Education in Mobility.


Education in Mobility.

Experience, Creativity and Intercultural Knowledge.

 

Herman Bahiron Mendolicchio

 

In the era of globalization it becomes necessary to rethink education, consider the growing need to establish an international dimension and analyse different ways, systems and methodologies regarding the relationship between learning, mobility and the intercultural production of knowledge.

 

Apart from the Academy (Universities, Research centres, Colleges, Fine Arts Institutes), which has always played a key role in the creation of a transversal space of exchange and dialogue, nowadays we can observe and experience the development of new educational systems based on mobility, internationalization and residency programmes.

 

This paper focuses on the identification and analysis of the new dynamics of knowledge production and “education in mobility” in the Mediterranean, through two specific areas: on one hand, the international university programmes of mobility between Europe and Southern Mediterranean countries; on the other hand, the development of new educational practices (that are essentially non-academic) that are emerging thanks to the initiative of interdisciplinary centres of art, education and creativity, as well as Museums.

 

Through the examples of academic models as well as the emergence of new realities, this research will address issues related to the multiple impact of mobility in education: both as a tool for creativity, innovation, intercultural experience and knowledge.

 

This paper aims to emphasize the rise and development of mobility programmes in higher education and the increasing phenomenon of the mobility of artists and researchers for residency projects in the Mediterranean.

 

Mobilising Education

 

One of the most important current goals in education and the academia is to strengthen and enhance internationalization policies. The mobility of students, researchers, teachers - especially its increase and intensification - is one of the focal points for the development of such policies of internationalization.

 

According to the report issued on the occasion of the EHEA (European Higher Education Area) Ministerial Conference in 2012, the European goal for 2020 is that at least 20% of European graduates should have made part of their study or training abroad:

 

“Promoting high quality mobility of students, early stage researchers, teachers and other staff in higher education has been a central objective of the Bologna Process from the very beginning. High quality mobility pursues educational goals such as enhancing the competences, knowledge and skills of those involved. (…) Mobility is essential to ensure high quality higher education and it is also an important pillar for exchange and collaboration with other parts of the world. (…) we have formulated a mobility target that in 2020, at least 20% of those graduating in the EHEA should have had a study or training period abroad”.[1]

 

The EHEA’s report outlines the fundamental aims and targets to develop and improve mobility in the field of education. Among the points of the report that I’d like to emphasize are:

 

     The aim for a greater and better balanced mobility of the EHEA with countries outside the EHEA;

 

     The purpose to take measures to dismantle existing obstacles to mobility.

 

On the one hand it is increasingly necessary to intensify the collaboration between European countries and other areas of the world, establishing a constructive bilateral/multilateral mechanism in terms of professional exchange; on the other hand it is extremely important to provide valuable tools and strategies to ease the existing obstacles to mobility. Among the measures recognized by the EHEA members, are:

 

-       To expand mobility funding and to enable a wide-reaching portability of grants, loans and scholarships.

-       To increase the quality and relevance of mobility periods.

-       To identify in our countries problems, e.g. in relation to issuing visas, residence and work permits in the higher education field, and take measures accordingly to make mobility easier.

-       Promoting ideas and concepts to overcome the mobility obstacles linked to the national supplementary pension systems as far as the mobility of staff in higher education is concerned.

-       To give extra attention and opportunities to under-represented groups to be mobile.[2]

 

The ambitions, actions, concerns and the various issues examined in the document of the EHEA, serve as a clear starting point to understand that we are facing a changing educational landscape, where the new keywords are more and more mobility and internationalization.

 

Euro-Med Mobility

 

The mobility programmes in higher education do usually respond to national, bilateral or multilateral/regional agreements.

 

What is the situation in the Mediterranean area?

 

While in the European region the academic mobility programs in different levels have been developing, improving and expanding since the late '80s (e.g. the Erasmus mobility program was created in 1987), the international projects that involve other regions of the world have taken much longer to start being implemented.

 

What interests us here is to analyse the current state of mobility programs in higher education in the Mediterranean, understand what are the current opportunities and reflect on regional progress in internationalization policies. In this sense we could say that in recent years many actions have been taken in order to create exchange programmes and mobility between European and Southern Mediterranean countries. Since 1995 - thanks to the implementation of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership and the so-called Barcelona Process – a basis has been created to encourage cooperation among the countries of the region and several common goals have been recognized. The improvement of higher education was one of those goals; however most of the concrete measures had not been implemented, until many years later. For example, the first Euro-Mediterranean Ministerial Conference on Higher Education and Scientific Research was held only in 2007. Known as the "Cairo Declaration", the document issued on that occasion recognized the importance of establishing a model of cooperation in the area and facilitating mobility practices. Among the goals of the first Euro-Mediterranean meeting on higher education was:

 

“Underlining the necessity of reducing disparities in educational achievement between Euro-Mediterranean countries under internationally recognized education standards, as well as facilitating the mobility and employability of students and researchers and supporting the economic development of the region”.[3]

 

