National laws hinder scholar mobility in Europe

April 18, 2003

The Bologna Declaration's aim of increased student and academic mobility across Europe is being impeded by differences in labour and social laws as well as by working conditions, European academic unions say.

They hope to convince the European Union that a basic level of student support in Europe is vital to the success of the process.

The plan emerged from a conference attended by 150 union representatives and researchers from 25 European countries in Berlin last weekend.

Union representatives said that students often found that the discrepancies in the economic situations of different countries made study in other countries impossible. A student in receipt of support from Portugal or Greece, for example, would find it difficult to support herself while studying in Denmark or the Netherlands, where the cost of living was higher.

Gerd Kohler, of the German university union GEW, said the unions feared that the Bologna Declaration's proposal for convergence of degree structures towards consecutive bachelors/ masters courses had failed to win acceptance among employers.

He said that as a cost-cutting measure, governments were likely to encourage students to leave university with only a bachelors degree.

The unions supported development of a mechanism to guarantee academic quality but opposed a pan-European quality assurance body. Instead, they wanted each country to develop a system that would be recognised by other states. Quality assurance is high on the agenda of a convention of European universities to be held in Graz, Austria, in May.

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