A group of professors and PhD researchers of the University of Bucharest, members of the team of experts implementing the CIVIS European universities project within the University, have made a series of recommendations on academic education policy, in order to better connect the Romanian academic offer to the European strategic guidelines, to social dynamics and labor market.
The proposals are integrated in a programmatic document, entitled Why micro-credentials must become educational “macro-policies” for defining future European curricula and it brings in the public debate new strategic directions for Romanian universities, including the adoption of micro- credentials in the Romanian higher education system, in consensus with the European arrangements and with the new perspectives of curricular reconstruction.
The perspective emerges both from the directions outlined in the Ministerial Bulletin of Rome, from the EHEA 2020 Conference, and from the deeper structural changes that the global pandemic crisis has generated in the academic milieu in the last year. “Flexible and open learning pathways, included in the original motivation for the Bologna Process, are important aspects of student-centered learning, and their demand is growing in our societies. In addition to comprehensive university programs, many higher education institutions offer or intend to offer smaller learning units that will enable students to develop or update their cultural, professional or transversal skills and competences at different stages of life”, underlined the above-mentioned document.
On the other hand, the proposed perspective is based on the voice of students, expressed in European fora and which emphasizes the need for development and training by changing learning environments and strategies, through more inclusive and flexible learning, which means a reconsideration of academic curriculum.
In this sense, stated the specialists of the University of Bucharest, the adoption by universities of micro-credentials – associated with smaller learning units with same quality as the traditional ones – will represent a significant step forward that universities can take for better adaptation to European trends and, in particular, to the needs for students to benefit from flexible learning pathways. At the same time, this new paradigm can be an innovative solution to increase the academic offer to adults, professionals in the labor market, for lifelong learning. According to Eurostat data, Romania is the European country with the lowest participation rate in lifelong learning, respectively 1%.
In order to go further in the proposed paradigm, the specialists have argued several possible scenarios applied to the Romanian context, one in which they point out that there is a need for a solid inter-institutional collaboration in the national and European academic milieu, but also with decision-makers, in order to facilitate a legislative framework and transformations aimed at leading to curricular modernization, innovative pedagogies, recognition and certification, multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary, as well as an increased level of inter-university cooperation through common long-term strategies.
In the case of Romania, we appreciate that the second scenario (“European Alliances”) and, why not, the third (“Lifelong Learning”), by contraction, can lead to a broad understanding and acceptance of micro-credentials, through the European Consortiums of Universities – European Alliances, which will be able to design and provide specialized academic/professional content in different international languages, using micro -credentials to provide “joint flexible certifications”. They will be able to offer students the freedom and flexibility of complex learning experiences, through the use of flexible/alternative routes and combinations of European specializations agreed at the level of these alliances.
“(…) However, we appreciate that its strength would be much diminished if it does not take into account the third scenario, which places micro-credentials in the context of lifelong learning, because the processes of certifications, “placed” at the intersection between higher education and continuing vocational training, are becoming increasingly unclear. (…) Higher education institutions will thus be able to become more and more interested in professional life cycles and will consider drawing up multi-annual contracts with employers and trainees, in order to offer micro-credentials based continuing education and training programs.”, it is exposed in the programmatic document.
“The debates in Europe regarding the modernization of our universities and their alignment with social and economic dynamics are more and more influenced by the idea of a profound curricular change through what we call micro-credentials and micro-programs. We cannot ignore all these, and our proposal is not just a simple public policy exercise, but a concrete, innovative solution for the Romanian academic community. We believe that it would be an important step that our universities would make towards a more flexible academic education and training, “personalized” exactly to the needs of our students or of those who already practice and adapt to the society we live in”, mentions professor Romiță Iucu, Chairman of the Strategic Management Council of the University of Bucharest and coordinator of the expert group.
The document Why micro-credentials must become educational “macro-policies” for defining future European curricula aims to open a substantial dialogue in the Romanian academic milieu on the adoption of the micro-credentials system, simultaneously with the strengthening of mechanisms for quality assurance. The proposals of the specialists of the University of Bucharest can be accessed here: https://bit.ly/micro-credentials-UB.