A joint posting from Uni Basel participants. Our discussion on the train down to Riva was brought together into this text by Sarah – not an easy task!:
On our train trip to Riva we decided to talk about the subject of Application to University (in the US) vs. Entitlement (in CH) because Mr. Loprieno mentioned in his speech in Basel that in this field we find one of the biggest differences between our two systems.
First, someone argued that the idea of giving something back to society is much more developed in the U.S. (at universities!) than in Switzerland. We think this might be the case because we trust in and rely on our state to whom we pay our taxes and who is responsible for all the basic needs of society like education but also health care etc. In short, for us HE is a kind of “human right” and we do not really feel priviledged if we can go to university or certainly not as much as the US- students do. So is education a right in Switzerland but a privilege in America? We probably have to differentiate here between “education” and “higher education” for going to school is as much a human right in the U.S. as in Switzerland. BUT: at the level of Higher Education there are many differences in access – as we will find out during this programme – and one of the results of higher costs etc. is that U.S. students feel more privileged and therefore have a stronger feeling they should give something back to society. In addition, if in Switzerland we want to contribute to society we can get involved in politics on a very basic (in the villages and cantons) or on a national level and “share our knowledge”. At this point, the discussion nearly turned into a fight because some of us think universities are not involved enough in public affairs. Maybe this topic of universities as “Elfenbeintürme” which is especially important for humanities could be discussed again because it has a lot to do with access to and in HE.
Education, we think, is as much a social right as a cultural issue and as a result there exists a huge variety in attitudes towards it. The fact that in most parts of Europe a lot of power is delegated to the state certainly influences our way of thinking about HE as an entitlement rather than a privilege. In Switzerland, we trust the state for caring about our education and other social issues – but of course we also rely on him in many aspects. We ended our discussion by asking when and why the shift from education as a priviledge to education as an entitlement (right) took place in Europe. It would be interesting to find out why the system in the U.S. developed in a different way and to observe the impact this has on the whole society.
What if Bachelor degrees were condensed into two years? Gaining a qualification would be less of a financial burden for students and institutions; those who intended to stop there with HE woud progress more quickly into the workforce; those who wanted to continue with HE could do a three-year masters followed by a four-year PhD…
While in Boston, Basel GPP participants will make a visit to swissnex Boston.
‘Established in 2000 as the world’s first “science consulate,” swissnex Boston is the first of a global network of five knowledge outposts… swissnex Boston along with the Office of Science and Technology of the Embassy of Switzerland in Washington D.C. and swissnex San Francisco constitute the official Swiss science network in North America… Each swissnex outpost promotes knowledge exchange between Switzerland and host regions in higher education, technology, innovation, science and the arts.’ (from swissnex Boston website)
‘JFF identifies, develops, and promotes education and workforce strategies that expand opportunity for youth and adults who are struggling to advance in America today. In more than 200 communities across 43 states, JFF improves the pathways leading from high school to college to family-sustaining careers.’ (from JFF website)
Michael Collins’ presentation will be a valuable contribution to our investigation of the theme of ‘Access to and within Higher Education’.
Shared by Sebastien Hug, swissnex Boston, ‘In view of the GPP topic “Access to and within Higher Education” find below a link to a major NYT story, that was featured in this weekend’s edition’.
This TED talk re-emphasises Professor Shelli Fowler’s message in her presentation at the GPP 2012 Input Seminar ‘Making learning accessible through pedagogy and technology’. Even mentions Virginia Tech and the ‘Cave’ that we were able to visit last year (around the 12 min mark)!
An excerpt from the presentation made by Dr. Beat Münch, Head of the Rector’s Office, University of Basel, at the GPP 2012 Input Seminar. His full notes are available on the Scholar site – GPP.doc.
‘On the level of the long degree programs you have again two types of systems.
The first one is the classic university with bachelor, master and doctoral programs. (Bachelor in France is called licence in order to avoid a confusion with Baccalauréat = Bachelor). The access to this system is open with a bacc. général. There are therefore no entrance examinations. The selection is carried out during the first year. Depending on the programs the “triage” can be very severe especially for prestigious degree programs e.g. medicine or for renowned universities e.g. law studies at Paris 1.
The second system is represented by the Grandes Ecoles which are a French speciality. They are preparing to professional degrees which are basically diplômes d’ingénieurs. The schools are highly selective. The entrance examinations called concours need a special preparation which is given by the Classes préparatoires situated on the level of the lycées or the schools themselves. It’s yet difficult to be admitted in on of these classes and it’s even more difficult to be successful in the concours itself. Depending on the type of Grandes Ecoles the success rate can be lower than ten percent. These Grandes Ecoles are one of the most controversial issues in the discussion about the modernization of the French educational system. It is quite obvious that they are reinforcing the social differences, the isolation and the auto reproduction of the social elites. There is no international benchmark for this kind of system.
But it is a fact that the graduates of these Schools have more opportunities on the labour market than others. And quite often a degree of one of the Grandes Ecoles is equivalent to a job in the national administration. This is for example true for the famous ENA (Ecole Nationale d’Administration). Nearly all presidents of the French Republic are alumni of the ENA. But it is difficult to argue that students of the ENA are the best because they are successful on the labour market. Sociological studies have shown that it is not only the surely high qualification of the graduates but the degree in itself which is the door opener for prestigious jobs.’
‘In many other lines of work, people with interesting CVs who gathered experiences in different fields and in a variety of jobs, are especially valued employees. In academia, they’re not welcome. In some respects, academia is a closed, self-sustaining and self-perpetuating system which could profit from being opened up.’
A statement made by Cédric Scheidegger Lämmle, GPP 2010, in a discussion following the GPP 2012 Input Seminar held last week.
Sharing an article comparing the Bachelor curriculum structures of the US and EU HE systems forwarded by Dr. Zahir from Curriculum Development, University of Basel, who presented at the GPP 2012 Input Seminar last week. Filsecker (2011)_Bachelor Curriculum USA HE