A new and exciting challenge: Supporting Professional Higher Education in Europe

Since 3 years I am now working with EURASHE, the European Association of Institutes of Higher Education. The assocation is a strong supporter of Professional Higher Education (PHE) in Europe, THE  European network and meeting point for Universities of Applied Science and our natural partner on the European stage. We have together developed major European initiatives in the field of professional higher eductaion, like”HAPHE” in which we mapped the PHE models of more than 14 coutnries and developed quality criteria in order to support members states in their development of PHE. I am enthusiastic about the colleagues working in the association which are all dedicated and experienced professionals.  Hsvong worked a long time with the  European Foundation for Quality in E-Learning before I must say that I am a strong supporter of European dialogue, exchange and  networking in order to raise the stakes and the  profile of higher education, push forward the innovation agenda and bring together people around the cause of improving our institutions to turn them into revolutionary leaders.

Last month I was asked to jpin the board of the association which I happily accepted. During the general assembly on Tuesday this week I have been elected and afterwards also appopinted by the board as Vicepresident of the association. I will focus in my Vicepresidentcy on Teaching and Learning, giving special attention to the  Lifelong Learning agenda. One issue which I will suggest is to provide a forum for the question how digitalisation of professional higher education can support innovative models, methods and ways of delivvery, supporting students in their learning. I am convinced that there is a lot of interest, also within the other European networks to discuss idease and experiences around this issue. 
When I was preparing my presentation to the General Assembly of EURASHE I thought about what would be important for the association for the time to come. Here is what I came up with: 

The core vision EURASHE aims to implement can be expressed in the following statement: Making European professional higher education a key player in the development of the fastly and unpredictably changing society. Today this vision is more relevant than ever because Europe is facing historical challenges. Higher education institutions, and in particular professional higher education institutions play a major role in providing the innovation drive needed to enable our societies to meet the challenges. At the same time they have to 

– deal with the difficult and dwindling resource base by simultaneously aiming to provide better quality for more students. 

– deal with changed and more articulated demands from society and world of work for better equipped graduates with an extended employability profile. 

– lead the innovation agenda in using digital media in higher education in order to transform its mode of operation
provide seamless pathways between school, higher eductiaon, higher VET and lifelong learning, and 

– further develop the body of experiences and knowledge to recognise prior learning,
cater higher education for all student groups with a growing diversity and ever growing diverse needs,
make higher education relevant for stakeholders and society to deal with the grand challenges of global societies. 

EURASHE has a role to bridge this gap and provide orientation, foster dialogue, peer-learning and understanding of the challenges and new potential, organise participation of its members in debating and taking stock of suitable policies, practices and research in order to cope with the new challenges, and thus reduce the innovation gap in Europe. It will be important to involve all stakeholders in this attempt. Through multistakeholder forums, EURASHE can help to bring together stakeholders to take stock in current developments and future needs.
EURASHE is in a good position, and further plans for a work agenda should naturally build on existing policies, yet reflect the changing situation. Building on the challenges described, and together with its executive bodies EURASHE should determine the policy and strategy frameworks. In order to deal with the above mentioned challenges and in addition to the bologna based activities a number of innovation needs can be identified which can be used for orientation when discussion EURASHE policy priorities: 

– A first innovation need is represented in the need of higher education institutions to deal with the diversity of target groups, with different purposes, backgrounds and objectives which are less and less suited for standard education programs and standard certification procedures but which rather follow an individual lifelong learning agenda. 

– A second innovation need is characterized through the need to adapt educational processes to new technologies and new ways of flexible delivery of
situation we can observe an innovation gap with innovation rhetoric on the onehigher education, new educational models and learning scenarios and more
collaboration and recognition between higher education providers. 

– A third innovation need is the capacity to provide education over the lifetime and
not focus on consecutive models only. 

– Finally, there is a need to make the shift from teaching to learning, to realise the
long promised changes which lie in the shift to competency oriented education. 

All this has to be dealt with on basis of the core mission of ERURASHE to further promote the role of PHE, its profile and characteristics within higher education, to map barriers and developments, and support the exchange of experience and promotion of good practices.

About Ulf-Daniel Ehlers

Prof. Dr. phil. habil. Ulf-Daniel Ehlers is Vicepresident for Quality and Academic Affairs at the Baden Wurttemberg-State University in Stuttgart, Germany. He has been appointed Professor for Educational Management and Lifelong Learning at the same university. Before he has held positions as Associate Professor in the University Duisburg-Essen (Germany), Professor for Technology Enhanced Learning in the University Augsburg (Germany) and Associate Professor of the Graduate School for Management and Technology of the University of Maryland University College (USA). Ulf is an educational scientist and holds degrees in English Language, Social Sciences and Educational Sciences from the University of Bielefeld, where he finished his Ph.D. with honors in the field of Technology Enhanced Learning in 2003, and was awarded his habilitation in 2008 from the University of Duisburg-Essen. He has created many international, European and national projects and was involved in founding the European Foundation for Quality in E-Learning, in which he served as Vicepresident and President for several terms. He has also served as President and Vicepresident of the of the largest german speaking e-learning Association, the Society for Media in Science (GMW e.V.) as well as serving on advisory boards to several professional associations in the field. Before his career in academia he has been a successful and award winning entrepreneur in the field of webbased IT Technologies and founder of several companies.
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