The new LLP: Towards a European Higher Education Area
by Guusje ter Horst, president of the Netherlands Association of Universities of Applied Sciences (HBO-raad)
'Bologna' and European initiatives in mobility, education and training such as Erasmus have been important catalysts for a new way of thinking about education in Europe. I believe we now all share the ambition to create a European Higher Education Area (EHEA), in which differentiated higher education institutions offer the best education and where student and teacher mobility are fostered. There are still important steps to be taken before we truly live in this European Higher Education Area. A new Lifelong Learning Programme (LLP2) that is more flexible, more focused on institutional cooperation and less bureaucratic would help a great deal.
2011 will be an important year given the adoption of the Youth on the Move flagship initiative and the consultation on the new Lifelong Learning Programme (LLP2), both of which have put education on top of the agenda. I would like to share with you some of my thoughts on the new LLP which can have a strong effect on mobility and cooperation between higher education institutions.
Let’s start with mobility. Mobility is not an end in itself, but can be a tool for students and teachers to increase their knowledge and develop intercultural skills. Much has been done in the past to enhance mobility of teachers and students in higher education but there are still some obstacles to overcome. What would help greatly is more flexibility for the institutions. In the current LLP, for example, there is a minimum duration of ten working days for the Intensive Programmes, while staff training has a minimum duration of five working days. Why not allow an Intensive Programme of less than ten days, especially since quality is much more important than duration? Another example: one year, students are more interested in internships and the next year there might be a higher demand for study mobility. The current LLP is not flexible enough to adjust to the needs of students, teachers and institutions, the new LLP could be different in that aspect.
Another important aspect is cooperation at the institutional level. The LLP facilitates this cooperation between higher education institutions across Europe, which is instrumental in promoting the international dimension of higher education and in improving the quality of mobility. We cannot put an end to existing problems - such as significant study delays and problems with the transfer of credits – without strong institutional cooperation within Europe. And we cannot realise the European Higher Education Area without joint curriculum development, mobility windows and strong international networks of institutions. Therefore, I hope the European Commission (EC) will intensify its efforts to promote institutional cooperation, for example through the academic networks.
Finally, I would like to ask attention for a simplification of the administrative processes. Nobody opposes a thorough oversight process, but I am sure more can be done to make things a little easier for our institutions.
In short, I believe a more flexible LLP with less administrative burdens and more focus on promoting institutional cooperation will bring the European Higher Education Area a little closer. I am looking forward to the European Commission’s proposal.