Standardizing European Higher Education

Article excerpt

EUROPE'S AMBITIOUS AGENDA to reform its higher education system by 2010-known as the Bologna Accord for the city in which 40 signatory countries signed the voluntary agreement in 1999-will pose challenges to stakeholders. Mindful of the dramatic changes the agreement is expected to have on business schools worldwide, the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) created a taskforce comprising key figures from graduate education, industry associations, and employers to reflect on the impact of these changes on constituent groups. Released in January, the GMAC report recommends steps needed to achieve the accord's goals. The goals include establishing a system of comparable degrees that will involve splitting the lengthy, traditional European "first degree" into a three- or four-year bachelor's degree and a master's degree; developing a Europe-wide credit system to promote student mobility; and Grafting comparable systems and criteria among quality assurance bodies. The taskforce's recommendations, highlighted in part below, target four groups:

Governments. The reforms eventually will have considerable payoff for governments. Graduates will enter the job market and contribute to the tax base at a younger age due to shorter study programs. And an attractive education system compatible with systems elsewhere in the world will increase flows of international students whose higher fees could produce important revenue streams. These benefits hinge on implementation of the Bologna reforms, estimated to cost euro3.4 million per university. The taskforce suggests that governments provide more funds for these efforts, that they create a central information bank where employers can learn about the characteristics of each country's higher education system, that they adopt common reporting standards for student data, and that they create a portable student loan system.

Institutions. The Bologna reforms will generate a more crowded field of higher education, fueling more competition for students across national boundaries. In graduate management education alone, for instance, more than 12,000 master's programs are expected to compete for students. …