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ACA seminar participants moved to consider many dimensions of mobility

On 3 December 2010, a host of renowned speakers and a dynamic audience of close to 100 gathered in Brussels for the fourth ACA European Policy Seminar of 2010, Mobility under the magnifying glass: New insights, old challenges, future perspectives. Substantive presentations and spirited discussions characterised the day, which focused on the timely topic of international student mobility trends, consequences, and the desired effects of policy and practice.

The programme featured a number of excellent contributions, addressing not only trends in student mobility (on a number of levels), but also the challenges inherent in existing efforts to measure this phenomenon in quantitative terms. Of particular interest to the audience was the introduction of information and insights from EURODATA II. Mobility developments in European higher education, a study recently completed for the European Commission by ACA in collaboration with Ulrich Teichler, DAAD, CampusFrance, HIS and other international experts.

The seminar also allowed for a closer examination of two European countries less frequently examined in the literature–Cyprus and Romania–and the challenges both face in attracting mobile students and sending their national students abroad. These examples facilitated a fascinating and heated debate around the mobility benchmark proposed for the Bologna Process circle of countries in 2009, i.e. 20% of EHEA graduates by 2020, as well as the indicator that will be used to measure the attainment of this target, which is now under development. A detailed presentation of the EU’s flagship initiative Youth on the Move shed some light on macro-level policy planning in this area, as well as various the supranational objectives and EU future actions. Examples from one Spanish and one British university provided a detailed picture of how student mobility is planned and dealt with at the institutional level. And a presentation of the mobility situation of academic staff introduced a new level of complexity to all of these discussions.

Last but not least, a panel discussion around one of the basic student mobility myths of the past decade, i.e. the belief that student mobility is intrinsically a ‘good’ development, concluded that student mobility has not been overrated, as long as the expected impacts are realistic and clear from the start, and as long as the ‘right’ measures are taken to achieve the expected results. The wrap-up presentation concluded that mobility is indeed like ‘a magic potion’ – “everybody knows what it is for, but nobody is completely sure of how/if it will work”.