New EU report: Best systems to promote student mobility in Germany, Belgium, Spain, France and Italy
The EU has now launched a new mobility scoreboard to create an oversight over member state activities in relation to mobility of students. The Eurydice report published four days ago was a follow up to the 2011 Council Recommendation on mobility and is a product of cooperation with experts from the member states. The scoreboard focuses on five areas which we will briefly summarise below:
- information and guidance
- foreign language preparation
- portability of public grants and loans
- recognition of learning outcomes
- and mobility support to students from a low socio-economic background
The data was collected in 2012 and 2013 from a questionnaire developed by Eurydice, member states and the European Commission. The report covers all EU member states as well as Iceland, Turkey, Liechtenstein and Norway. Based on selected indicators, scorecards were developed that ranked countries from “green” (best scores) to “red” (worst scores), with a total of six ranks of scores.
European countries show great variety with respect to information and guidance available about mobility opportunities. However, the majority of countries have a recent strategy on the issue. However, only in France and Poland has one developed a strategy that particularly focuses on the information and guidance aspect. In terms of overall score, it was Germany that stood out as a country with best practice regarding information and guidance on learner mobility where all of the four indicators measured were in place.
Taking into account the linguistic diversity of European countries, an important means to facilitate mobility is focus on foreign language preparation. The report focuses on language learning in compulsory school, and the optimal result is that there is compulsory foreign language teaching for over ten years and second foreign language for at least five years. The three countries that had these categories in place were the German community of Belgium, Cyprus and Luxembourg. In the other end of the scale one can find Ireland and Scotland where there is no compulsory foreign language teaching.
Portability of grants and loans is another important instrument in facilitating more mobility. This section included also overviews about how many students receive loans and grants in the respective countries. Eight countries had full portability of student loans measures: Belgium (only German and Flemish communities), Cyprus, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Finland, Sweden, Iceland and Liechtenstein. However, a number of countries had no portability of public grants whatsoever, or they do not have sufficient student support systems.
Quality of learning mobility is an aspect that received much attention in the Council recommendation, but the report also highlights the fuzzy outline of what this quality focus actually means, and whether formal charters and instruments actually have an effect on quality. However, approximately two thirds of the countries had not adopted the European Quality Charter for Mobility. Due to the complex nature of this section the report also did not develop a composite indicator for the various quality improvement mechanisms in this area.
Recognition of learning outcomes is primarily obtained through the use of ECTS (European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System) and diploma supplements, instruments also promoted within the Bologna Process. The information gathered by Eurydice indicated that while ECTS and diploma supplement are considered important and are widely used – quality assurance systems most often do not include monitoring of those tools and whether the introduction of these actually has had any positive impacts. The three indicators used were average time for recognition of foreign qualifications, correct use of ECTS as well as the diploma supplement, in addition to consultation and monitoring of the impacts. It should be noted that no country received any of the two highest scores, and a long list of countries were considered in the “red” zone of this composite indicator. However, based on the maps presented, one can presume that the lack of the highest scores is primarily linked to the lack of monitoring systems as the use of ECTS and diploma supplements appeared to be relatively widespread.
The Council recommendation also included a separate section on facilitating equity through focus on disadvantages and under-represented groups. The report focuses on the kind of national targets for participation from disadvantaged groups, monitoring and financial support to achieve these goals. A substantial number of European countries have no support provided for disadvantaged groups (a number of them from Eastern Europe), and only a few have next best scores on the composite indicator.
Androulla Vassiliou, who is the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth showed great enthusiasm in the press release of the Eurydice report both in relation to mobility as an important policy objective, and on the report capturing the important aspects of the challenges in the various countries: “Studying and training abroad is an excellent way to gain valuable skills and experience, which is why the EU has greatly increased funding for mobility under the new Erasmus+ programme. The Mobility Scoreboard allows us to see for the first time how well countries are creating a positive environment for student mobility to flourish – and where they could do more.” Having also been rather successfully used in the Bologna process, these “naming and shaming” and monitoring mechanisms seem to be a rather effective means to assure compliance, so it makes sense that this approach would also be increasingly employed in the context of EU cooperation in education.