...while the European Higher Education Area improves transparency between higher education systems, as well as implements tools to facilitate recognition of degrees and academic qualifications, mobility, and exchanges between institutions....Most importantly, all participating countries have agreed on a comparable three cycle [bachelor's, master's, and doctoral] degree system.
The EHEA currently comprises 46 countries, and while the Bologna Process (like any multinational policy framework) is subject to criticism, it is here to stay for a while, and it is influencing higher ed policy across Europe.
I wondered how Bologna might affect the development of alumni relations across the countries involved? I asked two people who are very knowledgeable in this area: Dr. Daniel Guhr and Simon Lange of Illuminate Consulting Group. Through Illuminate's consulting practice (which focuses on international strategic development in higher ed) and their own diverse educational experiences, Dan and Simon have well-informed, high level perspectives. With their permission, I am sharing some of their basic thoughts on Bologna and alumni relations.
With the goal of keeping this post a readable length, I am presenting their answers to just two questions here. A future posting will look at additional aspects of this topic.
What will Bologna mean for international alumni relations?
Daniel Guhr: There are domestic and international aspects. The domestic outcome is unclear. In practice, many universities are encouraging bachelor's degree alumni to stay on for a master's degree. Since alumni relations in most of continental Europe is still in its infancy, there is not an established framework that Bologna can change in practical terms. Global brand leverage will be important, and Bologna can provide a more globally recognized degree. But there is a missing component in practical terms: a well-established framework for international alumni relations. Alumni themselves may increase the demand for this, but that doesn't require Bologna. It is happening already, albeit at modest levels.
Simon Lange: We can expect a modest increase in alumni demand for university support. Over time, Bologna's relative emphasis on more vocationally-oriented degrees (especially at the undergraduate level) will create a pool of alumni whose educational experience is essentially a targeted preparation for the job market, more so than in the past. Future alumni and their universities will gradually improve their understanding of brand leverage, and the potential impact of well-designed alumni programming.
Are there any examples yet of international educational brands adapting to the Bologna Process?
Daniel Guhr: The standardization of degree structures officially concludes this year, but some transitions will take years. It's a bit early to say how Bologna might affect the educational brands, although we should expect some impact eventually.
Simon Lange: One example is Berlin's Einstein Foundation, in part an early attempt to push brand differentiation (ironically, by creating an umbrella organization to promote the research excellence of several institutions). In addition to attracting research funding, the Foundation's goals include increasing the visibility of Berlin as a center for science and research. I have my doubts, but alumni could potentially benefit in terms of brand leverage.
A future posting here will look at
- the prospects for alumni loyalty to a specific institution;
- threats and challenges to alumni engagement under Bologna; and
- the most likely time frame for changes to appear.