European, global and intercultural dimension in curriculum development
Internationalisation and the promotion of the mobility of students, teachers, researchers and administrative staff play a central role in the strategic concepts of Austrian higher education institutions (HEIs). The concepts are significantly influenced by national HE policy, which is governed on the one hand by legal regulations, and on the other also by central national and European strategies, programmes and initiatives (above all Erasmus+, work programme of the European Bologna Follow-up Group in the European Higher Education Area, strategic orientation of the European Research Area, cf. University Report 2020, p. 263ff).
An essential basis for national HE policy is the Austrian University Development Plan for Public Universities (GUEP), a technical-strategic planning instrument of the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research (BMBWF), which determines the overall design of the Austrian university landscape. The GUEP in turn serves as an important basis for the development plans and performance agreements that the public universities conclude with BMBWF.
The counterpart to the GUEP for the university of applied sciences (UAS) sector is the UAS development and financing plan, which is the federal government's strategic planning document for the further development of the UAS sector in Austria. The financing agreements as well as the strategy documents that exist in the UAS sector are based on this plan.
The current GUEP, which forms the framework for the years 2019 to 2024, sets out a total of eight system goals. These include the “increase of internationalisation and mobility”, which is to be achieved through the following two implementation goals:
- Increasing transnational physical mobility and promoting “internationalisation at home”
- Strengthening internationalisation
These two implementation goals are further specified in the National Mobility and Internationalisation Strategy for Higher Education 2020-2030 (HMIS2030), which addresses all HE provider institutions (universities, UAS, university colleges of teacher education, private universities) and chooses a broader understanding of internationalisation in view of the changing global challenges. Therefore the HMIS2030 pursues a holistic approach to the internationalisation of studies and teaching that encompasses all levels and areas of a HE institution. Under the slogan “There are many routes to internationalisation”, HMIS2030 defines the following five central objectives:
- Goal 1: Promote an all-encompassing culture of internationalisation at HEI
HMIS 2030 envisages that each HEI (further) develops its location-specific internationalisation strategy, taking into account all HE staff. In doing so, international and intercultural aspects should be pushed in the curricula, but also in the teaching and learning environment (i.e., outside the formal curriculum) as well as in the higher education culture in general (“internationalisation at home”). All of this should be accompanied by comprehensive mobility support for all HE staff, as envisaged by Goal 2.
- Goal 2: Promoting mobility for all member of HEI
Everyone who studies, teaches or works at an Austrian HEI should have the opportunity to gain mobility experience. In this context, HMIS 2030 refers in particular to those student groups that are underrepresented in terms of mobility (e.g., students from educationally disadvantaged backgrounds, working students, students with caring responsibilities or with disabilities). In addition, greater attention should also be paid to the mobility of non-academic HE staff, as this group of people has not been the focus of mobility measures to date, but they play a significant role in shaping the culture of a university.
- Goal 3: Develop and implement innovative digital forms of mobility
Although physical mobility cannot be replaced by virtual mobility formats, the HMIS 2030 nevertheless proposes the development and realisation of innovative digital mobility formats as a useful complement to physical mobility formats.
- Goal 4: Effective skills improvement and institutional learning
Individual members of HEIs should be able to make good use of their mobility experiences. This should be ensured, for example, by accompanying measures before, during and after a mobility phase. This should not only be about improved or new language skills and new personal experiences. At best, mobility experiences should be accompanied by a broadening of perspectives and thus also by a tolerant approach to other ways of life and cultures and thus lead to more openness to the world. On the institutional level, teachers play an important role as multipliers in connection with this goal. They should have a motivating effect on students due to their own mobility experiences, so that they in turn decide to spend time abroad. In addition, new knowledge about innovative teaching methods gained in the context of mobility can flow into their own teaching.
- Goal 5: Global Mindset – Austria's HE institutions and their position in the world
HMIS 2030 also aims to strengthen Austria as an attractive location for HE. This requires, above all, HE staff and graduates with a global mindset. In this context, HMIS 2030 takes up the situation of third-country nationals in particular. They are confronted with specific obstacles because the free movement of persons within the EU does not apply to them. Therefore, it should be made easier for qualified third-country nationals to take up studies or scientific activities in Austria, among other things by easing the entry and residence conditions.
