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Brussels, 14 October 2011

The social dimension in European higher education


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. Introduced by student representatives as a counterweight to demands for ‘competitiveness’, the social dimension was first strongly associated with the notion of higher education as a ‘public good’ and a ‘public responsibility’ (Prague 2001). The Bergen summit of 2005 referred to it as a “constituent part” of the Bologna Process and the London Communiqué for the first time provided a quasi-definition and formulated a goal: “the student body entering, participating in and completing higher education should 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 only some of the questions which this ACA European Policy Seminar will address. Key experts will present latest research findings. Among them are 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 seminar will also showcase the work of the 'Official Bologna Working Group' on the Social Dimension. 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’.


Thursday 13 October


Seminar dinner

Friday 14 October



Registrations and coffee


The social dimension. A multi-faceted notion
Bernd Wächter, Director, ACA


Key issues for the social dimension in Europe. Findings of a new EURYDICE study
David Crosier, Education Policy and System Analyst, EURYDICE, Brussels


The social dimension in the Bologna Process
Brian Power, Head of Student Support and Equity of Access to Higher Education, Irish Department of Education and Skills / Co-chair of the Bologna Working Group on the Social Dimension of Higher Education


Coffee break


The development of the social dimension as a European policy
Yasemin Yağci, PhD student, INCHER, University of Kassel


The social dimension in the European Commission’s Communication “An agenda for the modernization of Europe’s higher education systems”
Lene Oftedal, Policy Officer Higher Education, European Commission


Sandwich lunch


Trends in the social composition of Europe’s student body. Results from the 2011 EUROSTUDENT report
Dominic Orr, Leader of International Coordination Team EUROSTUDENT, Hochschul-Informations System GmbH, Germany


The other face of global mobility: higher education serving students from migrant communities
Dirk van Damme, Head, Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (CERI), OECD


Coffee break


Shaping the social dimension: the role of student services and affairs in a German and European perspective
Danja Oste, Special Assistant to the Secretary General, Deutsches Studentenwerk


Enhancing access to European higher education
Maurits van Rooijen, Rector Magnificus / CEO, Nyenrode Business University, The Netherlands


What I learned and what I missed
Erich Thaler, Head International Affairs, University of Basel, Switzerland


Thanks and good bye
Bernd Wächter, Director, ACA


Bernd Wächter

Bernd Wächter is the Director of the Academic Cooperation Association (ACA), a consortium of European and global agencies which support international cooperation in higher education. ACA is a think-tank which promotes innovation and internationalisation in higher education. Bernd was born in Giessen (Germany) and studied at the universities of Hull (UK), Giessen and Marburg (Germany).  He lives in Brussels (Belgium) and is married to Thora Magnusdottir, a delightful lady from Iceland.

Bernd’s career has been focused on international higher education. In his first post, at the University of Kassel (Germany), he devised international degree programmes in cooperation with universities abroad. He later joined the British Council, before becoming the Director of the international office of the Fachhochschule Darmstadt. Moving on to Germany’s internationalisation agency DAAD, he became the head of this organisation’s European section. He subsequently became Director of Higher Education in the Brussels Socrates Office, with overall responsibility for the Erasmus Programme in Europe. In 1998, he took up his present post as the director of ACA. Bernd has published widely on international matters in higher education, and he is a frequent speaker at European and international education conferences. He is the editor of the ACA Papers on International Cooperation in Higher Education.  He also works, as an expert advisor, for many international organisations.

David Crosier

David Crosier joined Eurydice, the EU’s education information network, in September 2008. He is responsible for the network’s studies on higher education, and in particular for a study on Funding and the Social Dimension that will be published in the autumn alongside the European Commission’s Communication on the Higher Education Modernisation Agenda.

He is also currently working on the official report to be produced for the Bologna Ministerial Conference in Bucharest, 26/27 April 2012. This will offer a comprehensive picture of progress towards agreed higher education objectives across the European Higher Education Area.

Before joining Eurydice, David worked for the European University Association where he was responsible for a variety of projects focusing on different aspects of implementation of the Bologna process. He managed EUA’s Trends reports, and was co-author of the Trends V publication in 2007.

Brian Power

Brian Power is head of Student Support and Equity of Access to Higher Education at the Irish Department of Education and Skills and is currently Co-Chair of the Bologna Working Group on the Social Dimension of Higher Education. He has held a number of senior posts in the Department of Education and Skills, including in international and EU affairs and has served with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as Education Attaché in the Permanent Representation of Ireland to the EU in Brussels.

Until recently, Brian was also Co-Chair of the Bologna Network of Experts on Student Support in Europe (NESSIE). He has previously served as a member of the EU Education Committee and the Education Committee of the OECD. He holds an MSc in Public Service Innovation Management from the University of Ulster and the Letterkenny Institute of Technology and represents Ireland as a member of the High Council of the European University Institute in Florence.

Yasemin Yagci

Yasemin Yağcı is a doctoral student in the International Centre for Higher Education Research, University of Kassel, Germany. Her dissertation is on the social dimension of the Bologna Process, focusing on policy impacts in Finland, Germany and Turkey. Ms. Yağcı has worked as a junior researcher in different international research projects on the Bologna Process, e.g., Bologna Beyond 2010 and The Bologna Process Independent Assessment.

