Work programme 1999-2001
International Seminar on Credit Accumulation and Transfer Systems
The first of the international seminars of the work programme, held in Leiria, Portugal, discussed the issue of credit accumulation and transfer systems.
The Bologna Declaration states as one of the objectives the “establishment of a system of credits – such as in the ECTS system (...)”. By aiming at “widespread student mobility” and indicating that “credits could also be acquired in non-higher education contexts, including lifelong learning”, it called for a system of accumulation of credits, rather than just of transfer, the objective of ECTS.
The “ECTS Extension Feasibility Project Report”, of February 2000, commissioned by the European Commission, provided the basis for the discussions. The general report of the seminar is available, but some conclusions may be singled out. A European credit system, providing for accumulation and transfer, is an important instrument for mobility and for the comparability of learning acquired in various settings. Such a system should be built upon ECTS, given that it is already widely known and used. Having concluded that it is difficult to discuss credits and reference levels in an abstract context, it was put forward that, as a contribution to a general approach, work would have to be developed within broad subject areas, at European level.
Report ECTS extension feasability project
The pilot project “Tuning Educational Structure in Europe”, aiming at exchanging experiences and identifying commonly understood profiles and competencies in the disciplines of Mathematics, Geology, Business, Educational Services and History, was presented at the seminar.
The revolutionary forces currently impacting on European education represent huge difficulties and challenges for all involved in educational and training. These forces include globalisation and advances in information technology that are leading to rapid adjustments in national education systems. Learning is becoming more student-centred and flexible as credit-based systems are developed. These changes fundamentally challenge our notions as to how, what, whom and where we teach, as well as how we assess. Those who fail to confront and adapt to these questions face a difficult future.
The ‘ECTS Extension Feasibility Project Report’ of February 2000 clearly concluded that the ECTS was an excellent tool to aid transparency and convergence as envisaged by the Bologna Declaration. The study outlined the key advantages as well as the problems facing any extension of ECTS to a credit accumulation system within a lifelong learning perspective. These issues provided the agenda for the seminar workshop groups.
The workshops achieved a number of things including:
- Workshop 1: Examined problems associated with the quantification of credits.
Understandably, it did not resolve these difficult problems but did highlight the need for credit definitions in terms of ‘total student workload’ as well as in terms of competencies.
- Workshop 2: Considered APL and APEL.
It found that learning can take place anywhere but the real challenge is to devise rigorous systems to accredit and measure such learning. The credit-based measurement of APEL is particularly important for models of lifelong learning.
- Workshop 3: Explored distance and lifelong learning issues.
These both benefit from credit-based approaches to provide the flexibility that such modes and concepts require. Educational and training programmes expressed in learning outcome and competencies were also seen to have advantages over traditional (input-based) content descriptions.
- Workshop 4: Examined the use of the Diploma Supplement and Europass within a credit accumulation framework.
Both were found to be valuable and workable devices to enhance transparency and recognition.
The presentation by Pedro Lourtie on Credit Accumulation and Transfer and the goals of the Bologna Declaration reminded the seminar participants of the importance of their work in helping solve some of the problems of competition, employment, mobility, and convergence faced by European education.
In conclusion, the outcome of the two-day international seminar was clear:
- In Europe we are faced by enormous common educational challenges.
- Higher education can no longer exist as an island isolated from secondary, vocational and adult education. It must integrate more with these sectors by building appropriate bridges that help create a workable system for lifelong learning. All national education systems need to reflect on their own structures and practices in the light of these imperatives.
- There was a consensus that credits and credit accumulation are the best devices to help create the converged yet flexible education systems required by European education.
- The proposed project ‘Tuning Educational Structure in Europe’ was endorsed.
- Building a European education area will not be easy but we have excellent devices, such as ECTS, to help in its creation.