In the current day and age, many things in the world have become very accessible for people compared to previous centuries. Communication has become more broad in all aspects, with the spreading of the internet and telecommunication, capitalism and democracy have spread in the world to more countries than in the 20th century. The European Union has grown to 27 member states, with it creating the strongest economical and political gathering of countries in the world. One of the outcomes is the increase of student mobility in Europe, which was and is mainly stimulated by the Erasmus programme, established by the European Parliament as a flagship initiative of the European Commission.
I think that many of us have participated in a Erasmus programme and were enriched with one the biggest experiences in life, by coming in contact with a very intricate bureaucracy, learning the procedural matters of universities in other countries, coping with a new socio-cultural setting, learning new social tools and many more.
The Erasmus programme was established in 1987 and with the Bologna process, (1999) which aimed at synchronising higher education systems in Europe, it has become even more easy to study similar curricula all across Europe. Nonetheless, a big numer of problems remains when it comes to international recognition of the stay abroad. The PRIME conference which took place in Brussels on the 14th of November, hosted by the Erasmus Student Network (ESN), aimed at drawing conclusions of the study which was done all over Europe during 2010 about students doing their Erasmus semester or a year abroad. It was a comprehensive study where qualitative and quantitative analysis was conducted by examining three parties involved in the process: the students, the higher education institutions, and national agencies. The main points on which the empirical data for the analysis was based were the Learning Agreements, ECTS, grade transfer, grants & tuition fees and general communication.
One of the points of the gathered data showed that in the year 2010, only 73% of students received full recognition of their studies abroad and 62.2% did not have to repeat any courses or exams upon return. What was very worrying was that 24% of the students got only a part of their courses recognised and 3% got no recognition for their credits gained abroad. 21.6% of students needed to pass some or all of their courses and exams upon return.
The reasons are as varied as the higher education institutions themselves. For one, quite many curricula do not allow to match courses, which is influenced by the great differences in teaching programmes at the home and host universities. The same can be said about the credit transfer system. Although the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) was acknowledged by the 29 education ministries from all over Europe as a part of the Bologna process in 1999, the systems in almost 40% of the Higher Education Institutions have alternative credit and calculation systems. This makes the credit transfer extremely difficult or in some cases even impossible. The whole bureaucratic system does not make matters easier, since taking into consideration the differences between the institutions and the non-existence of common guidelines on how to recognise courses. This directly results also in the staff of universities in not being able to provide the correct information. Quite often the professors also play a significant role in the recognition process. Students have to negotiate the recognition of their courses individually. So one can imagine how many people one should go through, if the ECTS amount for the whole Erasmus reaches 60 credits.
A united European education
Although progress has been made, it is still a long way to go, so as not to forget many of us who need help. We quite often generalise and draw up averages, upon which we base important decisions, yet we forget to think about everybody, much like the 21.6% that was mentioned above.
During my Erasmus I developed the most out of all 21 years of my life. I encountering hardships and other matters that I had to deal with. The following of the strict bureaucracy of the contract was most definitely one of them, which is why I can imagine how crushing it was and is for those students who put all their efforts into attending all the courses, passing their exams and in the end finding out that this work was done for nothing.
There are many steps for solving problems, acknowledging is the first. What should be the next step?