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Mobility Strategy 2020 for the European Higher Education Area: background paper

The Working Group on Mobility of the Bologna Follow Up Group (BFUG) has been working, during the past one and a half year, on drafting a mobility strategy for the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) through 2020. The group made public at the end of August its working paper for this mobility strategy. This extremely wide-ranging and (to say the least) ambitious document stresses the overall importance of academic mobility as a core element of the Bologna process and as a driver for internationalisation of European higher education, in line with the best efforts to comply with an ambitious agenda ahead. It furthermore outlines key strategic goals and specific actions to take through 2020, which will be reiterated in a short strategy paper for adoption at the ministerial conference set for April 2012 in Bucharest.

Both incoming and outgoing mobility are addressed in the strategy working paper in order to 

  • expand and promote the learning mobility of students, early stage researchers, teachers and other higher education staff; 
  • enhance the quality of learning mobility; 
  • improve the recognition of learning outcomes gained abroad; and 
  • allow for more balanced mobility within the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) and between EHEA and countries outside Europe.

The categories of objectives and measures - 14 in total - suggested for the implementation of this vision include: 

  • the development and implementation of internationalisation strategies at the national level;
  • the dismantling of existing obstacles for mobility
  • the adjustment of (all?) data deficits on international student mobility; 
  • the removal of state regulation of study courses; 
  • better information exchange (e.g. via a common Internet-based admission system);
  • the improvement of portability of individual and institutional social benefits; and 
  • the support of “internationalisation at home”.

The working paper reconfirms the Leuven target for outgoing mobility (20% of EHEA graduates by 2020) and stresses that all short-term periods abroad will be counted towards this target, provided that they are awarded with (surprisingly) at least ‘one credit point’. Unexpectedly, the paper also proposes a target for incoming mobility – by 2020, 5% of all students studying in EHEA should be incoming (degree-seeking?) students.

The paper has been welcomed by many stakeholders in European higher education, and criticised by others. Comprehensive in its scope, it still contains a few gaps, for example in regard to coordinating efforts to promote academic mobility more broadly speaking with support for scientific mobility within the European Research Area. While the concise strategy paper is still to be discussed and adopted by EHEA education ministers next year, it is already clear at this stage that more than the written commitment of these countries will be necessary for successful implementation. Significant resources will need to be allocated for these purposes – a test that all EHEA countries are expected to pass.

Bologna Secretariat