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1 Accessibility of higher education: challenges for transition countries Presentation by Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Johann W. Gerlach Freie Universität Berlin.

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Presentation on theme: "1 Accessibility of higher education: challenges for transition countries Presentation by Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Johann W. Gerlach Freie Universität Berlin."— Presentation transcript:

1 1 Accessibility of higher education: challenges for transition countries Presentation by Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Johann W. Gerlach Freie Universität Berlin / Germany International conference “Accessibility of Higher Education: Challenges for Transitional Economies” Moscow, Russian Federation June Moscow, Russian Federation June

2 2 First of all I would like to thank you for the invitation to come here, and introduce myself. I am a professor of law and was for many years President of the Freie Universität Berlin, an internationally oriented high-ranking state- funded research university, which was founded in 1948 in the west part of Berlin; the university is and was dedicated to freedom in research, teaching and studies, hence its name „Freie Universität“.

3 3 For some years now I have been working at a national and international level on questions of university development (structural planning, administration and decision-making systems, quality management, evaluation and accreditation, the Bologna Process), in particular in Europe and Latin America, and also in East Asia. Last year I participated in the institutional evaluation of the Kaliningrad / Königsberg State University. These activities have given me the opportunity to view and compare many aspects of the university sector and changes within it in many countries of the world and in Russia. However, every country has its very own university system, based on its own ideas and reflecting national conditions, and expressing concepts of its own. The following remarks are therefore only intended as a possible point of departure for further considerations and not as strictly laid-down recommendations. I will begin by considering the international context.

4 4 1.The international context a) The world is today also „global“ in the universities. Practically all countries now face the same challenges; solutions vary from country to country, dependant on the political, societal and economic stage of development each country finds itself in. In this sense all countries are now „transition countries“. This should prompt us to exchange our experiences and learn from one another. As the proverb puts it, „Other people’s experience is valuable, one’s own experience is simply expensive.“

5 5 At the same time international competition for the best development perspectives and for the best „brains“ in research, in teaching and learning is increasing, culminating in the „brain drain“ in some areas. This competition is becoming more abrasive in the university sector as well, although an atmosphere of cooperation is still mostly met with. However, it is evident that the divide between the rich and the poor countries is increasing, and only a small number of the so-called threshold countries have the political and economic resources to achieve meaningful development.

6 6 b) As world-wide transition takes place to what has come to be called the information and knowledge society the best possible levels of subject-based and scientific qualification for as many people as possible becomes more and more important. The human perspective of personal development and qualification at the individual level is challenged however by the pressure of international competition in the production of goods, in trade, and in services.

7 7 2.Access to universities and the challenges involved a)The problems sketched out so far also become evident in the process of university access with continually increasing demand for places in tertiary education coupled with continuing inadequate funding. The number of universities, their size and infrastructure are no longer adequate for task they are expected to fulfil, i.e. to further as many qualified applicants and students as possible and, at the same time, to maintain the equality of opportunity for all strata of society.

8 8 It is here that we perceive a gulf between the developed and the less developed nations. Only the economically developed countries have at least partially functional systems of tertiary education and research institutes and at the same time a sufficiently large class or group within their societies capable of supporting the education and training of their children by providing private or family funding support. Even these developed countries however are now having problems in funding and maintaining quality: whereas 50 years ago only 5 – 10% of each age cohort took up university studies, today more than 40%, or even more than 50%, do this.

9 9 This can be illustrated very clearly by considering the countries in the western part of the European continent including Scandinavia. Here the responsibility for maintaining the universities – just as for the schools – falls first and foremost to the state, it is a public responsibility. In the course of the years in most of these countries the universities in particular have gradually become under- financed. For this reason tuition fees are being introducing at many levels in higher education, although so far these have been relatively modest. A symptom of these developments is the ever more popular distinction between education for the broad masses of students and education for the elites.

10 10 There is here a fundamental difference between Europe and the Anglo-Saxon countries such as Great Britain, the United States of America and Australia, which for historical reasons all have a different understanding of the role of the state and which mainly view education and training as a “private good” within the domain of responsibility of the individual citizen. Hence tuition fees have to be paid everywhere, including at state-run universities. And there are many excellent private universities and colleges (and some that are not quite so excellent).

11 11 b)These conflicts of interest become particularly clear in the transition countries in East and South Europe, and naturally also in Russia. In Russia, as was the case in the former Soviet Union, quality goals in scientific training are high, especially at the state universities, but there is at the same time an extreme shortage of funding. So additional money is needed, mainly coming from private sources, including tuition fees.

12 12 c) One problem of fundamental importance, which is not included in the conference programme, is the quality of education at the secondary school level as a factor of rights of access to tertiary education. If the state-run school system does not provide adequate high-quality education options, most school-leavers will only be able to fulfil entrance requirements - sometimes in the form of entrance examinations - laid down by universities by taking part in privately financed preparatory courses, especially when they want to be admitted to the best universities. This however can easily result in the disadvantaging of bright school-leavers from less prosperous families and compromise the principle of social justice. Only adequate state bursaries, provided at the right time, and similar support programmes, can help here.

