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Mobility in higher education

The Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research (BMBWF) announced a Higher Education Mobility Strategy in 2016 to promote transnational mobility at and between public universities, universities of applied sciences and private universities. Mobility in higher education is very important for students, teaching staff and researchers, and for the higher education system as a whole.

What mobility in higher education means

Mobility in higher education covers the physical transnational mobility of Austrian students, researchers and teaching staff as well as non-teaching university staff who go abroad to gain experience (outgoing). It also covers the reverse situation in which foreign university staff and students come to Austria (incoming). Mobility in higher education is also crucial for internationalising teaching processes and content.
To achieve mobility, courses need to be internationalised and allow all students, even those not moving between countries, to acquire international and intercultural competences. To that end, higher education institutions employ targeted measures such as teaching in a foreign language, joint study programmes, summer schools and more to ensure that learning, teaching and research take place in an international environment.

Added value from mobility in higher education

International mobility enables participants to acquire key competencies, which in turn allow them to build global networks and think innovatively. This is essential if they are to hold their own against the competition in Europe and worldwide. University graduates with an all-round education and a broad set of personal and intercultural skills are essential if Austria is to secure its place and reputation as an attractive location for education, research and academic achievement. There is evidence for this in many studies which have looked at this area, especially the latest Erasmus+ Impact Study and the associated individual findings.

Gaining international experience while studying

It is therefore very important that courses are designed to accommodate this, for example by leaving scope – ‘mobility windows’ – for students to acquire their international and intercultural competences. Such experiences can ultimately lead to participants becoming more open and tolerant towards other countries and cultures. Teaching and non-teaching university staff play a crucial role here, acting as multipliers. The internationalisation of courses forms the most important foundation for all of this. The following three aspects should be noted in particular:

  • The formal design of the course, which covers the format for teaching and work experience, the learning activities that are required in order to achieve the desired learning outcomes, the language the teaching will take place in, the documentation that is made available for learning, how this is prepared and how the relevant learning outcomes are assessed.
  • The informal design of the course, which covers all those activities that do not lead directly to the degree qualification (elective subjects, tutorials, career centre, language learning centre, writing workshops, excursions, exhibitions, cultural and sporting programme), but that are just as important as direct teaching and learning activities.
  • And the ‘hidden curriculum’, which covers all tacit assumptions and fundamental positions and beliefs which influence learning situations, such as the implications of the marking criteria, deadlines, approachability of teaching staff, their role, terms and concepts.

These are all important factors in providing the best possible conditions for high-quality, cross-border mobility on the one hand, and the opportunity to acquire competencies even at one’s home university on the other hand.

International students as important cultural ambassadors

Students travelling outside Austria (outgoing) play an important role, as do students coming into Austria from many European countries and further afield (incoming). They all act as cultural ambassadors between their home and host countries, and, where they stay in the host country after studying, also enrich the labour market in the host country with their skills.
The main hub for questions on mobility in higher education is the Austrian Exchange Service (OeAD), which among other responsibilities manages and implements the ERASMUS+ programme. This programme provides support for European and international mobility in higher education.

Mobility as a basis for respect and trust

Cross-border mobility also makes a major contribution to reinforcing European culture and identity. A common understanding of our national education and higher education systems forms a strong foundation for relationships of friendship, respect and trust with others in a variety of areas. The resulting partnerships between universities, projects and networks which have grown up over the years make it easier to operate exchange programmes, work placements abroad and other mobility-related activities.
Two important aspects which underpin the competencies, skills and knowledge gained through mobility are appropriate quality assurance and a fair and transparent recognition of studies, examinations and degrees undertaken.

Higher Education Mobility Strategy

The Federal Ministry of Education announced a Higher Education Mobility Strategy in 2016 to promote high-quality academic mobility.

Links

Contacts

Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research
Department IV/11 - European Higher Education Area, Erasmus+ for Higher Education, Bologna Process and Mobility) and
Department V/7 - Internationalisation of Universities and Universities of Applied Sciences, Support for Early-career Academics