The establishment of the Euro-Med educational framework is undoubtedly a slow process – due also to the strong presence of heterogeneous educative models, the persistence of regional conflicts and the growing instability in terms of public funding – but the development of several actions could anyway give us a slight optimism. Among the recent projects and concrete outcomes it is important to mention: 1) the set up of the EPUF (Euromed Permanent University Forum - a network of more than a 100 Euro-Mediterranean Higher Education and Research Institutions) in 2006;[4] 2) the establishment of the Euro-Mediterranean University (EMUNI), that was inaugurated in June 2008 in Portorož, Slovenia;[5] 3) the establishment ofa Euro-Mediterranean Higher Education and Research Area, in the framework of the “Union for the Mediterranean” (2008), which stated as its first objective to “promote and facilitate transnational mobility for students, academics and researchers from both sides of the Mediterranean”.[6]

Concrete projects and initiatives specifically related to transnational mobility and exchange are mainly taken under the TEMPUS III or Erasmus Mundus schemes. In recent years several Euro-Med Universities were involved in mobility projects and many students, researchers and academics have the opportunity to experience international training, research and learning process. Currently we cannot separate the experience of learning from the experience of mobility. As Nick Harris affirms in his report on the Euro-Mediterranean Higher Education Area: “Higher education has, since its inception, been associated with mobility; mobility of students as they learn from different “masters” and mobility of academics as they move from one “seat of learning” to another”.[7]

 

Among the latest mobility programs developed in the Euro-Med framework, we could mention:

     HERMES. Higher Education and Research Area. Europe and Middle East. A mobility programme that involves 20 universities from Europe (France, Spain, Greece, Italy, and Cyprus) and from the Middle-East (Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine and Syria). The program targets students with academic excellence at undergraduate, master, doctoral and post-doc levels from all fields of study as well as academic and administrative staff.[8]

     PHOENIX Project.Intercultural Exchange For Internationalization. The project intends to develop a structured mobility-based cooperation between 3 Palestinian, 2 Lebanese, 1 Syrian and 2 Jordanian HEIs on the one side and 9 EU HEIs on the other side. This cooperation network aims at supporting students from all levels, academic staff, researchers and administrative staff to gain experiences, expertise and skills through interaction in an international environment.[9]

     WELCOMEWidening Egyptian and Lebanese Cooperation and Mobility with Europe. A mobility project funded by the European Commission and organized by a Partnership of some of the most prestigious universities in Europe, Egypt and Lebanon.[10]

     FATIMA AL-FIHRI. Erasmus Mundus Action 2 Scholarship programme for Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and EU. This mobility programme is a partnership established between 11 North African’s Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in five targeted countries and 9 European HEIs from 8 different countries.[11]

     AL IDRISI II: A scholarship scheme for exchange and cooperation between Europe and North Africa. The projectwill establish an active institution-based mobility network among 19 North African and EU partner universities and 6 associate universities supported by 3 associate institutions and the Ministries of Higher Education in the region.[12]

     BATTUTA Project.Building Academic Ties Towards Universities through Training Activities. This programme has been selected by the European Commission for 2013-2017. Consisting of 20 institutions of higher education, 9 European and 11 North African, and three associated partners, the program will enable the exchange of 285 individuals, students and staff between the two regions.[13]

 

It is important to highlight that all the mobility projects mentioned above shared most of the specific objectives, which are focused on the promotion of mutual enrichment and intercultural understanding; the development of a sustainable international cooperation; the transfer of know-how and capacity; the creation of a network of research laboratories; the improvement of learning experience and employability, etc.

The rise and development of these mobility programmes between EU and Mediterranean institutions, demonstrate the growing needs - both of the students and the academic staff as well as the institutions – to gain international experience and visibility. All those multilateral agreements, other international projects like JISER-MED (Joint innovation & Synergies in Education and Research. Mediterranean Region)[14] or Linking-Med-Gulf,[15] the establishment of AECHE (Arab-Euro Conference on Higher Education)[16] or the tasks and efforts of structures like UNIMED (Mediterranean Universities Union)[17]reveal the emergence and the strength of a new reality that increasingly focuses on cooperation strategies and internationalisation. The rise in flows and exchanges in higher education in the Mediterranean region – and the new cooperation schemes that involve the Gulf countries as well – encourage and give way to a model of “education in mobility” that provides innovative experiences.

Therefore we could affirm that the role of the Academy in relation to mobility and its capability to promote intercultural experiences is still at the core of contemporary society. As Enric Olivé stated: “Practically the only institution that over centuries and centuries has maintained its commitment to knowledge and dialogue between cultures, despite the vicissitudes of history, has been the university. (…) In the Mediterranean, where there are many of the oldest university institutions, the central role of the university to face the three current great challenges, that is, peace, socioeconomic progress and intercultural dialogue, is clearer than anywhere on the planet.”[18]

 

In any case, nowadays, mobility implies experience, transformation, relationships with others, creativity, innovation and a deep process of intercultural knowledge that goes beyond the academic dimension. As Stefano Chessa says: “mobility does imply some questions, not related only to imbalances or asymmetries in the flows between countries as well as in the inner flows of each country (i.e. the balance between outward flows and returns: is the phenomenon that used to be calledbrain drain) but also to the very conceptualization of mobility with relation to its functional and expressive dimensions”.[19]

 

Creative Mobility

 

In the field of contemporary artistic and cultural practices, the phenomenon of mobility is growing significantly and in many cases it is also connected with the development of new educational practices.

