22 SES 04 D, Governance, Diversity & Inclusion
Similarly to other countries East-Central European countries, in post-communist Romania confessional affiliation represents an important source of political legitimacy. As a consequence of the traditional link between ethnic and religious identity, after 1989 the dominant social expectation was that both the majority Orthodox Church and the minority churches should maintain their traditional legitimising function.
One of the important aspects of this relationship is the role assumed by churches in higher education. In this regard, differences of perception between the majority Orthodox Church and religious minorities have had an important role in asserting ethnic and confessional pluralism in post-communist Romania. They have also been instrumental in building minority institutions in the fields of education, culture, and social services. Specifically, Hungarian historical denominations have provided the legal and institutional umbrella for the emerging private universities with Hungarian teaching language.
These developments are the more important, as they take place in a national and international context not necessarily favoring cultural and educational pluralism. Rather surprisingly, taking into account the rich multicultural and pluralistic tradition of European education, the reference to the minority cultural and educational needs is almost completely absent from the dominant “Bologna” discourse at the European level, and the implicit globalizing and homogenizing message transmitted in this way has its corresponding effects at national level as well. It is worth to mention in this respect that according to information provided by European University Association, less than 25% of European higher education institutions have introduced specific policies concerning minority ethnic groups or immigrants. (Sursock and Smidt 2010, p. 70)
As rightly pointed out by Sjur Bergan, although the four main purposes of education – „preparation for the labour market, preparation for life as active citizens in democratic societies, personal development and the development and maintenance of a broad, advanced knowledge base” - should be seen “as part of a whole, and they do – or at least should – reinforce and complement each other”, personal development which is intimately linked to problems pertaining to identity development has been ignored in the Bologna discussions. (Bergan 2006: 3-4)
In such circumstances, the autonomus existence and legitimacy of small-size insitutions with specifically defined ethno-cultural and ethno-linguistic mission might be questioned by a series of pressures originating from the expectations of the ongoing reform of higher education and the consequences of its expansion and internationalisation. A major challenge represents the extent to which the new degree structures have been used by institutions and are becoming integrated in institutional structures and practices, as well as their acceptance by the labour market. (Sursock and Smidt 2010, p. 33).
Taking into account the dimensions and influencing factors briefly mentioned above, viewed from the perspective of their mutual interaction, this paper aims to offer a comprehensive outlook on the role of religion, religious identity and churches in shaping the higher education of Romania. Specifically, the paper is focusing on the case of Partium Christian University, one of the two recently accredited private higher educational insitutions designed for the needs of Hungarian minority community, set up by the Roman-Catholic and Protestant churches in Romania. According to its mission statement, „besides the educational and scientific challenges, the University has a strategic role in terms of national politics as well. Its purpose is to assure the equal educational opportunities for the Hungarian community in Partium and in Transylvania, and to educate well-trained and internationally competitive experts, according to the most excellent educational and research requirements. By forming intellectuals, the University also fulfils a cultural mission: it educates new professionals who will transmit and further develop the Hungarian culture.” (PCU Mission Statement)
Belényi, E - Flóra G.& Szolár É (2012) Minority Higher Education in Romania: a Contextual Analysis. In Gabriella Pusztai & Adrian Hatos (Eds.) Higher Education for Regional Social Cohesion. Hungarian Educational Research Journal (HERJ) Special Issues, 1. 109–133. Budapest (Hungary): HERA. Bergan, S. (2006) Promoting New Approaches to Learning. In E. Froment, J. Kohler, L.Purser & L.Wilson (eds.) EUA Bologna Handbook. Making Bologna Work. European University Association. Berlin: Raabe. Flora G - Szilagyi G. (2005) Church, Identity, Politics: Ecclesiastical Functions and Expectations Toward Churches in Post-1989 Romania In: Victor Roudometof, Alexander Agadjanian, and Jerry Pankhurst (eds.) Eastern Orthodoxy in a Global Age: Tradition Faces the 21st Century. Alta Mira Press, 2005, 109-143. Flóra G.- Szilágyi G. (2008) Religious Education and Cultural Pluralism in Romania In: Gabriella Pusztai (ed.) Education and Church in Central and Eastern Europe at First Glance. Center for Higher Education Research and Development, University of Debrecen, 2008, 159-172. Partium Christian University Mission Statement (2010) http://www.partium.ro/main.php?l=en&mn=0.0 Retrieved 05.11.2012 Sursock, A. and Smidt, H. (2010) Trends 2010. A decade of change in European Higher Education. European University Association, Brussels, 2010. http://www.ond.vlaanderen.be/hogeronderwijs/bologna/2010_conference/documents/EUA_Trends_2010.pdf Retrieved 15.11.2012 Szolár É. (2010): Romanian Church-related Higher Education in Comparative Perspective. In: Gabriella Pusztai, ed., Religion and Higher Education in Central and Eastern Europe. Center for Higher Education Research and Development - Hungary University of Debrecen 2010., 39-54. Szolar E. (2010) New Opportunities and Old Challenges: Romanian Denominational Higher Education in the Bologna Process. Christian Higher Education, v9 n2 (20100317): 124-150.
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