After WWII study abroad programs were pushed as a means of encouraging international understanding and to “counteract the idiosyncrasies and the relative isolation of national systems of higher education," Ulrich Teichler writes in the new issue of the Journal of International Education.
This ideal culminated in the 1999 Bologna Declaration, which called on countries across the continent to create a common stage structure for study programs and degrees. However added complexity compounded the challenge, as the role of education and training as a catalyst for employment was added to the Bologna process.
The result is a decade on, “nobody seriously dares to assess the extent to which changes in those directions have actually taken place.”
And while academics see Bologna as a bounty for bureaucrats, “an undesirable imposition from ‘above’," students have acted independently of the ambitions of EU officialdom.
While numbers crossing cultures to study for at least part of their program vary (the Germans do the British don’t) Teichler suggests intra-European student mobility worked “quite well” pre Bologna. And the strongest growth since then has come from students from outside Europe taking advantage of EU mobility.
Does any of this matter? Perhaps not.
Professor Teichler suggests the original European ideal of learning from contrast collapses if courses become much the same across countries.
“Moreover international learning is bound to loose its exceptionality further as a consequence of a general internationalisation of daily life and as a consequence of ‘internationalisation at home’ of the (sic) study provisions.”
Which does not seem likely to happen. “Higher education in the various European countries… has remained quite heterogeneous,” he concludes.