Higher education graduates are faced with an ever-growing expectation to be digitally apt and well versed in an international environment. As Aloys Krieg of RWTH Aachen University points out, these topics are closely linked to the need for fair and smooth recognition processes – both for study periods abroad and the qualifications obtained.
If you look at the social and professional environment German higher education graduates are preparing themselves for and the expectations and demands it places on them, you will quickly come to the conclusion that they need intensive experience with digitisation and internationalisation in their studies.
Digitisation of learning and data literacy
Firstly, digitisation is changing the methodology of teaching and learning, as we see every day during the current coronavirus crisis. These changes are disruptive and will not be easily reversed once the crisis is over. The second aspect is more substantive and can perhaps be paraphrased as data literacy, which in the future we will expect all university graduates to have – and not only them. The latter increases the importance of lifelong learning in a market that will continue to grow in the future, in which universities will also have to play a role and maintain their quality standards. The challenge here is to strike a balance between the imperatives of academic freedom, the good of society and the interests of business.
Internationalisation of the study experience
In the context of the German Rectors’ Conference (HRK) MODUS project, internationalisation is, of course, quite essential. Globalisation requires our graduates to have at least an initial familiarity with other cultures, languages, and ways of working. Therefore, stays abroad at other universities are part of what university studies should enable. The task of universities will be to support students in internationalising their study experience. This includes placing students at judiciously selected partner universities, and certainly the issue of recognition culture. We need to move beyond the belief that you can only study a module properly at your home university.
We should develop a positive attitude towards the added value of studying abroad for students. Such an attitude will allow higher education institutions to build a portfolio of flexible mobility options. In practice, this could take the form of an internationally personalised curriculum, within individual degree programmes through targeted pre-emptive recognition examinations and the consideration of previous examination results. To this end, we must create transparency with regard to recognition, instead of focusing on small details by comparing the content of modules down to tiny differences. It is important that students can clarify recognition issues in advance and at short notice in the event of changes. This can be achieved through appropriate digitally supported processes. We can also support our students by offering electronic exams at their home university even when they are studying abroad, as the different semester times in Europe and around the world would otherwise make an exchange difficult. Finally, we should be aware that internationalisation also has a decisive impact on the reputation of the university.
But "internationalisation at home" also plays an important role, especially as a low-threshold entry point, helping a larger and more diverse group of students to gain international experience. We should think about how we can enable our students to participate in digital teaching formats at our partner universities. Of course, this includes clarifying recognition issues up front. Databases that can be used to track recognition history will give us more comparability in these processes, which will lead to more reliability for students and lighten the workload for instructors.
Recognition culture as part of the internationalisation strategy
In conclusion, recognition issues are legally well regulated. Central for universities and students, however, is the classification of the recognition culture as part of the internationalisation strategy. What is crucial is the question of implementation, of lived practice. If the added value of a stay abroad for the professional competence and personal development of students has reached the minds of instructors, we will be more successful as universities. Creating good processes in the administration of stays abroad and recognition will then be the easier task.
This article was originally published in German on the HRK website. It is republished here in English in the context of the EUA-coordinated "Spotlight on recognition” project, in cooperation with project partner HRK.
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