13 13 3.Differentiation in tertiary education and the goals and priorities informing the expansion of access to tertiary education a)This question has come into sharp focus in Europe in particular with the implementation of the so-called Bologna process, in which – among other things – courses of studies which have hitherto taken a comparatively long time to complete are to be split up according to the consecutive model of BA and MA courses. The issue is of much wider import and has world-wide significance. Particularly in continental Europe degree courses at universities have been in the main tied to the academic ideal of the interpenetration of research and teaching. The emergence of the so-called mass university has meant that this model and this goal have become unreal in today’s universities.

14 14 b) On the basis of their personal motivation, interests and abilities, most applicants for admission to university, and students already engaged in their studies, show less interest in a broadly-based academic education (in the sense of “general education”) than in academically based vocational education and training (in the sense of “selective higher professional education”). The latter is not a “less desirable” qualification, it is simply a “different” form of qualification, for which a specific demand exists within society, the state, and the economy, and which offers appropriate professional perspectives.

15 15 There is no meaningful reason for wanting to restrict the expansion of accessibility to tertiary education, and the process cannot be reversed anyway. It is a response to the desire on the part of individuals to achieve adequate qualifications, on the one hand, and it corresponds to the need, on the other hand, for such qualified individuals in order to provide the foundation for solid and broadly based economic development. However, at this point the question of differentiation must be raised and given sober, careful consideration, since – among other things – state resources are limited, and not every university, professor, or student body can be given the same level of funding.

16 16 c) The differentiation envisaged here should not however only begin with the degree courses and their structures, it should begin with the institutions themselves. As everybody knows, there already are universities / faculties / individuals with more emphasis on research, and other universities etc. which give more priority to teaching. In Germany, for instance, a relatively small proportion of the universities receives the largest share of public funding handed out on a competitive basis by the German Research Council. And in the research- oriented universities this funding is usually concentrated on a few faculties / departments, and in these on a small number of researchers / research groups. The same applies for doctoral scholarships and the promotion of younger academics.

17 17 All this can - and must - lead to further measures. Researchers with a proven outstanding research record, for example, should only be given a restricted number of hours of teaching, whereas others should have to do more teaching. Support for research offered in this way must not however lead to a devaluation of teaching, which for its part should also be given recognition and appropriate rewards if of demonstrated high quality. (Removing research activities out of the universities and locating them in outside institutions is likely in the long run to be highly counterproductive for scientific productivity).

18 18 In this way the highest levels of funding can be steered towards persons and locations producing the highest levels of achievement, and where these can be expected in the future. This applies to the institutions as well as to the persons involved, both the professors and the students. This stimulates academic competition and the development of an individual academic profile. For the system to remain dynamic, changes in both directions must be possible.

19 19 4.State and private funding (cost-sharing) Funding questions are to be the focus of the following sessions, so at this point I will restrict my remarks to the consideration of more fundamental and structural issues. a)In continental Europe the education system, including the tertiary sector, are seen to be a responsibility resting with the res publica, so that in the main the state and the government will be responsible for providing funding. Tertiary qualifications provide the individual however with enhanced prospects in terms of choice of profession and above-average levels of prospective income. For this reason, i.e. for the personal advantages tertiary qualifications offer, university studies are also not only a “public” good but also a “private”, i.e. non-public good.

20 20 This means that asking students and their parents to contribute to the costs of degrees is in broad terms politically justifiable and necessary. In this sense it is appropriate for the state in general only to provide the university infrastructure and the teaching, while the students and their parents have to bear all other costs, in particular living costs.

21 21 b)Tuition fees however make the question of social justice even more urgent. This applies first and foremost for students from less prosperous families, but increasingly students from the so-called middle class are involved. It is only for students from more wealthy families that the costs of university study, and therefore also of tuition fees, do not mean a serious burden, which could exclude them from tertiary education.

22 22 The only way therefore to regulate the whole question of financing tertiary education, including the issue of tuition fees, in an equitable way is to provide adequate scholarship support for all properly qualified applicants and students from needy families (and not just for the few “best” candidates). In Europe, it seems very unlikely that this path will ever be implemented, neither by the state nor by the universities themselves. (Only rich private universities, especially in the USA, offer adequate scholarship funding.)

23 23 c) It has to be recognised that the introduction of tuition fees without an adequate system of scholarships is no more than an emergency measure, whereby the question of social justice remains unsolved. The whole situation is not improved by the fact that in times of general financial shortfalls in the public sector larger and larger parts of the general population become dependant on social welfare transfers, needing increased financial support from the state and not increased burdens.

24 24 In the present situation tuition fees have to be appraised very critically, from the point of view of both policy and social welfare, especially since the costs of living remain high and actually should be relieved through the granting of scholarships. Only tuition fees payable post hoc and adjusted for expected above-average income levels in professional life can be reasonably justified in terms of social equality. The precondition for this however is political dependability which would guarantee to maintain this system over the long term. But even here there remains the problem of finding ways to support students from lower-income families in covering everyday living costs.


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