Croatia strives for international cooperation at all levels of education from pre-school to higher education, including adult education. National priorities are in line with Education and Training 2020, Bologna Process and Copenhagen process.
Internationalisation of education, especially higher education, is an integral part of all strategic documents at national and institutional level. The legislative framework is being developed so as to facilitate and stimulate internationalisation in all its aspects, mobility aspect included. Through programmes and funds, both national and EU, funds are secured to implement initiatives and measures to increase the internationalisation of education, learning mobility and working mobility.
Strategic framework for mobility and internationalisation
In accordance with the „Youth on the Move” initiative of the Europe 2020 Strategy, the young people’s opportunities for learning mobility have been recognized as an important instrument and factor for accomplishing better employability of young people. The guidelines for education, science and technology strategy, which the Ministry of Science, Education and Sports released in April 2012, emphasize the international dimension of education as an element of quality.
Internationalisation and mobility are also among the strategic goals chosen by public higher education institutions when negotiating with the Ministry of Science, Education and Sports on signing pilot-programme contracts by which new outcome-based funding models are initiated.
At general education level, National Framework Curriculum (2010) has taken into account the European trends by integrating European key competences for lifelong learning in a way that they represent a central part of basic education and preconditions for lifelong learning.
European dimension of education initiated by the Council of Europe and strongly promoted by the European Union, has become even more relevant for the education system in Croatia with the perspective accession of Croatia to the European Union. During the preaccession period, European dimension of education has been developping by participation of Croatian institutions in various international, EU and other multilateral inititives, and supported more particularly by EU funds and programmes. With the accession of Croatia to the European Union, it becomes important that education and training contribute to the integration of Croatia to the EU. Croatia is expected to become an EU member state on July 1st 2013.
Legislative framework for achieving mobility and internationalisation of education contains legal regulation in the field of education, including recognition of foreign qualifications and quality assurance (see 13.5 Other dimensions of internationalisation in Higher Education). Furthermore, the legal framework which regulates a foreign citizen's stay in Croatia, his/her rights in Croatia, and the Croatian tax system and benefits/deductions are also relevant. Since 2009 the legislative framework has been developing so as to become a motivating factor for mobility and internationalisation.
Recognition of foreign qualifications is regulated by the Law on Recognition of Foreign Qualifications and the Law on Recognition of Professional Qualifications and Regulated Professions. The adoption of the Law on Croatian Qualifications Framework (expected to be adopted in December 2012) will initiate a number of legislative changes, including changes in recognition of foreign qualifications. With the Law on Croatian qualifications framework (CroQF), Croatian Ministry of Science, Education and Sports, as one of the coordinating bodies in the development and implementation of CroQF, is responsible for improving the policy on recognition of foreign qualifications. According to the line jurisdiction, changes are planned to the law which regulates the recognition of foreign qualifications in a way that, while respecting the principles and recommendations of the Lisbon Convention, quality and reliability of the recognized foreign qualifications is ensured at the same time.
Academic recognition, on the other side, recognition of studies abroad as part of the regular studies, is under the competence of higher education institutions. The system of recognition is developed by each higher education institution itself primarily in the framework of inter-institutional agreements. Relying on their institutional autonomy, educational institutions themselves strive for establishing and improving international contacts using the community tools created by the Lifelong Learning Programme, which enhance their cooperation with different countries.
In 2009 the Ministry of Science, Education and Sports set up a Working Group with the objective of smoothing the progress of increasing international mobility in education sector. The Working Group for removing obstacles to learning mobility is composed of representatives from various governmental and public institutions namely the Ministry of Science, Education and Sports, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Interior, Agency for Mobility and EU Programmes, Agency for Science and Higher Education, higher education institutions, Institute for Development of Education and the students’ representative. Main tasks of the Working Group, defined in the Action Plan for removing obstacles to learning mobility for the period 2010-2012, have been to prepare proposals for amendments to the existing legislation regulating temporary residence of foreign pupils, students, teachers and non-teaching staff in Croatia, and regulating the awarding of scholarships to pupils, students, teachers and non-teaching staff for study trips abroad. On the basis of the evaluation of measures implemented in the framework of the first Action Plan, revised Action Plan will be developed with the objective to address main obstacles to mobility and to propose most effective measures to increase both learning and working mobility.
Initiatives and programmes supporting mobility
The promotion of learning mobility and the enhancement of the international dimension of education as well as the development of international relations between educational institutions has been one of the most important strategic objectives. In order to achieve these objectives, a set of tools has been set up, of which the most important are the EU funds and programmes, intergovernamental bilateral and multilateral programmes and initiatives. Croatia fully exploits the Community programmes supporting learning mobility.
During the long pre-accession period, Croatia has participated in the Tempus programme for 9 years. For a long period of time this has been the major programme and instrument for mobility and internationalisation. Over 30 million euros that have been allocated to more than 100 joint European projects implemented in Croatia have provided strong support for the implementation of the Bologna Process in Croatia. Moreover, these TEMPUS projects have contributed to the preparation of higher education institutions in Croatia for the participation in the Lifelong Learning Programme. Majority of the mobility flows today thus run under the umbrella of the Union Programme, Lifelong Learning Programme. Moreover, European Union Structural Funds are foreseen to be used in order to raise the volume of mobility.
Lifelong Learning Programme
Croatia has been participating in the Lifelong learning programme since 2009. In the first two years of preparatory measures, the higher education institutions and students in Croatia participated only in some of the activities of the Lifelong learning programme. In that period the newly established Agency for mobility and EU programmes (2007) was undergoing preparations in order to obtain European Commission’s accreditation to manage EU funds, i.e. to implement Lifelong learning and Youth in Action programmes.
The Agency for Mobility and EU programmes, established in October 2007 as the National Agency (NA) for the management of the Community programmes - the Lifelong Learning Programme (LLP) and the Youth in Action (YinA) programme - on the basis of the Act on the Agency for Mobility and EU Programmes (OJ 107/07), in January 2009 concluded a grant agreement with the Commission for preparatory measures covering period 1 June 2008 – 31 December 2009. As part of these preparatory measures, the NA started to equip and train its staff, to inform the beneficiaries about the possibilities and ways of participating in the LLP, and to implement some pilot projects within the LLP.
The Agency also pursues activities of some other European programmes in the area of education and training, including Erasmus Mundus, TEMPUS, as well as the Europass and Euroguidance initiatives. The agency also offers administrative support to the National Bologna Expert Group and to the National ECVET Experts. Within the activities of the European Research Area (ERA) the Agency also acts as a bridgehead organisation of the EURAXESS National Centre.
Intergovernmental agreements supporting learning mobility
The Ministry of Science, Education and Sports has concluded intergovernmental agreements on higher education with 29 countries: Austria, Australia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Czech Republic, France, Greece, Italy, India, Israel, Japan, Canada, China, Hungary, Macedonia, Germany, Poland, Portugal, Russian Federation, Romania, USA, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine i Great Britain. As of 2011, the Agency for Mobility and EU Programmes has become responsible body for implementation of bilateral mobility programmes.
The implementation of bilateral programmes of higher education mobility is based on bilateral agreements, programmes and other implementation acts and includes scholarships’ exchange. Within these programmes, an annual average of 500 months of scholarships for Croatian citizens abroad is provided and as well as over 400 months of scholarships for foreign students and researchers on Croatian higher education and scientific research institutions. The Ministry of Science, Education and Sports also provides scholarships for students attending Croatian language instructorships abroad, whether the Ministry is directly in charge of the instructorship or not.