International Educator - January/February 2013 - 35
start a U.S.-style liberal arts program in the Hungarian capital, says Thomas Falkner, provost and dean of the faculty at McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. Launched in 1994, the original idea was to offer a two-year program in Budapest, followed by two years at McDaniel’s Maryland campus. But after the events of September 11, 2011, it became a challenge to get visas for the foreign students, so McDaniel Budapest evolved into a four-year campus, Falkner says. As U.S.-style universities were taking root, public universities in Central and Eastern Europe were gradually evolving, adding more English-language classes and working to draw international students. But vast differences still could be found. Anna Muller, who now is a lecturer with the Center for European Studies at the University of Florida, graduated from the University of Gdansk, Poland, with degrees in history and political science in 2000 before studying at the University of Notre Dame and Indiana University. She sees big differences between her education in Poland and that at universities in the United States. In Gdansk, an education in history covered events year by year. In contrast, the students she teaches now “seem to be missing a lot of background,” she says. In Poland, students avoided lectures when possible, because they were usually dry. “They’re more entertaining here,” she says, with a dialogue between the instructor and students. Here, classes are resource rich, with books, handouts, access to professors, and access to the Internet. “Not only did we not have the Internet, we didn’t have books,” she recalls. If a professor told the class they needed to read a particular book, the students would have to track it down and make copies. “We never had almost unlimited access to libraries” or interlibrary loan, though things have improved.
Things have evolved at universities throughout Europe, and the mobility of students and faculty have improved with the introduction of the Bologna Process and ERASMUS Programme. It “stimulates mobility to help build an integrated labor market, a more competitive economy, and some kind of European ethos,” Matei says. The changes also paved the way for dialogue among university officials from the 47 countries that are part of the Bologna Process, he says, as well as increased interaction among students. “It created a lot of freedom,” he says. Many universities in Central and Eastern Europe have added courses in English. In Hungary, having classes taught in English as well as German have drawn international students, particularly to study subjects such as medicine and veterinary medicine, Frenyo says. These days many universities have a strategy for internationalization, but the impact has varied greatly both by university and by country. For example, few international students study in Romania, Matei says. In contrast, the United Kingdom drew more than 500,000 noncitizen students in 2010, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and Germany and France each attracted more than 250,000. Among the former Communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe, the Czech Republic led with less than 35,000 noncitizen students, while Hungary and Poland each had about 18,000. Although there is far more mobility, Justyna Giezynska, who runs the international higher education consultancy Studybility in Warsaw, helping Polish universities internationalize and foreign schools enter the Polish market, still sees big differences between East and West.
started to prevail over ethics (as in the West), corruption (also in the education sector) grew into new dimensions, many new private institutions (mostly in economics, law, humanities) played an ambiguous role, old nomenclatura politicians, mafiosi, KGB-people robbed the state (Russia, central Asian countries), religious and ethnic tensions grew, Christian Bode and nationalisitic tendencies in the newly independent states destroyed former divisions of labor.” Bode says that while West European states and the European Union tried a lot to help internationalize and all of these states “finally joined the Bologna process (or rather: signed the paper” does not offer a final solution. “Signing
papers and learning new vocabulary is not yet a new spirit or a new reality,” Bode says. “Most of the so called reforms had to be made with the ‘old boys’ who didn’t leave or could not be fired and it didn’t really change their minds, attitudes and practices. The new generation (and there are, of course, fantastic young brains) resigned, emigrated, or accepted the rules. Many of those who returned from successful study abroad did not return to the academic sector but found much better paid jobs in industry and business (which is essentially, internal brain drain). Countries in the former Soviet bloc, including the former Soviet Union itself are still trying to internationalize since communism’s collapse in the region. According to Bode, Russia is now announcing a new internationalization policy and growing interest in foreign talents. “But is still far from a really welcoming culture,” Bode says. “The number of Germans studying in Russia is decreasing. Foreign languages are probably less
taught and learned than in the cold war period: German (for many, it is the first foreign language) is decreasing, and English is not yet widely spread. Bureaucratic hurdles for exchanges and cooperation (for instance, recognition of foreign degrees) have grown instead of fallen.” A lot has changed, and many countries and universities in the former communist region in Europe have become more open and have embraced internationalization—but there is still more work ahead. “Despite of all reform rhetoric of governments and university presidents, I have the impression that it will take one more generation to modernize the higher education system in the former Soviet Union successor states according to Western/international standards. All neighbors and friends need a lot of patience and good will.” ELAINA LOVELAND is editor-in-chief of International Educator.
J A N + F E B . 13 INTERNATIONAL EDUCATOR