IAU Sao Paulo Conference, July 25-29, 2004 12th General Conference: The Wealth of Diversity Parallel Workshops – Session IDiversity of Higher Education in Europe: Concepts and DevelopmentsByUlrich TeichlerCentre for Research on Higher Education and Work, University of Kassel,Germany.firstname.lastname@example.org. Interest in a “Map” of Higher EducationStudents considering to study in another country, for same period or for a whole study programme, orto enrol in study programmes offered transnationally are interested to know where to put theinstitutions of higher education, the department or the programme, which they consider, on the “map”of higher education in the respective country as well as in international comparison. The same holdstrue for employers considering to employ persons having been awarded credentials abroad.2. The Limits of Available InformationThe information available serves these purposes only to a limited extent:Handbooks and similar sources provide general information but they are not suitable to show thevariety of the characteristics of national higher education systems and notably the exceptions from themajor picture.Handbooks and other source books emphasize the formal dimensions of diversity in higher education(e.g. type of institution and programme, length of study etc.), but do not address at all or only to alimited extent the informal vertical differences (reputation, quality) and horizontal differences(profiles).Accreditation helps to pinpoint “black sheep”, but does not show the diversity of higher educationprogrammes.Special information on the ranks and profiles of higher education institutions and programmes aremostly too superficial and too much geared to selective criteria to be trusted.The more market-driven higher education becomes, the more the individual higher educationinstitutions have a vested interest not to provide information but rather distorted advertisements.3. Diversity Within and Variety Between Higher Education SystemsIt is generally assumed that most national higher education systems became more diverse in theprocess of higher education expansion. In many countries, we note formal diversification according toTypes of higher education institutions,Types of study programmes, andLevels of study programmes and degrees.Moreover, the individual institutions, departments and programmes of the same type might differVertically, i.e. according to reputation, quality etc.Horizontally, i.e. according to their curricular profiles.Understanding the existing diversity is aggravated by the fact that many changes occur rapidly, amongothers upgrading of institutions and programmes, or new developments regarding the quality and theprofiles of individual units.Moreover, countries vary substantially according to the extent to which diversity is realized accordingto the above named criteria.Finally, a comparison between countries cannot be undertaken easily due tothe specifics of their institutional shape,
the quality of the higher education system,the size of the system in terms of enrolment quotas and thus a diversity of students according totalents, goals and career prospects.4. The Variety of Higher Education Systems in EuropeHigher education in Europe is quite diverse according to formal criteria such as type of institutions andprogrammes, levels of programmes and length of study. Moreover, the countries vary according to theextent to which doctoral study is accommodated in formal establishments such as graduate schools.Whereas in many other parts of the world countries adopted somewhat similar solutions by followingexamples from ex-colonial and quasi-colonial powers, many European countries preserved andmodified structural models of their own country or their region of countries they felt affiliated to.Among others, most European countries did not have any bachelor degree or any equivalent atuniversities, and they often had more than one type of higher education institutions. The length ofuniversity programmes varied between three and six years according to country and field, and that atother higher education institutions from one and four years.One should bear in mind, though, that most European countries have mechanisms of keeping thediversity of formally identical institutions and programmes within limits whereas many highereducation systems outside Europe are characterized by an enormous steep hierarchy of qualitydifferences.5. The Diploma Supplement: Transparency of DiversityIn order to increase the transparency of the existing diversity of higher education, some Europeanexperts suggested in 1988 to introduce a “diploma supplement”. Upon graduation students should notmerely be awarded the typical degree document of their university but also an internationally readablesupplement which provides information onthe national system of higher education,the curriculum of the study programmes andthe specific learning activities and achievements of the individual student.Among others, such a documents should provide information on the students’ mobility, on thecurricular thrusts of the study programme, on internships and areas of specialisation the student optedfor.UNESCO and the Council of Europe endorsed this idea already in 1988, the European Commissionsupported its introduction since the 1990s, and the Bologna Declaration of 1999 calls for its universalintroduction. But it might take more than two decades from the proposal to the Europe-wideimplementation.6. The “Bologna Process”Ministers of four European countries agreed in the Sorbonne Declaration of 1998 and ministers ofalmost 30 European countries in the Bologna Declaration of 1999 to introduce similar structures of thehigher education systems of the various European countries. They advocated a bachelor-master stagesystem of programmes and degrees. There is a widespread agreement that programmes of the firststage might last 3-4 years, those of the second stage 1-2 years, and of both stages together up to fiveyears. A European Higher Education Area with “convergent” structures respecting the substantivevariety of the national higher education systems is expected to be implemented by the year 2010.7. Transparency and Mobility: The Two Conflicting Aims of the Bologna ProcessThe structural “convergence” of higher education systems in Europe is expected to serve two majoraims:To increase the attractiveness of higher education systems in Europe outside of Europe by becomingmore transparent.
To facilitate student mobility within Europe.These two aims are viewed by many experts as conflicting:“Transparency” for persons interested outside Europe might be reached through common labels ofdegrees indicating common levels of programmes of a somewhat similar length. They might beextremely diverse as far as quality and profile are concerned. An extreme diversity of institutions andprogrammes might serve the extreme diversity of students from outside Europe who are interested inforeign study programmes, and it also might serve the widespread interest of making misleadingclaims about the quality of the programmes (after all the credential market is successful through a mixof transparency and deliberate misinformation).Student mobility within Europe, however, will be served by convergent structures primarily if thesimilarity of the study programmes in Europe increases as far as the level of quality is concerned.We do not know yet, whether “convergent” structures of higher education in Europe eventually willlead towards a greater homogeneity of quality of higher education programmes, and thus will facilitatemobility in Europe, or whether the existing diversity of quality will be preserved or will grow further.8. Increase of Partial Transparency, but no Steps Towards a “Map”Altogether, the growing interest in student mobility, trans-national education and professional mobilityled to the establishment of an increasing number of systems of information each offering transparencyin some respects. Handbooks of national systems, universities and degrees, accreditation systems,rankings of universities, diploma supplements, convergent structures of European higher educationsystem: all these measures provide transparency in some respects, but limited information with respectto the frequently claimed wish of students, employers and higher education institutions to have anauthoritative “map” of higher education. The latter will not become true, because there is noagreement on the criteria and on the positioning of individual institutions and programmes accordingthese criteria and, as already stated, there are vested interested in keeping a certain degree of in-transparency, room for misinformation a room for manoeuvre against stifling maps.References.European Commission (2002). Key Data on Education in the European Union. Luxembourg: Officefor Official Publications of the European Communities.Eurydice (2003). Focus in the Structure of Higher Education in Europe 2003/04. Brussels: EuropeanCommission, Eurydice.Jablonska-Skinder, H. and Teichler, U. (1992). Handbook of Higher Education Diplomas in Europe.Muenchen: K.G. Saur.OECD (2002). Education at a Glance: OECD Education Indicators 2002. Paris: OECD.Reichert, S. and Tauch, C. (2003). Trends in Learning Structures in European Higher Education III.Brussels: European University Association.Teichler, U. (1988). Changing Patterns of the Higher Education System. London: Jessica KingsleyPublishers.Teichler, U. (1998). The changing role of the university and the non-university sectors of highereducation in Europe, in European Review, Vol 6, No. 4, 475-487.Teichler, U. (2003) Mutual recognition and credit transfer in Europe: Experiences and problems, inJournal of Studies in International Education, Vol. 7, No. 4, 312-341.Van Vught, F., Van der Wende, M. and Westerheijden, D. (2002). Globalisation andinternationalisation: Policy agendas compared. In Enders, J. and Fulton, O., eds. Higher Education in
a Globalising World. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 103-120.