20 SES 03, Intercultural Education and Learning Environment in Higher Education; Contributions to Inclusion
The development of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) has become an important educational, social and political process over the last twenty years in Europe. However, it has not been an homogenous process for all universities.
At the European level, policies for Higher Education and their resulting initiatives have significantly intensified over the last years. Among the tools available for HEIs, the Erasmus+ Programme is one of the most valuable. Study mobility is seen as its most significant action, as also an effective mean for internationalising and modernizing higher education systems.
Nevertheless, the international perspective and student mobility diverge from one country to another. In fact, internationalization in the different institutions is made up of an amalgam of varied activities, which directly or indirectly affect students’ mobility and the internationalization at the different universities. In particular, one of these activities is the offer of international programs, framed in agreements between universities and within the EHEA, to study undergraduate or master's degrees, often for short periods (Knight, 2005).
The main purpose of this study is to carry out a comparative analysis of the academic itineraries and specific educational mobility measures offered to incoming students (exchange and international students) in the education area at universities in France, Belgium and the Netherlands. These three countries of the European Union (EU) have more than a tenth of incoming students and are among the eleven first countries in the EU that receives the highest proportion of incoming students (Eurostat, 2017).
The study analyzes whether specific measures facilitate the inclusion of mobility students in the different universities in Europe. These educational practices vary depending on the mobility policies and the university of destination in which international and exchange students decide to take part of their studies.
At present, the international mobility of university students is one of the most important issues of the processes of internationalization in Higher Education. This aspect is of great importance in many European countries, since the students’ mobility is not limited exclusively to the extension of this type of mobility, but to the education quality that these students receive in the different European universities. The international mobility of university graduates is disseminated through the youth culture of mobility, which is made up of variables of an educational nature and the acquisition of experience (Higher Education Funding Council for England, 2004). This means that this mobility does not depend only on economic factors but on the need and desire to acquire a quality educational baggage with an international character.
International training provides students with a preparation to face their integration with greater guarantees and success, since it implies greater flexibility and predisposition to adapt in different contexts (Rodríguez Moreno, 2005). In this sense, international programs in Higher Education help to promote international mobility of university students since they act as a training complement when included in the university study plans. According to Bermúdez Rico (2015), international mobility is an opportunity at the level of training as well as expanding future job prospects both in the country of origin and in other countries of the European Union and beyond. This makes it easier for graduates to project their professional career from a more international perspective and adapt it to the different labor markets.
We carried out a comparative analysis of the characteristics of the academic itineraries and specific educational measures of mobility programs in different universities in Europe. The universities that were compared have been selected because they have a high rate of incoming students and offer the degree in Pedagogy or similar Bachelors in Education. Universities selected were: in France: Université de Paris and Université de Strasbourg; in Belgium: Université Catholique de Louvain and Universiteit Gent and in the Netherlands: Groningen Rijksuniversiteit and De Haagse Hogeschool. The comparative analysis of the mobility programs were selected on the following criteria: -Types of academic itineraries or subjects of Education degrees for incoming students. -Specific mobility educational measures within the EHEA to receive incoming students. With the comparative analysis, this type of analysis aims to interpret the uniqueness of the education systems of each country (García Garrido, García Ruíz, & Gavari Starky, 2005) and explore the different models of inclusion for incoming students.
With regard to academic itineraries or subjects that incoming students of Education area have the opportunity to study at the selected destination universities, language courses and English courses of the corresponding career are the academic resources most offered by the host universities. Moreover, short courses are offered to introduce the most important concepts and knowledge of the degree. Therefore incoming students will be able to take better advantage of the training they will receive in academic itineraries. The degrees and subjects offered in English for incoming students are also available to local students at all selected universities. Within the academic itineraries offered to those students, some activities are carried out before the beginning of the academic year. During these summer courses incoming students learn social and cultural traditions that may help them adapt better to the destination country in which they are going to study. Regarding the specific educational measures that contribute to the reception of incoming students, the universities dedicate few days in the academic calendar the welcome, reception and orientation of new students in each semester. This welcome is usually called "Welcome Week or Days" and is complemented with mentoring programs "Buddy Program" to help and advice incoming students in academic, logistic, and other activities outside the university. However, there are universities that do not have this type of measure and instead students have an international office where they can solve any kind of issue. Finally, the actions carried out by the host universities, in part, foster relationships between incoming and local students. However, still home universities need to implement actions to prepare students not only to face successfully their academic life at the university, but also to acquire or develop competences that are required to live in a plural and diverse society.
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