Magazine article Liberal Education

Bologna Plus: The Liberal Education Advantage

Magazine article Liberal Education

Bologna Plus: The Liberal Education Advantage

Article excerpt

FOR MUCH OF THE PAST DECADE, many in higher education were intensely focused on responding to one perturbing idea after another as they emerged from either from the Higher Education Act Reauthorization process or from Secretary Spellings' Commission on the Future of Higher Education. Collectively, we shared a near-term focus born of necessity.

With this issue of Uberai Education, we shift gears and take a wider and longer view of the academy's future. The near-term, of course, remains deeply unsettling as the economic crisis deepens. We face difficult times ahead. But this reality makes it doubly important to focus with new determination on the qualities that have made American higher education both strong and resilient. And a more global view brings both our strengths and their corresponding implications into even clearer focus.

While the Spellings Commission paid lip service to the new globalized environment, its report gave very little attention either to trends in higher educa- tion in other parts of the world or to the ways in which globalization is, or should be, changing how we educate the next generation. As is often the case, a wider view presents lessons on what we should do and also on what we should avoid doing at the local or national levels here in the United States.

Cliff Adelman's careful examination of the Bologna Process in Europe, for example, presents in these pages a useful set of ideas for how we might address issues of student mobility, access, assessment, and transparency. We are all in Cliff's debt for helping to make transparent an important set of developments. Paul Gaston's companion article reminds us, however, that the long-standing strengths of the American system of higher education should not be abandoned even as we consider whether the Bologna Process holds useful implications for U.S. higher education.

America's tradition of providing a liberal education to students at the college level, and not just in precollegiate studies, is more important than ever in this turbulent global era. The educational vision that AAC&U has been working with our members to develop builds on the enduring aims of American liberal education: broad knowledge, strong intellectual skills, a grounded sense of ethical and social responsibility. But - and this is equally important - the essential learning outcomes articulated in AAC&U's Liberal Education and America's Promise (LEAP) initiative also work to connect liberal education directly with the economic realities and societal challenges that shape our world.

Informed by a wider view of the changing nature of work and the increasingly interdependent global environment, the LEAP vision for student learning places strong emphasis on global and intercultural learning, technological sophistication, collaborative problem solving, transferable skills, and real-world applications - both civic and job-related. In all these emphases, LEAP repositions liberal education, no longer as just an option for the fortunate few, but rather as the most practical and powerful preparation for "success" in all its meanings: economic, societal, civic, and personal. This vision builds from the historical strengths of American higher education. But, by integrating and applying learning across disciplines, it also engages a new era and new realities. …

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