These five goals, which in turn are assigned a series of implementation goals, are intended as guidelines for action for each HEI. In accordance with its own profile, it is free to choose which of these implementation goals it wishes to pursue and which concrete measures it would like to derive from them. These institutional objectives are to be laid down within the framework of the location-specific internationalisation strategy, the preparation of which is recommended in HMIS 2030 (cf. Goal 1). The monitoring of these objectives is the responsibility of the HEI’s own quality management.
Foreign language skills play an important role in promoting internationalisation and mobility. This also emerges from a survey conducted in 2019 by the Institute for Advanced Studies (IHS) on the topic of “International Mobility of Students”: Depending on the age of the students and the type of entrance qualification (traditional vs. non-traditional HE entrance qualification), up to one fifth of the respondents cite a lack of foreign language skills as an obstacle to mobility. To counteract this obstacle, HMIS 2030 proposes the expansion of language courses for teachers and general HE staff as part of the promotion of a culture of internationalisation (Goal 1). Language centres have already been established at many HE locations, offering language courses for students, HE staff, but also for the interested public outside HEIs. Through innovative offers (hybrid or online courses), they aim to attract more participants to language courses so that they can use the knowledge they have gained in the context of mobility activities.
Partnerships and networks
Every HEI is involved in transnational partnerships and cooperations that enable cross-border cooperation for students and HE staff. A selection of programmes and networks is presented below. Further information can also be found in subchapters 13.2 and 13.7.
European Universities Initiative
At the end of 2017, the European Council’s final conclusions called on Member States, the Council and the Commission to take a number of initiatives to further develop the education sector. Addressing the HE sector, it proposed “strengthening strategic partnerships between higher education institutions across the EU and promoting the emergence of some twenty 'European universities' by 2024, consisting in bottom-up networks of universities across the EU which will enable students to obtain a degree by combining studies in several EU countries and contribute to the international competitiveness of European universities”.
In response, HEIs, student organisations, Member States and the Commission developed the European Universities Initiative, launched in 2019 and funded mainly through the Erasmus+ programme from 2021 onwards.
“European Universities” are cross-border alliances of HE institutions from the EU, which jointly pursue a long-term strategy to promote European values, strengthen the European identity and increase the international competitiveness of the European Higher Education Area. These alliances aim to develop inter-university campuses where students, teachers, researchers and university administrators can move without barriers. The HE institutions that are part of these alliances work together to pool their expertise, infrastructure and resources and jointly develop new study programmes and research projects.
In the first call for proposals in 2019, a total of 17 projects were selected, involving a total of 114 HEIs, including from Austria the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna as well as the University of Graz. Six Austrian HEIs are among the 24 European Universities approved of in the 2020 call, with the University of Leoben and the UAS St. Pölten playing a coordinating role. In addition, the University of Innsbruck, the Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration, the Vorarlberg UAS and the Management Centre Innsbruck are participating in alliances. The results of the third call for proposals “European University Initiative” were published in July 2022. CEU Vienna, University of Salzburg, University of Technology Graz and Joanneum University of Applied Sciences are the successful Austrian participants. In addition, the University of Vienna is a partner in the Circle U alliance. Thus, 13 Austrian higher education institutions are currently (as of 2022) participating in a total of 44 funded alliances.
Erasmus+ cooperation for higher education institutions and other institutions
The Erasmus+ programme offers Austria's HEIs a wide range of opportunities for international exchange, cooperation and networking (cf. also 13.2). These opportunities include:
- Capacity Building in Higher Education (CBHE): These capacity building projects support the relevance, quality, modernisation and responsiveness of HE institutions and systems in partner countries to socio-economic recovery, growth and prosperity through joint projects in various areas, including modernisation of HE administration and management, inclusiveness, structural reforms.
