MANILA – The integration of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is ecpected to foster, among others, more student and staff exchanges, as well as collaboration among educational institutions in the region.

What lessons are there that can be learned from the European Union’s own experience of the Bologna Process?

Embassy of Spain education advisor Fernando Zapico Teijeiro shared some of the lessons and solutions, and achievements, at a press briefing to promote European Higher Education Fair Philippines, which is opening on November 15 at the InterContinental Hotel, Makati City.

According to the European Union External Action web site, the Bologna Process is reforming European education in a way that alllows common principles to apply to all universities in the continent, making it easier for partner institutions elsewhere to cooperate and collaborate.

The Bologna Process has five aims, said Teijeiro:

Make European higher education institutions (HEIs) compatible and attractive for foreign students;
Develop a system of quality assurance and accreditation;
Make recognition of foreign diplomas, degrees, or certificates a nearly automatic process;
Cultivate transparency in HEIs;
Enhance lifelong learning.

HEIs can no longer be Euro-centric, Teijeiro said. Instead, they have to get gifted students from all parts of the world to study in their campuses: “HEIs also have the same quality of education across the continent. The credentials of incoming students can be more quickly processed, as well. Europeans are also encouraged to acquire new skills throughout their professional lives.”

It will not be easy for ASEAN to come up with common policies, said Teijeiro, but “once you start, you can’t stop.”

One of the founding principles of EU is mobility or the freedom of movement. By 2000, the mobility rate was just one percent within the EU, although this could be attributed to the countries’ generally good quality of life, with residents no longer needing to find employment elsewhere.

However, Teijeiro pointed out, some areas still had skills shortages, while others had persistent high levels of unemployment.

The solution was to develop a mobility-friendly education policy. By 2020, the EU hopes to

Increase the number of HEI graduates;
Improve the quality of teaching and research;
Enhance student mobility and cross-border cooperation;
and strengthen links between education, research, and business.

So far, the EU has made four huge strides.

1. It has created a common European education space. More and more degrees offered in different universities have the same features.

All countries have a three-cycle structure in tertiary education, as well, with a Bachelor Degree lasting three to four years; a Master Programme lasting one to two years; and a PhD Programme lasting three or more years.

The EU has shared strategies on quality assurance, transparency, and recognition, as well.

2. It has the European Credit Transfer System, which allocates credit points for each part of the study program based on student workload and learning outcomes.

This took a long time to accomplish, said Teijeiro.

For example, a credit in Spanish universities used to be equivalent to 10 hours. Now, however, it is equal to 30 to 40 hours. “Countries have to adapt,” he added.

3. EU has adopted a common mobility strategy in Erasmus, which, according to the European Commission Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency, promotes partnerships between HEIs within EU countries, and offers scholarships to students, researchers, and professionals.

From 3,000 students within the EU in 1987, it now has three million enrolled in the 2013-2014 academic year.

Traineeships have also increased for graduates of countries outside of the EU to train in the continent.

From the Philippines, 30 to 40 students per year take part in the Erasmus Mundus program, which links HEIs from Europe and the rest of the world.

4. It has linked education and business. Many companies are getting involved in education by holding job fairs and going directly to the students. They see it as a good way to get skilled workers, with many traveling to different EU countries to recruit.

“This works very well right now,” said Teijeiro.

While the mobility rate is still low in Europe -– below two percent -– more and more young people aged 15 to 21 are moving among the countries. Many of these are highly educated, with 40 percent holding university degrees, said Teijeiro.

The Bologna Process is deemed a successful model because it has created a common European policy, he stressed. Whether the form of government changes “five times,” or new presidents get elected, the EU will always abide by this.

Competition among universities is seen in a positive light, Teijeiro added: “It puts some pressure on the HEIs in the beginning, but, after a while, they are compelled to improve their quality. Students are also assured that, wherever they go in EU, they will find at least a minimum consistent level of quality in the schools.”

Erasmus Mundus scholar Celso Manahan, who studied in the University of Trento in Italy and its partner, University of Regensburg in Germany, gave his stay a glowing review. He said his masters course in Comparative Local Development broadened his perspective and molded him from a “regionally grown government servant” into a “globally spirited individual.” It also widened his international network, having been classmates with citizens from 32 countries.

He interned for the United Nations in 2007, where he introduced to his colleagues the National Kidney and Transplant Institute’s hemodialysis project pioneered in 2003. It is now a model for the rest of the UN, he said, as one of the best health practices in the world.

Manahan was able to transition to his present job as a project director at the International Public-Private Partnership Specialist Centre in Health, Philippines, under the International PPP Centre of Excellence of the UN Economic Commission for Europe.

For every Filipino student’s dream, said European Union Delegation to the Philippines political counsellor Julian Vassallo, there is an EU university to match, touting the diversity of European HEIs, from the oldest universities to the most cutting-edge, from those “in the center of bustling cities” to those “lost in the beautiful countryside.”

From 24 participating universities in the 2012 European Higher Education Fair Philippines, the number grew to 34 last year, and to 43 this year.

The number of participating countries increased, as well, with 12 EU member-states joining.

Popular courses for Filipinos in Italy include Restoration Arts, Medicine, Business, Architecture, Textile Engineering, Urban Planning, and Italian.

In France, it’s Business, Gastronomy and Culinary Arts, Humanities, Social Sciences, Political Science, Design, and Fashion.

For Spain, the courses are International Relations, Business Administration, Engineering, Health Sciences, and Risk Reduction.

For the United Kingdom, the courses include Business, Fashion, Design, and the arts.

Here are the participating institutions at this year’s European Higher Education Fair Philippines.

MCI Management Center Innsbruck
University of Innsbruck

University of Antwerp

Czech Republic
Charles University in Prague, Faculty of Mathematics and Physics
Masaryk University
Mendel University in Brno
Tomas Bata University in Zlin, Faculty of Applied Informatics
University of Veterinary and Pharmaceutical Sciences Brno

Zealand Institute of Business and Technology

Audencia Nantes School of Management
ESSCA School of Management
ESSEC Business School
Montpellier Business School
Sorbonne-Assas International Law School
Toulouse Business School

Jacobs University Bremen
Rheinland Institut

Central European University
University of Debrecen

Griffith College

Universita Cattolica del Sacro Cuore
University of Sannio

The Netherlands
Holland International Study Centre
VHL University of Applied Sciences

IE Business School
Universidad Catolica San Antonio de Murcia
Universidad de Alcala
Universidad de Malaga
Universidad de Oviedo

United Kingdom
Bath Spa University
BPP University
Cardiff University
Coventry University
Glasgow Caledonian University
Hult International Business School
Istituto Marangoni
London College of Contemporary Arts
Northumbria University
Queen Mary University of London
Richmond, The American International University in London
University of Kent
The University of Nottingham
University of the Arts London

For more information, go to European Higher Education Fair on the web, and visit EU Delegation to the Philippines and EHEF Philippines on Facebook.Com

–Tricia Aquino,