Universities all over the world have to cope with the challenges of an increasingly diverse educational landscape, including academic, vocational, and professional learning environments. Recognition plays a key role in addressing these intricacies and the demands of a heterogeneous student body for greater mobility, permeability, and flexibility.
Recognition practices not only facilitate student mobility between higher education institutions nationally and internationally, but also enable non-traditional learners to enter or re-enter higher education as a lifelong learning experience. Recognising formal, non-formal and informal learning has thus important sociopolitical significance. Furthermore, the impact of UNESCO’s Global Convention on Recognition (2019) is yet to be determined. In contrast to previous recognition conventions, it focusses on the recognition of all forms of prior learning, defining them as the "result[s] of formal, non-formal or informal learning, assessed against a given set of learning outcomes, objectives, or standards".
Promoting a common culture of recognition across institutional and national borders continues to be an important task in the future, given that it will be even greater shaped by international cooperation, individual learning pathways, and new forms of mobility. Therefore, recognition practices need to be further adapted to the changing framework of academic learning and teaching settings characterised by transnational spaces as well as by physical, virtual or hybrid exchange formats.
The international conference aims at exploring academic recognition’s multifaceted aspects from diverse perspectives, including the crosscutting issue of the digital transformation in higher education and the challenging question of what sustainable concepts of student mobility might look like in a post-covid society.
One key measure for fostering lifelong learning is the recognition of prior learning (RPL), as for instance the European Universities’ Charter on Lifelong Learning (2008) has reaffirmed. RPL facilitates access to universities and eases study progression for a diverse student body. Thus, it helps to smooth transitions between vocational and academic education as well as the professional world, allowing to individualise learning pathways. However, the recognition of prior learning, whether in the form of formal, non-formal or informal, still poses major challenges. How to further develop and widely implement procedures for the recognition and validation of prior learning at universities? How to assess competences, for instance with a portfolio approach? While the latter has attracted some attention, the use of credit transfer systems such as ECTS or ECVET has been less prominent in the context of RPL. Furthermore, new forms of learning, such as micro-credentials, blended learning, MOOCs, and open educational resources evoke questions regarding their quality assured recognition.
Issues of Interest
- Use of recognition to support lifelong learning
- Innovative systems to assess prior learning
- Collaborative projects or national policies designed to foster lifelong learning and their impact
- Challenges arising from the new forms of learning
Academic mobility, whether organised as an international exchange, study abroad, internship outside the university or change of study location within the home country, opens up various opportunities for students to develop professional skills as well as intercultural, social and personal competencies. In the subject area Student Mobility, the conference reflects current developments, persisting challenges and new concepts. Asking how existing instruments and standards (e. g. qualification frameworks, credit transfer systems or mobility windows) can be further improved to facilitate mobility for students, this section of the 3 / 7conference offers a forum for the exchange on supporting conditions (e. g. recognition, transferability of credits and the portability of student data) at the institutional level.
Issues of Interest
- Persisting obstacles to mobility and related concepts such as ‘balanced mobility’ (Rome Ministerial Communiqué 2020)
- Promising approaches that connect mobility to the requirements of lifelong learning
- Integration of professional and learner mobility into course and curricula design
- Less established formats of international exchange and mobility that have been proven to be successful under the Covid-19 pandemic
Quality development addresses three interrelated levels concerning recognition. The first one is systemic. Quality assurance is a vital condition for building mutual trust between educational institutions that is needed for recognition, whether in the context of mobility or of lifelong learning. The second one focusses on the institutional level. While recognition procedures themselves need to be part of institutional quality assurance, they also need to be convincingly embedded into the design of curricula. However, while HEIs are more or less autonomous to shape their own processes and curricula, they have to follow certain standards deriving from the political and legal framework. The settings may vary nationally and/or regionally. In the European Higher Education Area, for instance, the European Standards and Guidelines provide guidance for internal and external quality assurance also with regard to fair recognition and flexible learning paths.
Issues of Interest
- Approaches of universities, networks or cooperations to further develop their quality assurance of recognition (e. g. in the framework of double or joint degrees)
- Innovative accreditation procedures
- Taking advantage of quality development for recognition procedures
Networks and Alliances
In recent years, international alliances and European networks have enabled universities to take up the challenges of a globalised knowledge society and to offer research and teaching opportunities that better meet the demands of a diverse student body. In the long term, the European University Alliances may take a pioneering role in implementing international mobility along flexible learning arrangements within student-centred curricula. There is already some consensus on a set of quality assurance and mobility standards that need to be put in place in the future to enable joint degree programs across national borders.
Issues of Interest
- Role of international cooperation: Benefits of international and inter-institutional campuses for the exchange in research and learning
- Approaches to combining physical and virtual mobility
- Tools to promote a smooth academic exchange and more flexible international learning pathways
- Dissemination of established approaches to course development (e. g., mobility windows, joint degrees across institutions)
We invite university leaders, academic staff, admissions officers, employees from international offices and continuing education centres from universities as well as stakeholders from non-university institutions all around the world to contribute to the conference.