Common framework for Europe moves closer
Jul 3, 1998
France is leading the way with plans to increase student mobility across Europe. At a recent meeting of university bosses in Paris, the French prime minister, Lionel Jospin, announced a new agreement to build a common framework of course structures and qualifications at European universities. The agreement was signed by the education ministers from France, Germany, Italy and the UK. "We are starting out as four, we will soon be 10 or 15, " says Claude Allègre, the French education minister.
The move came about because the French government is frustrated at the slow pace of schemes run by the European Union, such as SOCRATES and the European credit transfer system. Allègre believes that previous attempts to harmonize education systems have not progressed much because they were too rigid.
French universities are very much in favour of the accord. At the conference, their presidents expressed their wish to become a "driving force" in Europe. "It is very important for students to experience other forms of teaching than that in their own country, " said Jean-Pierre Finance, president of the University of Nancy. However, he pointed out that to make the agreement work, many French universities will have to make their courses more modular.
Nevertheless, the idea of a fully European university is still a long way off. Quite apart from variations in teaching, the structures of educational organizations are very different. The new agreement also does not tackle the thorny issue of funding. University fees vary from country to country, and provisions will have to be made for travel expenses and accommodation costs. Finance believes that this problem can be resolved with contributions from the EU, individual universities, and the students taking part in the scheme. However, Allègre has said that, in the first instance, it will be for the host country to foot the bill.