- Alliances for Innovation: This action strengthens Europe's innovation capacity by promoting cooperation and knowledge exchange between higher education and vocational education and training (VET) and the wider socio-economic environment. These alliances aim to push new skills and respond to skills shortages. To this end, the partnerships will develop new curricula for HE and VET and promote the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship in the EU.
- Cooperation Partnerships: This Erasmus+ funding line supports structured cooperation between at least three organisations from three different Programme Countries to advance their internationalisation activities. The aim of these partnerships is to enable organisations to increase the quality and relevance of their activities, to develop and strengthen their partner networks and to improve their capacity to work together at transnational level.
International higher education cooperation
Within the framework of international HE cooperation, project funding can be applied for based on intergovernmental and bilateral agreements or multilateral networks. Funding is primarily provided for subsistence and travel costs within specific academic cooperation projects. The projects have different thematic and regional focuses and vary in terms of project duration and funding amounts. Some of these international collaborations and networks, which also enable the exchange of students and HE staff, have already been referred to in 13.2. Further examples of cooperation and networks are:
- Scientific and Technical Cooperation: The international cooperation programmes of the “Scientific and Technical Cooperation” (STC) are based on bilateral state treaties or memoranda of understanding and contribute to the further development of the international cooperation activities of Austrian higher education and research institutions. Within the framework of these STC agreements and memoranda of understanding, calls for bilateral research projects are issued with selected partner countries, usually every two years. The goals of the STC cooperation programmes are to stimulate international research cooperation, to establish new, sustainable international partnerships and to increase the proportion of young and female researchers in international research project consortia. Active bilateral agreements currently exist with Argentina, Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, China, Croatia, the Czech Republic, France, Hungary, India, Northern Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Ukraine and Vietnam.
- Development Research Cooperation: This is a funding programme financed by BMBWF to support development research projects. The aim is to support application-oriented cooperation projects of Austrian higher education and research institutions with institutions in countries of the Global South in order to contribute to the analysis and solution of local challenges and to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which were adopted by the United Nations in 2015. Funding is provided for mobility and material costs within the framework of one to three-year research projects in all scientific disciplines. Depending on the duration, the funding amount per approved project is up to 50,000 euros.
- Project funding Taiwan-Austria: The programme, which supports bilateral cooperation activities between scientists in Taiwan and in Austria, is funded in equal parts by BMBWF and the Ministry of Education in Taipei. The aim of the programme is to stimulate and implement international research cooperation and to build sustainable partnerships. The transfer of knowledge contributes to strengthening the international profile of the participating institutions. For the implementation of bilateral research projects, travel and accommodation costs of students and researchers as well as project-related material costs up to a maximum of 2,000 euros are financed during the one- to two-year project period.
Horizon Europe, the successor programme to Horizon 2020 (2014-2020), is the ninth EU research framework programme for the period 2021 to 2027. Its aim is to help build a competitive economy, contribute to more growth and jobs in Europe and help Europe tackle major societal challenges. Another key objective is to promote excellence in European science. For this purpose, 95.5 billion euros are available for the programme period. Eligible for funding are both individual projects and collaborative projects, which are intended to promote transnational cooperation at the European level, but also worldwide.
Horizon Europe is divided into three pillars:
- The “Excellence Science” pillar contains programmes for thematically non-specific (individual) funding, such as the funding of science-driven basic research by the European Research Council (ERC), the networking of existing research infrastructures and mobility grants for young scientists (Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, MSCA).
- The second pillar, “Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness”, comprises six thematic clusters (including health; climate, energy and mobility; digitalisation, industry and space), in which the generation of new knowledge, the use of key technologies and innovative solutions to strengthen the European economy are promoted. Funding is also available for projects that aim to increase the impact of research and innovation or to implement the EU's Green Deal or the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.
- The instruments with a focus on innovation and market uptake are located in the third pillar “Innovative Europe”. These are the European Innovation Council (EIC), the European Innovation Ecosystems and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT).
In addition to the three pillars, there is the overarching programme area “Widening Participation and Strengthening the European Research Area”. This is designed, among other things, to promote the participation of Member States that have been less active in the field of research and innovation.