IIE Networker - Spring 2007 - (Page 48)

Knowledge Network Europe Going International In Quest of a New “Foreign Policy” for European Higher Education By Alan Smith The past two decades have witnessed an unparalleled expansion in European cooperation in the higher education field. Major European programs such as Erasmus and Tempus, themselves the reflection of the larger macro-political agenda for integration and reunification across the continent, have begun to transform the essentially national character of higher education systems. Slowly but surely, cooperation across Europe’s internal borders is becoming an integral part of the daily life of our universities and other higher education institutions. More recently, policy-oriented initiatives such as the agreement at EU level on common objectives of education systems across the Union—not least as regards higher education reform and modernization—and the intergovernmental “Bologna Process” aiming at convergent restructuring of European higher education, have had an unprecedented impact on governments’ willingness to achieve a greater degree of coherence in their planning and to take their neighbors’ experience and situation into account when reforming their national systems. The sum total is the emergence of what can begin to be called a “European Higher Education Area.” Along the way, some hitherto undreamt of historical milestones have been reached: not long ago, celebrations took place to mark the award of a grant to the one millionth Erasmus student. From “European” to “International” Cooperation Undeniably, this European activity has also had some positive side effects for the wider “internationalization” of Europe’s higher education institutions. One obvious example of this is the development of far more professional services for handling international cooperation, and in particular foreign students, at European universities. Though resulting essentially from the need to respond to the challenges posed by a far greater number of incoming and outgoing students on Erasmus exchanges, the creation of international offices with increasingly well-trained and competent staff and sometimes considerable resources has undoubtedly had a positive knock-on effect for universities’ international cooperation in the broader global context. The same is true of the enhanced status now en-joyed by transnational cooperation within many academic departments. At the same time, however, there is a growing concern to ensure that the emphasis on promoting intra-European cooperation should not be taken to denote a lack of fundamental European commitment to international higher education cooperation more generally, whether at national and European policy level or at the level of the individual institutions. Significantly, the “common objectives” for European education systems adopted in 2001 and which have subsequently developed into the “Education and Training 2010” initiative, cited “opening up to the wider world”—in every sense of the term—as a key ambition for the years ahead. In the “Bologna” context, the recognition of the need for developing an “external dimension” to the reform process has been steadily gaining momentum, and the upcoming London Ministerial meeting in May 2007 is expected to make this aspect—on the basis of recommendations developed by a Europe-wide and multistateholder working group—one of the main focal points of future action. To reflect these policy developments, recent years have witnessed the progressive emergence of major European program initiatives to help boost cooperation with other parts of the world. At national level, too, there is increasing acknowledgement of the importance of “internationalizing” higher education, notably from the point of view of the need to make each country’s higher education institutions more attractive to foreign students. Concerted Action at the Institutional, National and European level The call for a holistic approach to international cooperation lays down the gauntlet for rectors, academic boards, deans and departmental heads—not to mention those responsible for financial and personnel administration—to provide the strong lead which institutions need in order to develop a proactive and coherent strategy for their international activities. From all the recent European debates, there is clear consensus that what is needed for each institution to develop such a strategy, based on the institution’s specific

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of IIE Networker - Spring 2007

IIE Networker - Spring 2007
Message from Allan E. Goodman
Up Front: The International Education Diary
Best Practices in International Education: Andrew Heiskell Awards 2007
In-Country Consortia: Rethinking Collaboration in Education Abroad
IIENetworker University Presidents Interview Series: A Conversation with President John B. Simpson, State University of New York at Buffalo
Higher Education in Pakistan: A Silent Revolution
Opening Minds to the World: Toyota and IIE
Dual Degree Programs
South Africa–USA Partnership
Faculty View
The Browser: Index of Advertisers

IIE Networker - Spring 2007