Strathclyde University spells out its commitment to Europe in its mission statement, which states its aim of being “a dynamic top-ranking European university dedicated to excellence through its core mission of promoting useful learning”.
It has been identified as an “entrepreneurial university” by higher education guru Burton Clark and is a founding member of the European Consortium of Innovative Universities. The 12-member network, which includes only one other UK university, Warwick, is developing a graduate school.
Kenneth Miller, Strathclyde’s vice-principal for learning and teaching, says the Bologna Process is crucial in helping the consortium create programmes “at the right level with appropriate articulation”. It offers a means of developing joint masters programmes and eventually joint PhDs, he says.
Scotland is a European leader in terms of credit accumulation and transfer, having created a national system, the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework, which covers qualifications from basic education to postgraduate degrees.
The European Commission is keen to see a single system that covers both vocational education and training, and higher education; the SCQF already covers vocational and academic courses, in institutions and the workplace. “I think Scotland is ahead of the game and has influenced quite a lot of thinking about how the European Credit Transfer System can be delivered,” Professor Miller says. “The SCQF already provides for credit transfer, not just the rating of credit, which provides a level of mobility.”
There is widespread support in Scotland for the Diploma Supplement, information about the status of a graduate’s degree and how it meshes with further studies or a job. While Bologna does not regulate the length of degrees, Scotland’s four-year undergraduate degrees and one-year masters degrees are closer to the norm in other Bologna countries than to the norm in the rest of the UK. And although Bologna has no explicit requirement linking teaching and research, Scotland believes that the Scottish Executive’s insistence that a university carry out research sets the country in the European mainstream.
Some people’s eyes glaze over when “Europe” is mentioned because they assume it heralds a bureaucratic exercise, Professor Miller says. “But once they drill down below the language and see the reality, they recognise the importance of Bologna in supporting collaboration and ensuring student diversity. Scotland is probably as committed as anywhere to the Bologna Process.”