 

Museums, art foundations, interdisciplinary centres of art and creativity, etc., are constantly creating new encompassing models that are dealing with the educative field.

 

Diverse examples reveal an interdisciplinary tendency that involves educative tools (seminars, workshops, lectures, conferences, etc.), museum tools (exhibitions, artwork presentations, projections, talks, etc.) and mixed strategies (conversations, residencies, meeting with theorists, academics, artists and art professionals, visits to the local cultural scene, connection with different levels of society, etc.) in the ever-changing panorama of creativity and contemporary art practices.

 

Educational programmes organized by museums, like the “International Studies Programme” (PEI) offered by MACBA (Contemporary Art Museum of Barcelona), suggest the development of an alternative pedagogy and a different approach to knowledge and education. According to the presentation of the programme: “The PEI positions itself as a pivot between museum and university, and rejects the traditional division of knowledge and the museum-based logic of the cultural industries, as well as the ecosystem targeted at the education of an ‘intellectual workforce’ in the neoliberal context”.[20]

 

Another interesting alternative programme that deals both with art and new educational practices, is the one organized by Ashkal Alwan in Beirut, Lebanon. Home Workspace Program, launched in 2011-12, is an “interdisciplinary arts study programme that consists of workshops/seminars, critiques, and one-on-one encounters with the Resident Professors and other invited artists, writers, thinkers, filmmakers, curators, etc.”.[21] The programme, that is essentially non-academic, lasts for 10 months and has gained international recognition in the field of contemporary art and theory.

 

The UNIDEE (University of Ideas) in Residence International Program, developed by Cittadellarte - Pistoletto Foundation (Italy), represents another exciting model in-between education and art practices. The programme runs every year from May to July and its main goals are “to explore the relation between art and society and to investigate methodologies of creative interventions able to activate projects for a socially responsible change in society”.[22] One of the main points of the programme is focused on the intercultural experience of the participants who came from different countries of the world.

 

What is interesting to underline is that the relationship between new practices of “education in mobility”, exhibition projects and residency programmes is becoming increasingly stronger and evident.

 

The phenomenon of the mobility of artists and researchers for residency projects in the Mediterranean and the growing needs in terms of developing new training and educational practices are paving the way to hybrid models that offer new experiences and opportunities.

 

Conclusion

 

Beyond the different ambitions, worries and obstacles that constitute the basis of any internationalisation process, it is evident that mobility-related practices are changing education, learning and the dynamics and production of knowledge.

 

The development of mobility and exchange programmes, the increase of international research projects, the promotion of mutual enrichment, the cooperation strategies and the creation of regional networks, etc., are becoming the main goals in the academic language.

 

To improve the demands of an “education in mobility” implies to welcome new learning models based on exchange and sharing; to facilitate tools and resources in order to develop a sustainable mobility experience; to recognize the multiple impacts of mobility – both at academic and extra-academic level – and the prestige that any institution, centre, organization, etc., would gain thanks to the flow of international students, artists or researchers.  

 

The field of art and creativity has also been transformed and renovated thanks to the evolution of mobility programmes and the creation of hybrid models that involve new educational practices.

 

The demand for innovative experiences based on mobility is clearly growing; what is at stake today is the international capacity to create mobility-friendly structures and make satisfactory use of the potential of universities, museums and other interdisciplinary centres, to renovate education in contemporary globalised society.

 



[1]Mobility for better learning. Mobility Strategy 2020 for the European Higher Education Area(EHEA). EHEA Ministerial Conference. Bucharest 2012. Online:http://www.ehea.info/Uploads/(1)/2012%20EHEA%20Mobility%20Strategy.pdf

[3]Towards a Euro-Mediterranean Higher Education & Research Area. First Euro-Mediterranean Ministerial Conference on Higher Education and Scientific Research (Cairo Declaration – 28 June 2007). Online:http://ec.europa.eu/research/iscp/pdf/cairo_declaration.pdf

[7]Harris, Nick.  Euro-Mediterranean Higher Education Area: Enhancing Quality, Promoting Mobility and Employability. PapersIEMed. European Institute of the Mediterranean (IEMed). Barcelona, 2012. Pp. 35-36.

[18]Olivé, Enric. “Introduction”. In: Fouchet, Robert; Moustier, Emmanuelle; Karam, Azza. Education, Research and Gender: The Sources of Progress. 10 Papers for Barcelona 2010. European Institute of the Mediterranean & EU Institute for Security Studies. Barcelona, 2009. P.9.

[19]Chessa, Stefano. Higher Education and Internationalization: students’ mobility and participatory university for the Euro-Mediterranean Area. In: Italian Journal of Sociology of Education, 2, 2012. P. 63.

[20]“International Studies Programme” (PEI) by MACBA. Online:http://www.macba.cat/en/pei#p3

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