Round table International comparative analysis of HRD Masters programmes

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Round table


Subject HRD Masters programmes in Europe
Context The statements on this subject have been compiled from the discussion at the round table (see proceedings).
Discussion Participants: Pia Bramming [PB], Joseph Kessels [JoK], Monica Lee [ML], Kathy Monks [KM], John Walton [JW], John Wilson [JWi]

[PB] I am from the Copenhagen Business Schools. For the past few years I have been coordinating a programme of HRM. We are not on your list up there, so I am a bit in doubt about what kind of programmes we are talking about. Is it graduate education? The terminology 'Master education' is one we are using for people who have a graduate education and are coming back. So it's just to know what kind of students we have in mind.

[JoK] The main idea is that, based on the Bologna agreement, the whole of Europe will move to one university system. You know it's very different over the countries, as it has been developed in history. So all these European university systems will move to a three year Bachelor programme, followed by a one or two years Masters degree. For the Anglo-Saxon countries this might sound familiar, but for countries like Germany, France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Southern European countries it is different, because they are still based on a traditional Latin system. 

[JWi] May I ask you just a question about Euresform: What is Euresform, was it a project? Has it ceased to exist as a project, or is it a project that is continuing informally?

[ML] It is officially a sub-set of the University Forum. Euresform was initially an EU project; the EU funding helped develop this. Since then, when that funding stopped, it just continued informally. It still operates, the certificate is still awarded, but it has lost a lot of the momentum it had before, partly because the partners are quite few at present. it's the French part that has dropped out. That was because of internal political problems that they had. 

[JW] Euresform actually predated the funding that was obtained from the EU by something like two years. It started off as a network of universities across Europe. The original network was the UK, The Netherlands, France and Spain. The idea was to get some form of commonality in terms of the way that HRD programmes were actually being developed. One of the key issues was the issue of exchanges. The programmes in France and the Netherlands involved exchanges of periods of time going to a country that was other than their own. The network provided lots of opportunities for that. 
    What has happened over time is that some of those programmes have, for various reasons, disappeared. Probably the persons involved moved to another university or whatever. Also, the Bologna agreement caused certain delaying strategies, it  created a hiatus, I think, in terms of the collaborative arrangements between universities in this programme.

[KM] I run a Masters programme in HR strategies at Dublin City University. I am wondering whether you need to differentiate between postgraduate students who go straight on from an undergraduate degree and obtain a Masters degree as part of a  five-year programme and those professionals who come back into do a Masters degree after five or more years of work experience. For post-experience students there is little interest in an international qualification, because having a Masters degree plus experience will take them anywhere in the world. The undergraduate may be more interested in such a qualification, but if the programme is offered in a new country it is probably by default internationally recognised, so that student could actually work anywhere in Europe. So I am not quite sure where this initiative would be geared.

[JoK] Yes, there are two interesting points to it. For many European universities the idea of the split between the Bachelor and the Masters, giving Bachelor students the opportunity to go and work for a couple of years, will be quite new. Many continental universities are not used to return students to an additional Masters programme, because in may countries there is an undivided four- or five-year programme. So that will be very new for many European universities to deal with, to have students who are adults with work experience.
    Another point is that most universities now will be in competition with private institutions. Within the Bologna agreement, private institutions also have the opportunity to be recognised and to offer official degrees. That will also be very new for most European countries. And that's why this accreditation system comes into play. So, even for nations or for students who never had the intention to go abroad, to have internally their degrees recognised, the university has to go through such an accreditation procedure.
    The third point is what we know of these accreditation or evaluation procedures in countries where we already have these systems. It is a very burdensome administrative process, and nobody enjoys it, it is just extra work. This is why we were thinking in our discussion: Can't we make something inspiring out of that? Can we turn this whole process into an inspiring process for doing something that we enjoy ourselves in terms of exchanging ideas, helping each other to compare approaches, to encourage diversity? For this system has a strong power to make one pick the same comparable system. I think one of the interesting points in Europe would be to have a very diverse system, but still have a comparison of quality. It would be an interesting challenge to find out how we could do that.

[JW] Let me come back to the issue whether a Euresform certificate additionally might be significant. The key thing about this certificate is that it involves some form of international experience. You should not only know the basics or ground rules of HRD, but you also need to demonstrate a knowledge of HRD practices in a country other than your own, and some competence in operating in that country. This seems to add to the professional competence,  also of practitioners. That can be very attractive if you work for a multinational corporation or want to develop your career route across Europe.

Source Recording of the round-table discussion at the HRD conference in Limerick, May 2004 (see proceedings).
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Editor: Sabine Manning  © WIFO