Higher Education in the 21st Century – Diversity of Missions: Abstract by Lara Lena Tischler


What kind of Institution does your Institution want to be?

Lara Lena Tischler, Member of the Executive Committee, ESIB: the National Unions of Students in Europe

The question of opportunities evoked for students from a greater recognition and/or a stronger support of institutional models and types cannot be answered in general. Firstly the different stages that lead from access, duration and completion of the studies over the transition process to the labour market, the academic career and Life Long Learning, have to be considered. Secondly the terms "type” and "model” must be differentiated. Whereas the first one refers to different types of HEI, like polytechnics, universities, art schools and so on the term “model” is focussed on the characteristics of a HEI, like different ways of funding, governance, learning methods, etc.
When it comes to representing the interest of students, ESIB would like to stress that equality and equal rights for students is something fundamental that should never be compromised by developing an institutional profile. However, it has to be assured that the aim of all types and models of HEI is encouragement of the personal development of a student, development and maintainance of advanced skills, competence and knowledge base, preparation of students for life as active citizens in democratic society, for the labour market and academic careers. Therefore recognition procedures should be the same, democratic governance should function on the same principles, a student should be able to be mobile, education should be free, etc.
The questions of diversity of missions and marketisation raise of course a number of questions. What kind of courses can a student take? In what language does and can he/she study? Does the recognition of only research or teaching based universities meet the idea of providing the best basic and up to date education? Is the same learning method the best for everybody? What does diversity mean in these contexts and is diversity about compromising student rights in the end? There cannot be given general or final answers, but it shows the impact on students in HE and the necessity to improve in certain areas, like diversity of languages whilst preventing for instance a detachment between research and teaching.
In all these perspectives the need for recognition of qualifications between the different types and models of HEIs must be assured by a transparent, well implemented, equal and coherent education system that supports horizontal and vertical mobility is quite obvious. Otherwise the chances of students being stuck in a dead end with no crossovers or side roads as soon as he/she has decided upon one HEI and therefore one specific type and model are quite high.