01 September, 2011

The social dimension in European higher education

In the series “European Policy Seminars” of the Academic Cooperation Association, the ACA is planning to organise a seminar (on October 14th) that is spot on: the social dimension of higher education.
Here's the rationale as taken from the invitation:
The “social dimension” is an elusive but critically important issue for European higher education. The European Commission’s 2012 Lifelong Learning Programme call for proposals (issued this month) singles out “the social dimension of higher education” as one of its five priority areas for multilateral projects. In the call, the Commission has indicated specific preference for projects focused on such issues as widening access for underrepresented groups, tracking the development of expanded access for these populations, encouraging increased completion rates in higher education, and further developing the notion of the “social responsibility” of higher education institutions.
Social concerns have traditionally played an important role in the discourse on European higher education. After a boom in the social rhetoric in the 1970s, the issue re-emerged in Europe in the context of the Bologna Process: should the student body entering, participating in and completing higher education reflect the diversity of our populations?
Stated aims and ambitions are one thing, but how about the reality on the ground? Are our universities and colleges accessible for students from lower socio-economic backgrounds and immigrants and cultural minorities, to mention just three groups that play a role in the ‘social discourse’? Or is the social dimension, as a report of 2009 found, a rhetorical rather than a real success, and is it true that it is still not the “ability to learn but the ability to pay” which determines participation in higher education? Do universities and governments in Europe have policies for participative equity in place, and are these policies effective?
These are some of the questions which this ACA European Policy Seminar will address. The latest research findings are planned to be presented, among them a soon-to-be released EURYDICE study on the issue, the brand new EUROSTUDENT 2011 report and the external evaluation of the social dimension in the Bologna Process.
The European Commission will present its latest policy position paper on higher education and the OECD will provide intelligence on if and how our universities and colleges are catering to students from migrant communities. Two institutional representatives will provide insights on access and diversity ‘from the field’.
This being the working programme for the seminar, I regret that I won't be able to attend. Still, hopefully some of the reports and results of this seminar will be shared on the web and that's when I can include some links here to relevant, valuable information. I'm already looking forward to that. In today's world we should cherish all talent and provide opportunities for this talent to be developed via higher education.

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