeans have learned quite a bit from the U.S. system of higher education, notably the division of higher education into bachelors, masters and doctoral cycles.

Clifford Adelman has written an interesting long paper titled "What U.S. Higher Education Can Learn from a Decade of European Reconstruction" which seeks both to encourage dialog in the United States about reforms of our higher educational system and to suggest some reforms that might be useful, such as dealing better with part time students and setting up a process to improve harmonization among state higher educational systems.

Click here for an appreciation of the Adelman paper, with a number of comments.

According to Wikipedia:
The Lisbon Strategy, also known as the Lisbon Agenda or Lisbon Process, is an action and development plan for the European Union. Its aim is to make the EU "the most dynamic and competitive knowledge-based economy in the world capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion, and respect for the environment by 2010". It was set out by the European Council in Lisbon in March 2000.
Thus the Lisbon Process and the Bologna Process are complementary

Comment: The 46 countries participating in the Bologna process span the continent from Russia to Spain. Other countries are copying the efforts of the Europeans. In a global competition for students and for excellence in higher education, it seems obvious that we should watch this process carefully, learn from it, and if possible surpass the Europeans in striving for excellence.

And indeed, the United States should seek to learn from the Lisbon Process in case its lessons will help us improve our innovation system and move more quickly towards a knowledge society. JAD

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