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Stepping up study and internship abroad

– a strategy for enhanced outbound mobility in the academy profession and professional bachelor education programmes

2.3. Internationalised institutions

12. Teachers shall be aware of their key role and take responsibility for the effort to make more students study abroad
The teachers are the students’ direct contact to their education, and the teachers, therefore, are instrumental to how the students perceive the value and benefits of a stay abroad.

A large part of the teachers do not inform of studies abroad in the course of teaching (almost one third). Several of them explain that they think it is the duty of the international office to inform of studies abroad, or that they were not aware that it might be relevant to inform about this.

Yet more striking, approximately one fourth of the teachers wouldn’t recommend the students to take a study period or internship abroad. The teachers express that they do not think that a stay abroad is a good idea because, in their opinion, the benefits are not sufficient compared to the Danish study program, or that they will only recommend a stay abroad to the best students.

When asked about obstacles to studies abroad, most of the teachers at the educational institutions refer to limited international experience.

On this background it is recommended

  • that one or more persons at each institution be made responsible for international coordination across each curriculum, ▷ that the teachers’ own international competences, linguistic skills, experiences, and networks be strengthened (see text box), ▷ that the teachers to a fuller extent use and integrate knowledge and experience from students who have studied abroad in their teaching.

Moreover, the Ministry of Education will work for

  • a requirement being posed that an international perspective is applied when hiring lecturers and when assessing associate professorship candidates, for instance that the applicants have participated in an international activity.
Strengthening the teachers’ international competences, linguistic skills, experience, and networks

Here are some examples:

  • Every teacher is required to establish and maintain collaboration with an international colleague.
  • The teachers’ international involvement is discussed as an item in the yearly employee development dialogue (MUS).
  • Greater focus on international experience when recruiting teachers.
  • Competence development of teachers focuses on international networks, exchange, and development projects.

13. Academy profession and professional bachelor education programmes shall facilitate study periods and internships abroad
Today, it is a requirement that the educational institutions plan the academy profession and professional bachelor education programmes so that there is a delimited course of study that in contents and duration as estimated by the institution may be substituted by a relevant study period and/or internship abroad. This implies that a part of the study program should be planned in such a way that a student who wishes to complete the education by including a stay abroad will be able to continue the course of study when returning at the same stage as the other students of the same year group. For some study programmes, this may require added modularisation of the education because it has the consequence that a study programme cannot be arranged as a progression or share courses between several academic fields. In order for a study program to be accredited, an institution must have accounted for and documented that the students will have the opportunity to complete one or more parts of the study abroad within the standard duration of the study.

Since it is typically easier to substitute an internship by a stay abroad, many institutions will choose to meet the planning requirement by accounting for how internships may be completed abroad. However, it is important that it also be possible to complete a study period abroad.

On this background, the Ministry of Education will work for

  • a more stringent formulation of the planning requirement in connection with accreditation of the study programmes that will ensure that more students get the opportunity to spend time abroad in internships and for studies.

Furthermore, it is recommended

  • that the institutions, when planning the study programmes, allow for the option of completing study periods as well as internships abroad, ▷ that students in teacher education programmes with a foreign language as main subject have the opportunity to study abroad so that a student, for instance, with German as main subject may study parts of the subject in Germany.

14. More parallel and joint study programmes shall be developed and established
The opportunity to arrange these education programmes as parallel and joint courses of study was established by the Act on academy profession and professional bachelor education programmes.

The new opportunities for internationalisation have resulted in more institutions working actively today to establish parallel study programmes, and some institutions are considering the possibility of developing joint programmes. The work has been actively supported by development and implementation funds, and looking at the number of applications in 2008 and 2009, a markedly increased interest in developing and implementing parallel and joint courses of study has been noticed.

Parallel and joint study programmes are innately international studies. The studies contain either an optional or a compulsory study period abroad, planned and credit-rated in advance. This way in particular, the establishment of more parallel study programmes in the existing education programmes lead to far more students getting the opportunity to go abroad in a way that is flexible and unbureaucratic because it has been credit-rated in advance.

On this background, the Ministry of Education will

  • gather and make visible experience and knowledge from the projects that have been initiated and implemented with grants from the globalisation funds so that the institutions may learn from each other’s experience,
  • clarify the framework for parallel and joint courses of study so that the institutions have an unambiguous basis for establishing these types of education programmes.

15. Management rooted internationalisation strategies shall be transformed into concrete plans of action
Almost all institutions report they have an internationalisation strategy. The question is to what extent these strategies are rooted centrally in the management and manifested by concrete plans of action for the specific academic fields or courses of study.

Surveys show that the single most significant factor in supporting internationalisation in an institution is that the management is committed and actively supports the activities. Moreover, surveys show that a successful implementation of international initiatives in particular requires that the body of teachers is involved in the undertakings because they are the ones who first and foremost shall promote the international dimension to the students.

On this background it is recommended

  • that all institutions have a central and management rooted internationalisation strategy,
  • that the strategy take a conscious starting point in various approaches to and models for organising the internationalisation effort of the institution,
  • that the internationalisation strategy be linked to the goals of the development contract of the institution,
  • that the strategy be transformed into concrete plans of action for the specific academic fields and/or courses of study including specifying the role of the teachers in realising the goals.

16. Assessment of pre-approved and final credits shall be based on an overall assessment of the learning benefits The possibilities available to students to go abroad as a part of their education without going beyond the standard duration of the study is based, for one thing, on pre-approval of credits for the internship and/or study elements included in the study abroad and, for the other, that the institutions subsequently award full credit for the study abroad.

The assessment of pre-approved credits and final credits may turn into a bureaucratic process where, in some cases, a narrow one-by-one assessment of courses and contents of modules is made. In order to create flexibility and motivation for studies abroad, it is crucial that the credit assessments be based on an overall evaluation of whether or not the learning benefits have been achieved and not on whether the specific contents, method, and theory of the modules are equivalent.

Another problem may be that students who have been given pre-approval of a number of specific modules at a foreign institution may get caught in the situation that the foreign institution after all does not set up one or more of these modules. The consequence may be that a student subsequently does not receive full credit for the study abroad and thereby is delayed in the study.

On this background it is recommended

  • that assessment of pre-approved and final credits is based on an overall evaluation of whether the learning benefits match the Danish part of the education for which the credits are requested,
  • that the institutions ensure that they live up to their duty to counsel the students about the possibility of appealing a credit decision to the Board of Qualification,
  • that institutions establish procedures for following up on students abroad so that alternatives may be found early in case the foundation of the credit pre-approval changes.