Public administration and public policy degree programmes in Europe: the road from Bologna pages:361-377
The implementation of the Bologna Agreement has brought major opportunities for widening and deepening program collaboration, even on a global scale. Yet, the restructuring of the European educational landscape has unintentionally induced new impediments for the practical elaboration of peer collaboration, and particularly for the organization of student mobility. This has forced institutions to critically revise their schemes of international collaboration.
This article discusses the implications of the Higher Education reform operation for the current organization of student mobility from the perspective of the K.U.Leuven Master of European Politics and Policies (MEPP) program and its wider European Master of Public Administration (EMPA) Network. Founded in 1990 as an international exchange program for master students in (comparative) public administration, the latter has extensive experience in multilateral cooperation among peer public administration and public management programs all over the continent. The nature of the challenges perceived nowadays is dual.
A first set of difficulties spring from variations in the implementation of the common Bologna frame across member states/universities of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA). While the Bologna process officially strived for the principle of more ’unity in diversity’, in practice more ’diversity in unity’ has been the undesired outcome. In disagreement with many critics blaming the Bologna reforms for being too intrusive into national politics, the authors instead claim these reforms did not go far enough. Already existing barriers seem to a large extent to have been corroborated, instead of having been solved.
A second range of obstacles are linked to the new target groups the European Ministers of Higher Education explicitly aim to attract in the EHEA: ‘lifelong learners’ and ‘non-EU students’. Although enriching for class diversity, the evolution towards more mixed groups of students requires a corresponding mobility strategy, in order not to keep the exchange opportunity reserved for only part of the students’ body.
Confronted with these hindrances, international exchange programs are hence increasingly challenged to develop a suitable strategy to remain attractive and competitive. The article demonstrates that the continuation of student exchanges is more than ever dependent of the voluntarism and creativity of individual consortia. This willingness is even more tested for those intending to engage in the recently launched Erasmus Mundus Masters initiative, established to promote European mobility in a global context.