ASEAN shares best practice on student mobility

Last month, Campus France – the French national agency for the promotion of higher education, international student services and international mobility – organised a conference in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on credit transfer and recognition in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN region.

The ‘What Works’ conference fell within the scope of the SHARE (Support to Higher Education in the ASEAN Region) programme. This is a European Union grant-funded project with an overarching objective to strengthen regional cooperation, enhance the quality, competitiveness and internationalisation of ASEAN higher education institutions and students and so contribute to an ASEAN Community beyond 2015.

SHARE is implemented by a consortium of Europe’s major international education agencies, led by the British Council and comprised of Campus France, the German Academic Exchange Service or DAAD, Nuffic (the Dutch organisation for internationalisation in education), the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education and the European University Association.

SHARE’s activities on credit transfer for ASEAN have built upon existing credit transfer systems in the region to enable the comparability and compatibility of study programmes and enhance student mobility through the implementation of a number of mechanisms and tools.

The credit transfer system (CTS) developed by SHARE aims at facilitating the recognition and transfer of students’ learning achievements abroad for intra-ASEAN and ASEAN-EU mobility periods.

The SHARE Scholarship scheme – 400 intra-ASEAN and 100 ASEAN-EU scholarships delivered over the four-year project – has played an important role in the further internationalisation and harmonisation of higher education in the ASEAN region and has facilitated the testing of the SHARE CTS.

Tried and tested

The SHARE CTS has been tested by 32 higher education institutions in the ASEAN region and 10 in the EU for one-semester student mobility periods for four different batches of students between 2016 and 2018.

The SHARE CTS has been developed by using a comprehensive set of mobility tools inspired from the European experiences and is accompanied by a facilitating online platform dedicated to the SHARE mobility scheme and credit transfer system – including an online credit converter. A SHARE handbook on CTS, which describes the process, is also available.

By developing the SHARE CTS, the programme has encouraged connectivity between the participating higher education institutions to bring trust and transparency in the recognition process as well as to keep the system as flexible as possible.

These mechanisms have been developed to boost student mobility within the ASEAN region as well as to enhance cooperation between ASEAN and the EU by guaranteeing the comparability and compatibility of the ASEAN CTS with the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System.

This two-day conference gathered together up to 150 participants from 15 different countries in the ASEAN region and Europe, including international experts on higher education and credit transfer, university leaders, high-level education officials and students.

The presence of ASEAN students was very inspiring since they shared their mobility experiences and gave useful feedback on the challenges and benefits linked to mobility and to the recognition of their study stay abroad.

They highlighted some difficulties, mainly due to the novel nature of the SHARE programme, such as, in some cases, a lack of communication between home and host institutions that led to students having to be very proactive in their own mobility process.

They also pointed out the limited number of courses open to international students in the host institutions, with some not being recognised when they returned to their home universities.

However, they all emphasised the benefits of such a memorable and life-changing experience, the gain of soft skills, personal development and independence, the cultural discovery of their region, their new open-mindedness and the enrichment of their educational pathway.

Johanna Rasplus is deputy head of European projects at the Department of External and Institutional Relations, Campus France. A policy brief and the final version of the SHARE CTS handbook will be published in July 2018, on the SHARE website.