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The Flemish Action Plan “Brains on the Move”: At least 1 in 3 graduates mobile by 2020

On 6 September 2013, the Flemish government gave the green light to “Brains on the Move,” the action plan for student mobility. “Brains on the Move” includes a wide range of initiatives to encourage student mobility and to further develop international high-quality Flemish higher education. Its main aim is to help students acquire international and intercultural competences through high quality mobility experiences. 

Exchange mobility is currently the dominant type of mobility in Flanders, but the Flemish Ministry of Education and Training wants to commit to more structured mobility and shift focus to two other types, being networked mobility and embedded mobility, while guaranteeing the quality of mobility more effectively.

In order to enable students to gain international and intercultural skills through high-quality mobility, a path for growth has been mapped out to allow at least 33% of graduates from Flemish higher education to take part of their degree (study, work placement, research) in another country by 2020.  All periods of mobility of a student will be added and counted at the time of graduation. This total needs to result in at least 10 credits in order to count towards the Flemish target.  

To achieve the targets, the Ministry has developed a range of concrete actions formulated around ten themes. The themes include actions such as providing students with advice, information and coaching, creating “Mobility Windows” with different modalities for obtaining credits abroad, or organising summer schools and joint programmes with foreign institutions. Internationalisation at home also has an important place in the plan so the themes ensure that enough attention is given not only to mobile students but also to those who can or will not study abroad. 

Throughout the plan there is a special focus on students from underrepresented groups. These are students with a disability, students who receive a grant, lateral entrants, working students and students from a cultural or ethnic minority with a migrant background. It is also very important for these groups of students to gain the necessary international and intercultural skills. This is why the action plan intends for 33 percent of mobile students to come from underrepresented groups. 

The action plan foresees a lot of new initiatives on funding of mobility. New scholarship schemes are being developed, on the one hand for Flemish outgoing students, but also for foreign students coming to Flanders for an exchange or full degree.

Full attention is also given to the creation of a new database on Flemish level for registration of all kinds of student mobility. The action plan states that every student who is mobile, i.e. travels across a border, must be registered, no matter whether it is for short or long term mobility. Registration must however not be seen as an end in itself, but rather as a requirement for proper follow-up, for financing purposes and as the result of a process.

Internationalisation is an aspect of our contemporary era that has become impossible to ignore. In education, particularly higher education, internationalisation has an important role to play. The action plan recognises the need for the Flemish higher education system to anticipate the worldwide trend towards internationalisation in order to guarantee Flanders and Brussels their place in a globalised knowledge society. A sufficient degree of international exchange for both lecturers and students is vital to this, according to the report. On the one hand, Flemish higher education must have the opportunities and the competitiveness it needs to attract talent from elsewhere, and on the other had it needs highly educated Flemish people who can find their way around international institutions, industries, research centres and so on, it is said in the document.