Yasemin Yağcı earned her BSc in Political Science and Public Administration at the Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey in June 2005. She completed her master’s studies in the Institutions and Social Mechanisms Programme, at the University of Turku, Finland in September 2007. Further information can be found at

Lene Oftedal

Lene Oftedal has served as a Seconded National Expert in the Directorate-General for Education and Culture at the European Commission in Brussels since 2008. In the Unit for Higher Education and Erasmus, she is working on policy development for reforms in higher education, both within the Europe 2020 Strategy and the Bologna Process. Ms. Oftedal is in charge of facilitating the open method of coordination for higher education as coordinator of peer learning activities. She also works on policy issues related to lifelong learning, the social dimension in higher education and recognition.

Prior to her secondment, Ms. Oftedal was working on international cooperation in higher education in the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research. She was previously seconded to the Nordic Council of Ministers in Copenhagen, where she worked on tasks related to international cooperation in higher education. She has a Master of Social Science from the University of Oslo.

Dominic Orr

Dr. Dominic Orr is a senior researcher at the HIS-Institute for Research on Higher Education in Hannover (DE). He graduated from Southbank University London in the field of applied business studies and holds a PhD in the field of comparative education from Dresden University.

Since 2005, he has been the head of the international coordination team of the EUROSTUDENT project, a large-scale project intended to collate comparable data from 25 countries on the social and economic conditions of students in European higher education. The latest comparative report coming from this project will be published on 19 October 2011. In 2008 he also co-edited the Eurostat/HIS publication “The Bologna Process in Higher Education in Europe: Key indicators on the social dimension and mobility”.

Additionally, he is and has been involved in a variety of other international research and consultation projects (e.g. EquNet, Track-it!, FinSt). He contributed to the Study on Mobility Developments in European Higher Education – the predecessor of the EURODATA study – by producing case studies on student mobility flows in three countries (CY, EE, IT). Since 2008, he is a member of three expert circles of the Bologna Follow-Up Group (mobility, social dimension, reporting).

Dirk van Damme

Dirk Van Damme currently is Head of CERI (Centre for Educational Research and Innovation) in the Directorate for Education at the OECD in Paris.

He holds a PhD degree in educational sciences from Ghent University and is also professor of educational sciences in the same university (since 1995). He also was part-time professor in comparative education at the Free University of Brussels (1997-2000) and visiting professor of comparative education at Seton Hall University, NJ, USA (2001-2008). His main fields of study and research have included comparative education, lifelong education and higher education policy.

He has been professionally involved in educational policy development as deputy director of the cabinet of the Flemish Minister of education Luc Van den Bossche (1992-1998), as general director of the Flemish rectors’ conference VLIR (2000-2003), as expert for the implementation of the Bologna Declaration for Ms Marleen Vanderpoorten, Flemish Minister of education (2002-2003) and as director of the cabinet of Mr Frank Vandenbroucke, Flemish minister of education (2004-2008). In 2004 he served also as executive director of the RAGO, the organization of public schools in the Flemish Community of Belgium.

Besides that, he has served as an expert for several national and international organisations. In recent years he has served as board member of QANU (the quality assurance agency for the Dutch universities), as member of the scientific board of AQA (the Austrian Quality Agency in higher education), as expert member of the OECD review of schooling in Scotland, and as member of the Committee for the external evaluation of the University of Luxembourg.

His current interests focus on educational policy, innovation in education, comparative analyses of educational systems, new developments in the learning sciences and knowledge management in education.

Danja Oste

Danja Oste served as Head of International Relations of the Deutsches Studentenwerk, DSW (German National Association for Student Affairs) from 1999 to 2011, when she assumed the position of Special Assistant to the Secretary General of the DSW. In her new responsibility she is primarily focusing on European Affairs. Prior to assuming her role in Student Affairs, Danja Oste worked as project manager at the College of Europe/Belgium (1995-1998) and as research assistant to a deputy of the German Parliament (1993). Danja Oste holds a Master of Arts Degree in “Political Science, French and Spanish literature” from the University of Bonn (Germany) and a Master of Arts Degree in “European Administrative and Political Studies” from the College of Europe (Belgium).

Maurits van Rooijen

Since 2009, Prof. Dr. Maurits van Rooijen FRSA has been the Rector Magnificus of Nyenrode Business Universiteit. He is also the CEO of Universiteit Nyenrode BV.

Van Rooijen worked previously in academic positions; at his alma mater Utrecht University and a variety of visting positions at universities around the globe. He held senior managerial positions at Erasmus University Rotterdam, Leiden University and University of Westminster, London.

Van Rooijen also holds various international administrative positions. He is, for example, Co-Chairman of the World Association for Co-operative Education (Boston MA, USA), which supports work-integrated learning. Furthermore, he is President of the Compostela Group of Universities (Santiago de Compostela, Spain), an association that stimulates cooperation and dialogue in the field of higher education. Van Rooijen is also Vice President of the London-based European Access Network, that encourages under-represented groups to participate in higher education, and Chairman of the Managing Board of the Euro-Mediterranean University in Slovenia, an initiative of the European Parliament.

Erich Thaler

Erich Thaler has joined the University of Basel in 2007. He heads the Department of International Affairs and is responsible for marketing and developing the presence of the University internationally. He works within a team of eight to nurture a world wide marketing and recruiting network, coordinates the Swiss – South African bilateral research programme SSAJRP, overviews the joint doctorate activities of his university and is a Uni Basel delegate to the EUCOR network of Upper Rhine research universities.

Before this position, Erich has held responsibilities of marketing and teaching at higher education institutions and education providers in Vienna, Munich, Paris, Seoul and Berlin.


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